Book Review: It’s not Summer Without You

By Neha, Grade 9

Quick Note: This review contains spoilers for The Summer I Turned Pretty.

I recently finished reading the sequel to a recently popularized book, The Summer I Turned Pretty. It’s called It’s Not Summer Without You, and once again, it follows main character Belly Conklin as she tries to navigate life after the death of her family friend and mother figure Susannah Fisher. Along with that, Belly had also recently come out of her relationship with Conrad Fisher, leaving her feeling sad and empty. Throughout the book, Belly was forced to reconnect with Susannah’s sons, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher by a shocking turn of events, and they end up needing to work together to save Susannah’s summer beach house. 

It's Not Summer Without You

Reading this book after watching the TV series created a very unique experience for me. Sure, the plot had already been revealed to me, but I felt that it helped me pay attention to the details that didn’t remain the same on TV. For example, in the TV show, Belly’s brother Steven and her best friend Taylor come along with Belly and the Fisher boys to save the house. In the books however, Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah end up attempting to do it alone. I can see why author Jenny Han may want to keep the party small- it keeps the setting more intimate, and as Belly experiences romantic tension with both of the boys, Han may have wanted to keep the reader’s attention on them instead of the side characters. Unfortunately, the tactic didn’t quite work for me because I found myself missing Steven and Taylor’s side story, which was one of my favorite parts of the TV series. Sure, maintaining a small group kept my attention on the main plot, but it also made the story a little boring to me. By incorporating more characters and layers into the plot, Han could have retained the main plot, while still giving the reader some breaks and comic relief. Han could have also done so by diving deeper into Belly’s emotions, which she did very well in the first book. However, I felt that the reader was more distant from Belly and didn’t hear as much of her inner thoughts about the whole emotionally exhausting situation as they could have. This ended up detracting from the initial appeal for the series, at least for me, but it wasn’t all bad. 

Han made a few changes that I really appreciated as well. My biggest praise for this book was that we got to see more of the Fisher boys, especially Jeremiah. Although the first book was solely from Belly’s perspective, It’s not Summer Without You includes a couple chapters from Jeremiah’s perspective. In the first book of the series, Belly has a lot to say about Conrad, but she doesn’t address Jeremiah in the same way- as expected, since Conrad was her first love. This changes in the second book, and the reader suddenly empathizes with Jeremiah, and grieves Susannah’s loss with him. Han did an excellent job of illustrating Jeremiah’s reaction to his mother’s death, and the betrayal he felt at Conrad and Belly’s relationship. Jeremiah quickly became one of my favorite characters after reading the second book, and I was completely torn, unable to take a stance on the love triangle that It’s Not Summer Without You presented. 

Overall, I think this book was strong, but not as strong as it could have been. The plot was very well-written, but the characters could have used a little more work. If Han had dug into Belly’s emotions in the same way she did with Jeremiah, I probably would have enjoyed the book more. I’d recommend this read to anyone who likes the love triangle trope, summer vacation settings, but doesn’t mind slightly underbaked characters. 3.5 stars.