Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?
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.
After reading The Summer I Turned Pretty earlier in the year, I became desperate to read more in the series. So luckily for me, It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han arrived while I was on holiday. And I couldn't wait to get to it, and I started it the very night I flew back in, weary from travelling. Even so, I stayed up all night to finish it and cried my way all the way to that last page. It was worth it. Jenny Han tells a story that is so emotional and engaging and incredibly well-written.
It's Not Summer Without You is very different from the first book in the series. I found The Summer I Turned Pretty to be very sweet and nostalgic, about first love and these lazy summer days. This sequel is not the same and I loved it for being so different. It does follow the same sort of structure, mostly told through Belly's perspective and interspersed with flashback memories of what has occurred since the end of The Summer I Turned Pretty. What's wonderful though, is that we see a few glimpses into Jeremiah's head as he tells his viewpoint of the story on several of the chapters.
Instead of finding Belly and Conrad all loved-up and together (which is what I expected!), we begin the story several months after the death of Susannah. Belly is no longer on speaking terms with Conrad or Jeremiah and her and her family are for once, not spending the summer at the beach house. Belly's mother seems so wrapped up in her grief that she leaves Belly to do much as she pleases. Susannah's death has transformed everyone, it seems. Belly has no idea how to deal with the loss of such an important person in her life and therefore cannot be the friend that Jeremiah needs, Conrad seems intent on pushing everyone away.
If Susannah's death weren't heartbreaking enough as it is, Belly has to deal with the destruction and the aftermath of her relationship with Conrad. We see from Belly's flashbacks how the ending of the two of them was a gradual process as Susannah's health declined, and in the end I felt both upset with Conrad and how he behaved towards Belly and also a little understanding and sympathetic to all that he was going through. Everything comes to a head in a very explosive and emotional final argument.
So, when Jeremiah calls Belly out of the blue to help him locate a missing Conrad, Belly leaps at the chance in order to make amends and have some of her questions answered. And on this journey to discover Conrad, Belly makes some hard choices. She begins to see things from a different perspective, she begins to listen to Jeremiah when he tells her that he needed a friend as well and everything isn't all about Conrad.
I both loved and despised the ending. My respect for both Belly and Jenny Han sky-rocketed, but I am also desperately in need of the final book in the series. How will it end?! I want more Jenny Han in my life. If you haven't read this series yet, you really must pick these books up!