Book Review: It's Not Summer Without You
By: Jenny Han
Narrated By: Jessica Almasy
Published By: Recorded Books
Publication Date: December 2010
Audio Length: 6 hours, 38 minutes
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
On the Writing & Story:
Jenny Han has a remarkable gift for story telling. She brings her characters to life with raw emotion and relevance. These are not the light, fluffy summer romances one might expect from the covers and titles. Instead, this series revolves around unrequited love, familial ties, and the lingering effects of losing a loved one. Spending time with Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah is always a bittersweet pleasure that leaves me craving a little more summer. Those who have not read book one will not want to continue reading past this paragraph as there may be spoilers.
I found this installment of the series to be just as appealing as the first, but I did miss the actual summer that I had come to expect. Yes, Belly and the boys make it back to Cousins Beach, but its not for their traditional summer of surf, sand, and fun. Susannah has passed away from the cancer she fought so hard against and each of her sons is trying in his own way to deal with the grief. Belly and her family are also reeling from the loss of Susannah. Ms. Conklin has locked herself in her office and has become a ghost of her former self. Belly realizes that she will no longer be anyone's favorite and finds herself avoiding Conrad and Jeremiah; talking to them will only bring back memories of all those glorious summers and her failed relationship with Conrad. However, when Jeremiah calls Belly for help, she can't say no.
This novel broke my heart a bit more than the first one. I missed Susannah almost as much as the characters. She had such a warmth and happiness about her. Her absence makes the pages feel a little colder. Seeing how each of the characters deals with her loss was poignant. Grief affects us all in very different ways and I found that each character in this book became a symbol for a stage of the grief process.
You also can't talk about this series without mentioning the love triangle that refuses to stop between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah. I find myself wanting to throw something at Conrad every time he hurts Belly and pushes her away. I know he's going through a lot, but he is a jerk most of the time. I honestly don't understand the attraction to him at all. Even his small redeemable moments aren't enough for me. I want Belly to end up with Jeremiah, but I fear that since her heart has always belonged to Conrad that she won't be able to shake him from her heart and soul - which is a shame. Jeremiah has so much to offer; he is the true knight in shining armor. I have always been a sucker for the romantic, sweet ones. I also really enjoyed that in this edition, Jeremiah gets to tell parts of the story from his perspective. It was nice to hear from someone other than Belly for a moment.
On The Audio:
Jessica Almasy narrated book one so I was already familiar with her style. I found that I didn't need any time to get back into Belly's world. I have come to think of Jessica's voice as Belly's. It was a little odd when she would do the chapters narrated from Jeremiah's perspective. She didn't do anything major to set these segments apart from the Belly moments. I wish they had gotten a male narrator for those moments. It would have made it a better listening experience. I did find that this one was a lot easier to listen to than the first one. I was prepared for the time shifts and knew what to expect both from Han's story and Almasy's narration. I am looking forward to listening to book three in the near future.
One Last Gripe: I missed the beach elements. The beach trip this time is nothing like what we get in book one. Steven is virtually nonexistent in this book. It just felt like something was missing. I could totally relate to Belly's sadness that life was changing so rapidly.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Watching Belly grow and mature - she has left some of her whining tendencies behind and is starting to grow into her personality - she is strong, independent, and intelligent. I love that she is a tomboy and cares so deeply for others.
First Sentence: It was a hot summer day in Cousins.
Favorite Character: Belly
Least Favorite Character: Mr. Fisher
Belly was ecstatic when Conrad, the son of her mom's best friend and the boy she'd loved for years, finally kissed her. But when Conrad's mom dies, he withdraws from everyone and eventually disappears completely. Not sure where to start looking, Belly and Conrad's brother Jeremiah figure Conrad's college is a good place to start-but they soon learn he's actually at the family beach house.
When Belly and Jeremiah find Conrad, they realize he wasn't running away-he'd come to keep the house from being sold. Belly's romantic feelings for Conrad begin to resurface even as she's growing closer to Jeremiah, and as emotions run high, it's unclear if things will ever go back to normal-especially when a
real estate agent shows up.
Popular author Jenny Han captures perfectly how young people think when it comes to relationships. Jessica Almasy's narration flawlessly reverberates the author's style and heartwarmingly reveals the details of the character's relationships.