Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: We'll Always Have Summer

I recently finished Jenny Han's Summer trilogy, which concluded with We'll Always Have Summer.  I didn't feel that either it or It's Not Summer Without You had the same magic as the debut novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I did enjoy the read.

In this book, Belly is just finishing her freshman year of college.  She and Jeremiah have been dating for the last two years, and she chose to attend the same college as him.  She is very much in love with Jeremiah in the present, but after a lifetime of loving his brother Conrad, she can't seem to quite evict his memory from her heart.  She views him as just that, though: a memory.  And Jeremiah is her present and her future.

Until she learns that Jeremiah 1) cheated on her and 2) kept it a secret.  ("But we were on a break!" he argues, a la Ross on "Friends.")  She is devastated.  She thought that Jeremiah would never let her down, and now he has crushed her.  She doesn't know if she can ever trust him again.

And then Jeremiah declares that he never wants to be without her, that he will never look at another girl again.  And he ASKS HER TO MARRY HIM.  Whoa.  This is where my initial affection for the book came to a screeching halt.  Belly is 18 years old.  Jeremiah is 19 or 20.  And she says yes.  And they decide to get married that August.  Like, two months away.  Even though their families are dead-set against the idea.  And somehow, Belly manages to push it out of her head that this entire engagement has come about as a result of Jeremiah trying to get her to forgive him for sleeping with someone else (as a side note: Belly has not actually slept with him herself).

Because Belly's mother (a reasonable woman) says that she cannot support Belly in this decision, Belly has a fit (yet another sign of her immaturity and total unreadiness to get married) and moves out.  She runs off to live at the summer house--where, it just happens, Conrad is also living for the summer.  And thus the stage is set for the final answer to the question we've asked for the entire trilogy: Which brother will Belly choose?

In It's Not Summer Without You, I was frustrated that Jeremiah was painted as the all-around perfect guy.  He was kind, loving, supportive, honest, and fun, with no faults to speak of.  But that vision fades pretty quickly at the begining of We'll Always Have Summer, when he is revealed to be a cheater.  And a liar.  And kind of a drunk.  And needy.  And spoiled (at least financially).  And self-centered.  And not very supportive of Belly.  Need I go on?

Conrad is the same as always--stoic, hard to read, kind of cranky.  But this book allows him to speak for himself in a few chapters written in his voice, so he comes off as more sympathetic than in the previous books, where we only got Belly's perspective of him.  This book also gives more flashbacks and details about the time he and Belly spent dating, which made me better understand their connection to each other.  And while it still doesn't give a satisfactory reason for their original breakup, it does explain his emotional distance since then.  So in short, now Conrad is the good brother.

Depending on which brother you rooted for throughout the trilogy, you may or may not like the ending of this book.  I had a hard time getting past the ludicrous idea of an 18-year-old getting married to her cheater boyfriend, but the way Jenny Han wrote it, it was clear that she also thought it was a poor idea (and Belly was just too immature to see that).  While I didn't love the trilogy as a whole as much as I loved its first book, I did really enjoy it, and I look forward to checking out Jenny Han's newest book, a collaboration with Siobhan Vivian entitled Burn for Burn.

Happy reading, everyone!

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