Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1)
Author: Jenny Han
Published: May 2009 (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Rating: 4 stars
Title: It's Not Summer Without You (Summer #2)
Author: Jenny Han
Published: April 2010 (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Title: We'll Always Have Summer (Summer #3)
Author: Jenny Han
Published: April 2011 (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Belly has always lived for the summertime because it means all her favorite things: swimming, the beach and the Fischer boys, Conrad and Jeremiah. She has spent every summer with them at Cousins Beach for as long as she can remember. She has always been in love with Conrad and finally, one summer, it seems like he might have feelings for her too. But it turns out, so does Jeremiah.
As the summers go on, Belly has to choose between two brothers who love her as she comes to the realization that she will have to break one of their hearts.
My Review: This review includes lots of spoilers. It is also less of a review and more an example of my ability to ramble about something I adored to pieces. You have been warned. Now, onto the fun stuff.
THIS TRILOGY. YOU SHOULD READ IT. I had been contemplating reading it for a while. For one, the summary caught my eye, and for another, all three of the books were rated above 4.0 on Goodreads. Which pretty much never happens. I would have read it a while ago, except I was put off by the main girl's name - Belly (a nickname for Isabel). And yeah, it's a little off-putting at first, but it just works. Which is saying something because I have never liked that word.
BUT ONTO IMPORTANT THINGS. LIKE THE BROTHERS (who, by the way, look NOTHING like they do on the cover, even though she looks pretty much like I imagined. Which brings me to another note - I adored the covers of all the books; they were perfect. But I digress, and I haven't even really started). If one word were to summarize my feelings on the question of Which Brother, it would be CONFLICTED. During #1, I was totally endgame Conrad/Belly. I just fell head-over-heels for them. But the funny thing was that I was fighting it the whole time. He didn't deserve her at the time. Jeremiah did. And I honestly 100% thought she was going to wind up with Jeremiah at the end of the series. I was all, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SELF? You KNOW you always choose the wrong couple in a triangle. Now stop it." But I couldn't help it; Conrad/Belly just snagged my heart and never gave it back. BUT. At the same time, I really felt for Jeremiah.
Onto the second book (which, incidentally, was my favorite of the three), which is heavy on the Jeremiah/Belly. I fell for them. I thought I was over my Conrad/Belly. He didn't deserve her, and he had treated her like crap. He *was* going through his own issues, yes, but that's no excuse. And I absolutely adored reading all the things from Jeremiah's POV. At this point, I started preferring Jeremiah/Belly. I did love them. Really, I did. I'm such a huge sucker for relationships exemplifying one of the best quotes ever, courtesy of Dana Scully:
❝Well, it seems to me that the best relationships - the ones that last - are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is... suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.❞
They fit that so well. And I was crazy for them. I re-read their one and only kissing scene probably a dozen times. But even throughout that book, even with my falling for Jeremiah and Jeremiah/Belly, there were these moments when you could tell that there was more going on with Conrad than you could guess. That intrigued me and just would not let me let go of hoping for Conrad. The scene where she gave him back the necklace (LOLOL, I just spelled that "neckless"...I seriously need to go to bed)? FLAWLESS. I cried. In fact, that whole section was amazing. I re-read everything from the kiss scene to the end of the book (about the last 15 pages) completely once, and bits and pieces more than that. I just kind of existed in that world for hours. BUT THE POINT. I was, at that point, thoroughly expecting that she would wind up with Jeremiah. Because that's what happens. You have the main guy you were fixated on ~forever~ and then he's revealed as a huge jerk and you can finally see the Perfect Guy standing right in front of you. It works. I've read it dozens of times. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE.
BOOK #3. Here, we skip forward two years. Which made me happy because A COLLEGE YA SETTING. It practically never happens. BUT ANYWAY. We got to the part where we actually get to know the real Jeremiah, and I was not impressed. It's one of those things where you think you're going to like something until it actually happens, and then you're like...um, no. But thanks for trying. That's what Jeremiah/Belly was like, even though they were still cute and all. I wanted to like them more than I actually did. Then we got to know Jeremiah for real. And I officially made up my mind 100% that I wanted her with Conrad, even though I didn't think it would happen. Then there was this part where she mentioned that Conrad had a part-time job at a lab and was a serious student while Jeremiah told people he majored in "beerology." That was the moment I was almost positive that she was going to wind up with Conrad (LET ME TAKE A MOMENT TO MENTION: I did not read the book flap/summary of the third book because I just wanted to read the story without any expectations, false or otherwise. I did look at it after I had finished, though, and I am so glad I didn't read it, because it obviously points at Conrad being endgame. Which, of course, is what I wanted, but I didn't want to know who she chose. That was the whole point of how they were written.) AND IT MADE ME SO HAPPY. Anyway, the book went on, and there were a few moments that made me doubt this conclusion. In fact, I very much would have thought she was not going to end up with either of them. Except that the epilogue from the second book said she did, but it did not specify which. SO I WAS OBSESSIVELY READING. I read the first half while my cousin took her nap this afternoon, then I read the rest after the kids went to bed tonight.
I really wonder if Han actually wrote these all at once. She did an incredible job in making the three books seem like one. There were references - both outright and obscure - to things that happened in previous books in both #2 and #3. This happened a lot when you get a flashback from the perspective of another character - either Jeremiah or Conrad, depending on which book you're reading. In this vein, Conrad's POV. And I thought I liked Jeremiah's? I loved loved loved finally having Conrad's side of things. It helped that two years had passed in between the two books. That makes personal progress actually realistic. And the thing is, he actually had reasons for almost all of his actions. I like that it wasn't all of them, because otherwise, it would seem too perfect. But I just love how everything was finally explained. Not just his motivation, but the mystery of the necklace, etc.
At the end-end? I bawled. Like a baby. I read a lot of romance (a lot) and watch tons of chick flicks, and I've seen a gajillion ~happy endings~ in my day, ranging from gag-worthy to fairly typical to touching to those that just hit you because you are so connected to the couple or because of the circumstances or fantastic writing or any combination thereof. This was one of these. I just sat there for a while reveling in it. It was beautiful.
BUT ANYWAY. THERE IS SO NO WAY ANYONE READ ALL OF THAT. I wouldn't. I just chronicled which ships I liked at various points. And how many words did it take? I don't even want to know.
Let's address the writing. I have a ton of quotes from these books saved. They were funny and touching and angsty and explosive with chemistry, all at different times, and always, always touching. I've been reading a lot of YA in the last couple years, and I've read a lot of average YA books. But every once and a while, you find those authors who just get it. They are great writers, and they write interesting characters and storylines. I am happy to include Jenny Han among these authors, and I hope she writes more in the future. I am an easily-obsessed person by nature, but these books just drew me in. I was totally and completely enthralled by the world she created, and I could not read the books fast enough. The wait between them (only a day or so between each) was practically agony. I tore the internet apart looking for It's Not Summer Without You after I finished the first one. They read fast, but not fluff-fast like Meg Cabot (with no offense intended; I adore Meg Cabot). Fast because you are so into the book that you ignore everything else and immerse yourself in the world and want to know what is happening right now. But I digress. Yet again.
Now, for a few more points.
Susannah and Laurel. Their friendship was so touching. My heart absolutely broke with everything that happened. I loved both of these characters so much.
Steven - I would not be opposed to a companion book with a story for him in it? Preferably where he winds up with Taylor.
Taylor - I could not stand her at first. But she grew on me once I could see how much she actually cared about Belly, despite being infuriating at times.
Random things that made me laugh - An analysis of the word "asshat" which I have always found hilarious. It's one of my favorites, although I rarely curse. ALSO. At one point, Belly has this huge discussion with her self about Kevin from Home Alone and what he would do in her situation. Which seriously made me smile because A) I love that movie 2) it's Christmas time now, so I liked having Christmas references in a summer-centric book I happened to be reading, and D) I love it when things are referenced in books and I actually understand the reference. (Yes, my list was messed up on purpose, and kudos to you if you get the reference. :) )
Okay. I am beyond exhausted, and I have no idea how long I've been typing. But I just had to get some of this out, as ridiculous as my ship rambling in all its tl;dr glory might seem. I LOVED THIS TRILOGY. GOOD NIGHT.