Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Other Titles in Series: The Summer I Turned Pretty (Bk. 1), We'll Always Have Summer (Bk. 2)
It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come. But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.It’s Not Summer Without You is even more captivating than the first book in Jenny Han’s summer trilogy (and that’s saying a lot, because I pretty much inhaled The Summer I Turned Pretty). I read it in one sitting, savoring each word and getting caught up in Belly’s boy drama.
The occasional flashbacks in It’s Not Summer Without You are even more crucial to the story than in the first book. Rather than revealing the characters’ shared history of summers, as they did before, the flashbacks expand on crucial moments of the past year. A few succinct chapters are told from Jeremiah’s point-of-view; these are a great addition to Belly’s narrative, as they set up future events and clarify his feelings, making him an even more sympathetic character. Conrad, of course, continues to be inscrutable, the quietly compelling opposite of his brother.
Like the first book, It’s Not Summer Without You mixes in some mature subject matter – the death of loved ones and family issues – with its romantic drama. Han’s writing conveys a lot of subtleties and character nuances despite, or perhaps because of, being fairly simplistic. The way she words Belly’s feelings manages to be poignant without shifting into an overly poetic or flowery style, and I really loved that understated eloquence.
One minor point that another review pointed out is that Belly offhandedly mentions that she can’t whistle in this installment, even though her whistle is something she’s proud of in the first book. This is a tiny inconsistency – hardly worth mentioning – but it pulled me out of the story a bit. That aside, Belly’s flaws and occasional immaturity are beautiful. Really. She’s such a teenager, but also so funny, heartfelt, and earnest in everything she does that she remains likable throughout. Her best friend Taylor is as annoying as she was in the first book, but her personality doesn’t seem contrived: I can imagine a person like her existing in real life, so their strained friendship is realistic even if it kind of got on my nerves.
The last chapter offers the same sort of abrupt cliff-hanger that concluded The Summer I Turned Pretty. I don’t really favor that kind of ending, but it certainly left me pining for the third and final book. It’s Not Summer Without You is full of boys, tequila, sand, and decisions, both good and bad. Even more so than the first book, it eloquently conveys all the turmoil, tragedy, and elation of growing up.