Book Review: It’s Not Summer Without You by 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. (From

While I liked The Summer I Turned Pretty well enough, I have to be honest and say the main character, Belly, irritated me to distraction. I loved everything else about the book, the setting, the surprising depth, the romance of summer and for these reasons I was prepared to give Jenny Han’s summer books another chance and read sequel, It’s Not Summer without You. I’m glad I did because I found this time round Belly was far more palatable and I enjoyed the book immensely.

We join Belly several months from the last book and about to embark on another summer. Only this time things have changed. The thing all the characters were dreading has happened and not only has Belly lost her much loved Susannah but also her link to the beach house at Cousins and the boys, Jeremiah and Conrad. And despite the previous book ending with a fledgling romance between Belly and Conrad, things aren’t working out as they’d hoped as he becomes more and more distant and Belly is left feeling distraught. But when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad needs help, Belly’s there without question.

Where The Summer I Turned Pretty evoked images of the perfect summer and endless possibilities, It’s Not Summer Without You has the feeling of the end of an era, growing up and discovering who you are. It’s sad and poignant and beautifully written. Once again I found Han’s writing very readable but with unexpected depth, even more so in this book than the first, which makes her books less fluffy than you may imagine from looking at the cover alone.

Again, It’s Not Summer Without You is told from Belly’s perspective with flashbacks to previous summer memories. This time however we get to see Jeremiah’s perspective now and then and I have to say I like him even more than I did before! The deteriorating relationship between Belly and Conrad is excruciatingly painful. I hated Conrad’s treatment of Belly at times, though could understand it…sometimes she expects far too much from people. Thankfully throughout this book she comes to some kind of realisation about her behaviour and I liked the growth of her character, who eventually has grown on me.

It’s Not Summer Without You isn’t exactly a happy, care free book, but it is perfect summer reading and one I definitely recommend. With her engaging, readable style and short chapters, which keep you thinking ‘just one more’, it’s perfect poolside reading.

Published in the UK by Puffin May 2011

Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along (From
The Summer I turned Pretty was top of my Summer Reading/Review list. Described as the perfect summer book it had to be really, didn’t it? And it is indeed a good book to enjoy on a lazy summer afternoon, with it’s beach setting, where you can almost feel the sting of sand and smell of sea and short easy chapters that keep you turning pages effortlessly.
In a short authors note at the beginning of the book, Jenny Han says ‘I truley Believe in every girls life there is that one golden summer’ and I shouted yes! There is. I had it and remember it fully. Han perfectly captures that magical moment where you are no longer a child, where the summer stretches endlessly before you and anything is possible. The setting is wonderful, who wouldn’t want to spend every summer at a beach house…I know when I was a teen this book would have been my idea of heaven. Belly has been spending summer here her whole life, with her mother, elder brother Stephen and her Mums best friend Susannah and sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Lucky!
But there’s more to The Summer I Turned Pretty than I originally imagined and the story isn’t just about this one summer, but many summers where we learn just how deep and complex the relationship between the two families are. There’s quite a serious side to this book which I wasn’t at all expecting but was covered very well and enhanced the importance of this Summer perfectly. The relationships between the characters are drawn very well, from the bickering between Belly and her brother, the exclusion she feels from ‘the boys’ and the awe she feels for older and more serious Conrad.
Jenny Han’s writing is very atmospheric, evoking vivid images of the beautiful setting and is incredibly easy to read. However I did have a couple of issues with the book, mainly involving main character Belly. I didn’t love her that much, she’s stroppy and self-absorbed believing the whole world revolves round her. She has a ‘poor me’ attitude at times which isn’t warranted and fails to see what’s happening to those she purports to care about.  I thought a book, which had the potential to be outstandingly good, was ruined by her attitude. That’s not to say overall I thought the book was bad, it’s really not. However I was sad I couldn’t fully love it because of my feelings toward her.  The publisher’s blurb hints at a love triangle and there is, kind of, but not the one I was expecting. Again this didn’t do much for me, and left me wondering about the point of it at times.  

So would I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty? Weighing everything up I still say this is worthy of making your summer reading list. I managed to read this in one very easy sitting, the chapters are just a few pages long meaning I kept thinking ‘one more’ and ended up finishing the book very quickly. And by the end, Belly had redeemed herself a little in my eyes … I just wish we’d seen more of this side of her and less of the rest. It also left me wanting to catch the second book in the series; It’s Not Summer Without You. I’d say this was a satisfactory read, not perfect but certainly not a terrible way to spend a few hours on the beach. 

Published in the UK by Puffin June 2010