Tuesday, 5 June 2018
A Review of the Summer series
The Summer series is a trilogy by Jenny Han. The three books are The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer. Isabel 'Belly' Conklin has spent every summer at her mother's best friends beach house in Cousins Beach. It's where everything fun happens, and where she hangs out with Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. She has been in love with Conrad since she was young and Jeremiah is her best friend. But now that both boys are displaying an attraction to her, will things ever be the same between them?
You know, I wanted to love this book, considering how much I adored the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series. I mean, it was obvious that this series does revolve around a love triangle, so maybe that was a warning sign? Not one of my favourites.
Under a cut because I couldn't discuss this one without spoiling events in the books.
Belly (that is going on my list of worst YA protagonist nicknames, but at least the narrative does acknowledge how odd it sounds) drove me up the wall. She really does read far younger than her stated age. Her character development over the books goes from being really immature to being only slightly less immature. She does have a few hobbies - swimming, reading, chess and piano - but we rarely see them. I know that during summer, normal activities can fall by the wayside a little, but at least show them in flashbacks. She doesn't seem to have an ambition as such. Most of her story revolves around the boys. With regard to them, Conrad at least, manages to grow up over the course of the series and lose his broodiness. Unfortunately, Jeremiah goes downhill. I'm really hoping he's just reacting to the feeling of sudden freedom you get at college, but it was hard to imagine the sweet Jeremiah of the first book telling people he majored in beerology in the last book. We also have Taylor, Belly's best friend, who Belly often shames for various things. At one point, Belly describes as being "about as deep as a kiddie paddling pool." I've noticed that both of Han's series have been a little uneven with their treatment of female friends. And then there's Susannah, who I fell in love with over the course of the first book. The second book gut punched me.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is the most summery book of the trilogy. It's very sensory, actually. I could smell the sea air and the swimming pool, feel the heat and salt water and sand drying on my skin, taste the summer cooking. I loved that aspect of it. At this early stage, I couldn't tell which of the two boys Belly would end up with, although it did become more obvious to me later.
Here's a rare statement - the second book was my favourite of the trilogy. The You in the title, It's Not Summer Without You, doesn't refer to the boys - I think it refers to Susannah, who died from cancer in the in-between. The descriptions of grief were spot on. The funeral depiction got me because that was me in September, I was the boys. Everyone else were those who didn't know what to say to me. With the relationships in this book coming to a head, the fallout from Susannah's passing and the looming threat of selling the summer house, it's also the one with the most developed plot.
Is it me, or does anyone else not like it when a YA book revolves around a wedding? That is most of the plot of We'll Always Have Summer. I just want to say to them no, you're too young to worry about that. It takes over the plot to the point where there's little room for anything else. Belly doesn't do much that isn't taken up with the wedding. At least have her swim a little to work off stress, show her reading to calm down, ect. Honestly, there's relatively little to say about this one, which is probably one of the worst reactions to have to a book.
And here's my biggest problem with the trilogy - the entire series is based around Belly suddenly becoming pretty, and that's from a very physical standpoint, too. That's basically the whole reason for the plot - the boys suddenly notice Belly for her rather than just a little sister type. What about girls who blossom later in life, or those who never do or those who don't fit into society's standards of beauty? Don't they deserve a teenage love story? At one point, Belly states that her brown hair is less interesting than blonde or red or black, which, no. Do you know how long it took me to unlearn that concept? And another reason is that Belly has started wearing contacts instead of glasses. I like my glasses, I think they suit my face. Can we stop telling teenagers that certain physical features are inherently ugly?
I would really only recommend this series for a fun summer read, but it does accomplish that purpose well.