Review: We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

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Title: We’ll Always Have Summer
Author: Jenny Han
Series: Summer #3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: Purchased

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Rating: 3 stars

It’s been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college– only, their relationship hasn’t exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It’s time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.

Disclaimer: because this is the third and final book of the summer trilogy, this review is going to be filled with spoilers of the first two books. There are also going to be spoilers about We’ll Always Have Summer because it’s the last one and I desperately need to talk about the ending.

Review:

“Just because you bury something, that doesn’t mean it stops existing.”

If you’ve read my pervious reviews, you’ll know that I enjoyed The Summer I Turned Pretty and couldn’t stand It’s Not Summer Without You. But I decided to finish the series because I’d already bought this book a while ago (for $3 – thank you Book Outlet) and it wouldn’t take long to get through. So I made myself push on and finish.

In all honesty, I knew how this series was going to end from the second I read the synopsis of the first book. To be fair, I think everyone knew. But I was still intrigued enough to want to get there and see how they ended up together.

Belly. Oh lord. This girl. She was so clearly never over Conrad and I’m forever going to annoyed at her for being with Jeremiah pretty much because she couldn’t have the Fisher boy she wanted. Even in college, she didn’t seem to grow up much. At least she got over her issues with Taylor and they were able to be friends again. It would have been so weird if they didn’t reconcile.

The boys felt like such an after thought throughout the book. The entire time I felt like both of them kept falling flat as characters. Conrad finally confessing to Belly how he felt, Jeremiah being the one not chosen. I never really felt much emotion when I should have been having all the feels. So much more could have been done for them, and neither of them got what felt like a satisfying ending.

Just like Conrad and Jeremiah, a lot of the other characters felt like after thoughts. Maybe it was because this series could have just been a standalone or maybe it was because Susannah had passed away, but no one seemed like they added much to the story anymore. They could have been there or on the other side of the world not existing in Belly’s life, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“There hadn’t been one specific moment. It was like gradually waking up. You go from being asleep to the space between dreaming and awake and then into consciousness. It’s a slow process, but when you’re awake, there’s no mistaking it. There was no mistaking that it had been love.”

Jenny Han is a great writer. As much as this wasn’t one of my favourite series to read, she can write the perfect summer contemporary setting. Every time I picked up one of the books in the summer series, I wanted to be the teenage girl with the awesome summer beach house where I can spend the summer laying on the sand and swimming in the ocean, eating ice cream and BBQ to my heart’s content. Just because of the setting, I would still recommend this as a summer read. Well, the first one anyway.

The plot wasn’t that shocking to be honest. Belly and Jeremiah doing something irresponsible like wanting to get married as late teens after he kind-of-but-not-really cheated on her seems exactly in character. She never seems to think through decisions that much and he’s so idealistic.

The pacing wasn’t great. It felt like a lot of chapters started with “and it was two weeks since Conrad and I had that encounter.” Her life seemed to be told on a timeline of when her and Conrad had some kind of interaction. Or she had a thought about Conrad that was an obvious red light in terms of her relationship with Jeremiah.

Overall, if you want to read this book, go for it. After reading the trilogy, I can without a doubt say that if you only read The Summer I Turned Pretty and stop there, you would be good. The ending of the trilogy is the same as the first book, except We’ll Always Have Summer feels like such a cop out. And the ending is infinitely more rushed and unsatisfying. Just stick to pretending it’s a standalone, and you’re good to go.

Review: It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

6584188Title: It’s Not Summer Without You
Author: Jenny Han
Series: Summer #2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Purchased

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Rating: 2 stars

Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?

It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.

But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started–at Cousins Beach.

Review:

“He kissed like he was drowning and I was air.”

Remember that time I said The Summer I Turned Pretty was one of the better contemporaries I had read in my short time reading contemporaries? It’s Not Summer Without You doesn’t exactly fall into that category. At all. I finished it three days ago and I’m still kind of frustrated thinking about it. I was never sure if ‘second book syndrome’ was truly a thing, but after reading this I think it might be.

Belly. Oh, Belly. I know this girl is sixteen going on seventeen but oh, Belly. There are so many instances where I wanted to transport myself into the book and say, “ok you cannot be that selfish. It is not possible.” No joke, her only characteristic is selfishness. She made every single thing in this book about herself as if there weren’t some incredibly sad and depressing life event that had occurred two months before the timeline of the book began. I am fully aware that everyone deals with grief in their own ways – because yes, Belly lost someone important to her as well – but there are some lines that just cannot be crossed. At one point she cursed out Conrad at his own mother’s funeral and later, stole a necklace that she assumed belonged to her. She’s also the worst best friend. Taylor may not be friend of the year, but she deserves better than being stuck dealing with Belly.

Conrad and Jeremiah are still wonderful. It was good seeing the different ways in which they dealt with their grief because they seemed to stay true to the characters that we had come to know in The Summer I Turned Pretty. At first it was nice how we were given chapters with Jeremiah’s point of view in order to get into his head a little bit until you see that the majority of them were, “screw Conrad, he doesn’t deserve her” because I’m sitting here ready to yell to the heavens that she doesn’t deserve either of them. They’re both still great and deserve all the nice and beautiful things in the world that aren’t Belly and I’ll be sitting here waiting impatiently for them to come to that realization (even though hello this trilogy is about Belly so obviously that’s never going to happen).

The plot was alright I guess. It didn’t seem as genuine as The Summer I Turned Pretty. It was lacking and didn’t do anything special for me. The ending had me rolling my eyes going “oh great, please just go out there and spread your selfishness to hurt people even more why don’t you” because the ending of this book doesn’t match up with what everyone knows is going to be the ending of the last book.

“That’s when I finally got it. I finally understood. It wasn’t the thought that counted. It was the actual execution that mattered, the showing up for somebody.”

One of the saving graces of this book was the writing. Of all the things that I didn’t like about this book, at least the writing was decent. I’ve said before that Jenny Han is a great writer. Everything she says is clear and concise and leaves no unnecessary questions in the air. You know what’s happening, you know what each character is thinking and I think that served the novel well because contemporaries aren’t exactly the kind of book where you want to be spending its length questioning the little, unclear things.

I hadn’t read that many books in between The Summer I Turned Pretty and It’s Not Summer Without You so it was easy to go into the second one knowing exactly what had happened the summer before and understand what was happening in the current summer. However if you had read these one per year as they came out, I don’t think it would be so easy to pick it back up without being a little confused. It seems like this trilogy is one that should be read one after the other, but I’ll come to a solid conclusion once I get into the third one (which might take me a while to be honest because wow I need a moment before reading about Belly’s dramatic life again).

The book took place over six days (although that sixth day was pretty much one chapter so it was move like five days). The pacing was decent enough but I feel like a lot happened in those six days. Every time I arrived on a chapter and the date was mentioned I kind of thought, “wait, all of that happened in one day?” but I think the flashbacks might have led to that confusion. There were flashbacks again, but it wasn’t overkill like in The Summer I Turned Pretty so I appreciated that. This time the flashbacks felt vital to the plot and the pacing of the novel and again wove in well with what was occurring in the lives of the characters.

To be honest, if you read the first one and want to continue, don’t. I know saying that is hypocritical because I’m going to read the last one, but I’ve already put myself through this one (and bought the last one on BookOutlet last year) so I may as well find out who she ends up with. But if all you’ve read was the first one and were satisfied with it, stop there. You’ll be living in a much more enjoyable world.

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Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

5821978Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Series: Summer #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Goodreads
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Rating: 4 stars

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Review:

“In the dark, you can feel really close to a person. You can say whatever you want.”

The Summer I Turned Pretty is one of the best contemporaries I have ever read. Everything about it exudes summer. The beaches, the parties, the casual relaxed feeling of not needing to know what day it is. It’s July in a novel.

Jenny Han is such a wonderful writer and made everything so clear. It almost seemed like you were there watching Belly’s summer unfold right in front of your eyes. Sometimes it kind of felt like you were Belly because she writes in this way that speaks to you and makes you relate to what’s going on. But she never did it in an ambiguous way where you can put yourself in Belly’s shoes at every given moment. Everything was clearly defined and obvious but somehow you come out of it knowing that a lot of people felt the exact same way. And the quotable moments. Oh the quotable moments! At so many instances did I think, “man, I just want to write that down somewhere because I feel that on a whole other level.”

I just want to say this right off the bat, Belly was annoying. No matter how engrossed I was in this story and what was going to go down with her and Conrad, she bothered me. And trust me, I was so immersed in their whole situation. I felt like she was too whiny and too in love with Conrad. It kind of seemed a bit obsessive. In flashbacks she seemed worse. She had the exact same voice as her current fifteen year old self, yet she was more frustrating.

Conrad and Jeremiah however are my boys for life. Each of their personalities spoke to me so much and I’m still sitting here trying to figure out which one I want her to be with more. I loved reading about them. They were both interesting and dynamic and by the end of this series, they better end up equally happy because they deserve the world and nothing less. The moms were pretty great too. Every time Laurel or Susannah spoke, they added something essential to the story. Basically the quintessential wise older people who shed some much needed perspective on the various situations happening throughout the novel.

“Moments, when lost, can’t be found again. They’re just gone.”

In terms of plot, I think this was one of the most relatable contemporary novels I have ever read. It brought me back to that whole feeling of unrequited love when we were all barely teens who quoted Taylor Swift songs and tried to imagine our life as Love Story. If I were a young teen reading this, I would probably be quoting this novel left and right as my status on Facebook (OK, maybe not because by the time Facebook was around, I was too old for that. More like the MSN Messenger days). I think anyone who reads this will instantly be thrown back into the good moments when they were thirteen and crushing hard on the cute and funny kid who you knew was going to grow up and be fine as heck in five years.

The pacing of the novel was on and off. Throughout the first half there were so many flashbacks that I feel didn’t carry enough weight. They usually related to something that had just happened or was about to happen, but I think the book would have actually been a bit better if some were taken out. They helped to explain things a little more, but I still feel that some of them weren’t important enough. However, this opinion could easily be clouded by the fact that I thought Belly was ten times more annoying in flashbacks than she was in the current day.

All in all, when all that snow starts to melt, or if it’s the middle of winter and you want to be transported back to those warm sunny days), then you need to pick up The Summer I Turned Pretty. Jenny Han is an absolute goddess of writing and will transport you there in an instant. This novel is so wroth the read and you should pick it up whenever you get the chance.

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