Thursday, 21 April 2011

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

5 Stars. (Young Adult)


I whipped through this book in a matter of hours. Had a bookmark ready and everything and never once used it. The pages kept turning and I fell completely into this story.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, but wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be when I first picked it up. I admit though that for days after I finished The Summer I Turned Pretty I kept thinking about the characters and the situations Belly was faced with. This book though had me hooked from the first word. It had so much heart and emotion. All the depth that I felt was lacking in the first book swept me away in the second. Belly grew up a lot in this one. She came across as selfish, kind of self-centered and whiny in the first book but she was so different and much more compelling in It's Not Summer Without You. My heart broke for her several times through out the story and more than once I had tears in my eyes as I read. My breath caught on several occasions and I couldn't read fast enough needing to know what would happen next.

The emotions were so heightened as Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad deal with a tragic loss and try to come together to fix their broken relationships. Things start out okay, get better, then get steadily worse before finally getting a bit better before hitting rock bottom again. It was a roller-coaster of emotions and bitterness and grief that fit perfectly against the backdrop of a summer house that didn't just hold memories, but an entire relationship between friends - more like family.

Conrad and Belly's relationship is so compelling and yet utterly heartbreaking. I've known someone like Conrad and let me tell you it's not easy to care about someone who treats you the way he does. Ultimately you love the person and you try to tell yourself they care about you too, even as they do everything they can to sabotage their own happiness and as well as your own. The relationship was so well drawn and made me want to scream, cry and laugh all at the same time. Which I suspect is very much what Belly felt with Conrad. Belly's handling of what can be such an exhausting situation was perfectly pitched and realistic. She came across as so much more self-aware. She admitted when she was wrong, tried to do her best and help her friends, stood up for herself and let herself be vulnerable and weak. I really admired her in this book which is saying a lot because I was really annoyed with her in the previous novel.

Jeremiah came through as a brighter character as well in this book. He seemed too good in the previous novel and I never felt a strong connection to him. In this book, however, he really grew as a character. Partly, the fact that a few scenes were recalled from Jere's perspective really went a long way to giving readers a glimpse into the boy's world. It was another complaint I had with the first book that I never really knew where each of them - mainly Conrad stood with Belly. In this book, the scenes narrated by Jeremiah really shed light on what went on between the boys and how they each felt towards Belly. It made everything that much more poignant. Jenny Han also did herself a real good turn when she went back and subtly added scenes that were told from Belly's perspective, even quickly in the first book, but this time gave readers a glimpse of the same scene through the boy's eyes. It was unique and helped focus the current plot, rooting it more fully in the past. The flashback scenes to events that had played out summers ago, or only a few months before the setting of this story were really well done and gave a lot of depth to both the characters and there overall relationship with one another.

All in all I was hugely impressed with this second book in the Jenny Han's summer series. It's a story that stays with you, the characters and their love/hate for one another haunting you for days. An easy 5 star!

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