Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review of It's Not Summer Without You

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
Pages: 288
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 27, 2010
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you haven't read The Summer I Turned Pretty yet, please read my review of that book instead, because this review contains spoilers!

Goodreads says, "Last year, all of Belly's dreams came true and the thought of missing a summer in Cousins Beach was inconceivable. But like the rise and fall of the ocean tide, things can change--just like that. Suddenly the time she's always looked forward to most is something she dreads. And when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad has disappeared, Belly must decide how she will spend this summer: chasing after the boy she loves, or finally letting him go."

There have been so many changes in Belly's life.  Without giving too much away, lets just say that her life, her summers, will never be the same.  And that doesn't just go for Belly, but for Conrad, Jeremiah and Laurel as well.  The story opens with Belly facing a boring summer at home, which is highly disappointing to her, because, as you know, she lives for her summers at Cousins Beach.  The reader hopes that things went well with Conrad after he went off to Brown for fall semester, but we all know what happens when people go off to college.   Things are complicated and definitely layered in conflict.  Belly is at home pretending to enjoy what teenagers at home do over summer break, such as swimming in pools, going to parties, laying out, etc.  Her heart isn't in it and she longs to be at the beach.  Jeremiah calls Belly and begs her to come with him on a search for Conrad who has up and left summer session of college.  His dad is at a loss and even his college roommate has no clue where he is.  No one can locate him and Jeremiah needs Belly's help with this even though the last time Belly spoke to Conrad it wasn't all.  It's Not Summer Without You is just as good as The Summer I Turned Pretty, which is a hard feat, in my opinion.  Most sequels don't live up to the first book, but I was extremely impressed.  Jenny Han fails to disappoint me and once you pick up It's Not Summer Without You, you will have a hard time putting it down, even for a second.

This book mimics life so well. It's not all about sunshine and rainbows and long days at the beach.  Han really captures life's journey and the many changes that can come to a young adult.  This book is much more serious and somber than the first, but it's still magical and I admire Han for that.  It illustrates what it's like to grow up, unlike any other story I've read before.  Han accomplishes this through the use of flashbacks just like in the first novel.  I think that Han uses flashback extremely well; perhaps better than any other author out there.  The flashbacks really cut the tension of the story and usually take the reader back to a time at Cousins Beach when life was simpler.  I couldn't help but smile and some parts even made me laugh out loud.  Lastly, Han's writing is beautiful and so eloquent at times. Let me share a few pieces that really stood out for me.
"Instead I let the moment pass and I just signed and leaned back in my chair.  The sky was pinky gold.  I had the feeling that there was nothing more beautiful than this, that this particular sunset matched the beauty of anything in this world, ten times over.  I could feel the tension of the day drifting away from me and out to sea.  I wanted to memorize it all in case I didn't get to come back again.  You never know the last time you'll see a place. A person."  (page 124)
"I sat in a deck chair with my towel wrapped tight around me.  There was something so comforting and right about coming out of the pool wet and your mom putting a towel around your shoulders, like a cape.  Even without a mother there to do it for you, it was good, cozy.  Achingly familiar in a way that made me wish I was still eight.  Eight was before death or divorce or heartbreak.  Eight was just eight.  Hot dogs and peanut butter, mosquito bites and splinters, bikes and boogie boards.  Tangled hair, sunburned shoulders, Judy Blume, in bed by nine thirty." (page 147-148) 

Now about the characters....I love and can relate so much to Belly. I know some bloggers were frustrated by actions, but she is only a teenager and is experiencing first love and first heartbreak.  I know that it's hard to deal with at any age, let alone as a teenager.  You feel like your world is coming to an end.  On the other hand, Conrad was just as stubborn as ever in this novel and he cannot communicate effectively to save his life. I know many people like that.  Jenny Han portrays the impassive tough guy so well it's scary.  Even though Conrad can be very frustrating, I always seem to end up rooting for him.  Conversely, Jeremiah really develops in this novel and is even more charismatic and undeniably cute.  He is growing on me, which only leads to a love triangle predicament.  He's a foil to Conrad; Jeremiah wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn't hide anything from Belly.  Laurel, Belly's mom, is also important in this novel and I was at first disappointed by her, but she comes around and in a big way.  As you can see, this is a character driven novel and I was definitely invested.

The ending of this book is brilliant in only a way that Han could end it.  Even her endings are breathtaking and leave you with this quiet sense of hope.  I was entirely absorbed in this novel and when I turned the last page I was devastated because it was over. I wanted to bask in the sun all day with Belly.  Thankfully there is a third and final book in this series and it's due out next summer.  It's aptly called We'll Always Have Summer and already I look forward to going back to Cousins Beach.

Jenny Han's It's Not Summer Without You touches on serious issues, but is still lighthearted and alluring.  Simply put, she's talented.  Han makes me remember what it's like to be a teenager and go to the beach, watch shooting stars and just marinate in all of summer's beauty. I applaud Jenny Han for writing such relevant books that have so much life in them.  If you read any book at all this summer, make sure it's It's Not Summer Without You.  It's truly one of the most enchanting, yet extremely meaningful young adult books I've read. Period.


  1. Wonderful review for such a wonderful book. While it's a great summer read, there's so many deeper themes and it does portray life perfectly.

  2. I can't read this review yet because I haven't read the book, but I'm picking it up at the library today and plan to gorge on it this weekend! I'm excited to see how our opinions compare once I'm done, although I'm sure I'll love it as much as you do! (:

  3. Linna- You are right- it's a fun summer read, but it has serious themes! Thanks for stopping by!

    Kris- I can't wait to read your review!

  4. I cannot wait to read the first book. You have sold me so completely. I have two weeks left of work. I am counting the days!


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