Book #1: The Summer I Turned Pretty (2009)
Book #2: It’s Not Summer Without You (2010)
Book #3: We’ll Always Have Summer (2011)
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon + Schuster
(I just love the covers. Aren’t they pretty? Especially the last one, a perfect blend of creamy white, grass green and the skin tone.)
I started the series in 2011, on a summer-like spring day, I think. I finished it in 2013, on a wintry spring day.
The series centers about Belly’s life – most importantly her summers, because summer is the season of beginnings and endings, a perfect two-and-a-half-month vacation during which she, her mom and her brother live in the beach house in Cousins with Belly’s mom’s best friend, Susannah, and her two boys, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly’s been in love with Conrad since she was ten, and now she’s almost sixteen. Will this summer be the one she would later point to and say “That was it. That’s the summer I turned pretty and everything changed.”?
That’s how the first book starts. It reads like a breezy summer read, except it doesn’t. Jenny Han’s writing is simple yet elegant, and it lures me into the story without realizing it. Once I start her books, I can’t put them down till I have seen the closure. Oh, and what a closure it was.
There is so much more to the Summer series than just summers, beaches, crushes and first loves. It contains a tale of friendships, ones running so deeply that it is rooted in you and ones you thought are doomed to wither but are somehow saved – by fate, by time, by sheer determination. It’s a tale of love – love and divorce, first and last love, trust and keeping silent.
I warn you. Spoilers ahead.For me, it was clear whom Belly would “pick” (that sounds terrible, as if Conrad and Jeremiah were two kinds of cheese and Belly stands there, contemplating which tastes better): I was Con all the way. Even though he behaved like a douchebag sometimes. I know he was hurting, and I know that’s not an excuse to treat people around you lousily. He himself says so:
“After my mom died, I was so pissed off. I had this anger in me all the time. I felt like I was going to erupt any minute.” He drew his breath in. “I didn’t have it in me to love you the way you deserved. But I knew who did. Jere. He loved you. If I kept you with me, I was going to hurt you somehow. I knew it. I couldn’t have it. So I let you go.” (We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han, p. 237 – 238)
I understand what he is saying. I still think he should have explained this to Belly, and asked her to wait for him. I know I would have, if I loved a guy so much but knew I needed some distance. Belly loves him, and she may not have understood him, but she would have waited for him, secure in knowing Conrad loves her back. That was always the problem, Belly’s insecurity over Con’s feelings. And I don’t blame her. The guy gave out mixed signals.
It has always been Belly and Conrad, and deep down, even Jere knew it. He loved her, too, and she loved him back. But it just wasn’t the same. She wasn’t the same, and in this case, that’s what matters. I think Belly knew, even though she ignored it and didn’t want to admit it, that she was making a mistake accepting Jeremiah’s proposal. It is not easy to separate yourself from your feelings when you are smack in the middle of them. Seeing Conrad while preparing for the wedding was a blessing – seeing him again, talking and living with him again helped her realize what she is doing is a mistake. Jere could see that, too. He’s a good guy, and a great best friend. He and Belly were right together. But Conrad and Belly were just more right together.
I actually thought we won’t be seeing much of Taylor at the end of book #1, then at the end of book #2. But her friendship with Belly has survived, and of that I’m grateful. Because it shows that not all strained friendships go astray, that they can be mended.
I’m so happy for Belly, and Conrad. And Jeremiah, because I don’t think his and Belly’s marriage would have worked out. I say farewell and see you soon to Laure, Belly’s rather impressive mom, and also to Susannah – the mothers I aspire to be. I’ll miss Steven and his and Belly’s dad, but not so much Mr. Fisher, I’m afraid.