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.Review - Jenny Han - why did you have to write this book? The Summer I Turned Pretty was a lovely little story about family, history and love and worked really well as an independent read. Apparently it is part of a trilogy and while excited to re-enter this world, I was ultimately disappointed.
A few things worked exceedingly well as Han is a talented writer. The focus on Savannah's boys after her death and their ways of processing the grief (or not in Conrad's case) was exceptionally well done. Jeremiah's perspective really assisted in showing Belly's mother in a more accurate light as well as showing the pressures that effect these boys outside of Belly's sphere. This was so effective that I found myself wanting to return to his side of the story more often than not. The closer examination of Belly and Laurel's lack of communication and understanding are insightful, nuanced and unique. Observing how Laurel and Savannah work more effectively with the other's children hits home strong and demonstrates that the ones who love us most can be the most difficult. The family content works well, extremely so, even without the inclusion of Steven who was sorely missed.
The relationship drama doesn't work so well. Belly is a bit of a cypher and that worked well in the first title but by the second, she's a complete annoyance. It is befuddling why this girl seems to have so many guys dithering around her in alternating states of lust, love and curiosity. Her attraction and devotion to Conrad surpasses believability and I wanted to write the guy off. I like an uncommunicative bad boy as much (sometimes more) than the next girl but despite his hurt, I wanted to kick him in the balls. Belly's dithering reached stupendous degrees in this novel and while it eventually swayed her in a direction that is much more emotionally healthy for her, I can tell she will pursue the path of stupidity in the third title. The truth of the matter is...I like every character more than I like Belly. I don't hate her, she just frustrates me into ambivalence. I need a protagonist who can excel at more than tossing to and fro on matters that are pretty clear cut.
Ideally I would cut this book into halves and chuck out all the romantic entanglements and bring back Steven and the boys club. Whenever a girl gets between two brothers, purposefully or not, she looks like a selfish and somewhat clueless harpy. It is just not the done deal, especially if the brother's mother has just died. It undermines the character and Belly doesn't have anything else going for her.
It sounds harsh but it's true. In the first novel she states (and I am paraphrasing) that she lives for the summer and doesn't engage so much in the normal year. This was of less concern in the first title but in the second it is borderline horrific. This girl makes no effort to connect with people outside of the summer group (and her mother come to think of it). This indicates larger issues at play with Belly on a personal level and also my inability to connect to her as a character. The necklace claiming was icky as was her timing with a certain snog. She's so reactive that I want to scream. Sensing my frustration?
I was extremely disappointed in this title. I am willing to give the next title a whirl as I am fervently hoping this was a book two plateau as we often observe in trilogies. Ultimately this comes down to the rehabilitation of Belly - dithering be gone!
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
PS I would love to see Steven kick Conrad's ass...just saying.