Thursday, 20 May 2010

Review - It's Not Summer Without You / Jenny Han

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
Published: 2010
Source: purchased
Origin: USA

PS I would love to see Steven kick Conrad's ass...just saying.


Trish said...

I agree. With everything. Except I'd like to see Belly kick Conrad's ass. At least then she'd be doing something!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very honest review! Now I've seen two reactions for this novel. One loved it and the other didn't enjoy it. I look forward to borrowing it to decide for myself. =D

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

I think I need to get to reading bk 1 since I loved INSWY but have no basis to compare the two. I have to agree, someone does need to smack Conrad upside the head! I'm all for cloning Jerimiah though :)

Rowena said...

What a fanastic, in-depth review. I very much enjoyed reading it and am putting the first title on my list of books to read.

Robby said...

This is the first negative review I've read of this book. I really need to read the first one.

Anonymous said...

Aww, I'm reading this one right now and I love it, maybe even more than the first.

Nomes said...

I haven't read either yet -- but just wanted to say -- I really appreciate your reviews, Adele. Too often I purchase a book b/c of rave reviews and then lots of little things niggle at me while I read it and I feel cheated by all the love it's getting from everyone else.

Your reviews really ring true and I look forward to them as I find you to be honest but fair. And when you recommend something, it really makes me sit up and pay attention :)

Elana said...

I really liked this review. When I finished the first book I loved it so much I read it over and over again. I did not know there would be a second one but as soon as I saw there was I bought it and I spent all day reading it, and after I finished I found myself disappointed, which was the exact opposite reaction I had to the first one. I agree in that Belly really got on my nerves in this book with the things she said and getting between the boys right after their mom died, I just felt like all the good character she had in the first book fell flat. Thank you for writing this review because at first I thought I was wrong for thinking this way too. Hopefully, like you said, the third book will bring back a new reinvented Belly.