The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy follows the story of Isabel Conklin aka Belly and her ever-complex-growing relationships with her childhood friends, Jeremiah and Conrad. Ever since she was a little girl, Belly has spent her summers at Cousins beach with her mom and brother, and her mother’s best friend and sons. Jeremiah Fisher is Belly’s best friend; he is goofy and charming, and can light up the room like no other. But Belly has been in love with Conrad – the other brother – for as long as she can remember. When tragedy hits both families and feelings come spilling out of the three characters, Belly is torn between the two brothers. The trilogy has one ‘burning’ question: who will she choose?
The reason I put ‘burning’ in the quotation marks is because it’s not actually a burning question at all. From the get-go, common sense and familiarity with the genre tells the audience who Belly is going to end up with. Han doesn’t take this into account, resulting in a series that is filled to the head with whining, angst and unnecessary drama for no reason at all. Anyone who has been paying attention to how love triangles work in YA knows who she is going to end up with; it’s as easy as 1+1 = 2. Which begs the question: if we know what the resolution is going to be, why read a trilogy that has the sole purpose of reaching said resolution? I’ll answer this question in a little bit.
I remember reading the negative reviews for the only other books I’ve read from Jenny Han: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Much of the negativity was directed towards how juvenile the narrator was- how simplistic her outlook on life was, and how annoying her immaturity was. I found Jenny Han’s employment of Lara Jean’s personality (from the other series) rather endearing; we are so used to detached and aloof characters that it was refreshing to see a girl who put all her feelings out in the open, who retained some of that childhood innocence without being annoying. But after having read this series, I wonder if Jenny Han can write something other than a wildly immature character.
Because Belly is one of the most irritating characters I have ever come across. She is sixteen or seventeen years old, yet she behaves like she just hit puberty yesterday. Her life revolves around boys; she thinks of little else except one boy or another. In the first two books, her female friends were thrust aside with unnecessary drama put between them just so Belly could focus on the boys some more. Her constant need to steal attention from anyone more deserving made me angry. Stemming from her obsession with the male gender, you can fathom how romance-focused this series was. Belly flip-flops from one boy to another back to the first one, back to the other. This trilogy is a love-triangle lover’s wet dream, because there is little more to it.
Moreover, the resolution of the entire series was severely anti-climactic. There was virtually no complete conclusion to the events of the third novel. If you’re not into rushed endings, skip this series because it was largely unsatisfactory towards the end.
Now back to the question I posed. The reason this trilogy is still worth reading is because Jenny Han is an author who’s writing pulls you in with its addictive quality. She writes simply, with very little figurative language and embellishment, but the final result is an incredibly fast-paced, light read that you can easily get through in a few hours. Despite not having enjoyed the content, I admit that this series is the perfect binge-read for those hot summer months.