From the BLURB:
When something is perfect, you hope it never ends . . .
Isabel's lazy, long hot summers at her family friends' beach house are over.
Conrad – sexy and unavailable - is the only boy she's ever loved. He's left for college, taking her heart with him. Jeremiah, his gorgeous brother, is still Isabel's best friend – but maybe friendship isn't enough for him anymore . . .
Isabel just wants everything to stay the same, because change means moving on. But if she stops looking back, will she find a future she never knew she wanted?
** Contains MAJOR spoilers of Book #1 ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ **
Susannah is gone and Belly’s heart with her. There will never again be a summer with Susannah at the house in Cousins – no more singing along to Aretha Franklin, no more blueberry muffins and no more heart-to-hearts with Belly’s pretend-mother. Susannah is dead, and Belly’s sadness engulfs the summer season . . .
Belly is seventeen and spending her first summer without Susannah and her summer boys, Jeremiah and Conrad . . . and maybe that’s for the best.
Following the explosive last summer vacation, Belly finally admitted her feelings to Conrad. Heart on sleeve, Belly revealed all – every ounce of love in her heart – and Conrad wanted her right back. For six whole months they dated long-distance while he was away at college. Speaking on the phone every night and even sneaking out to the summer house for one memorable evening. While his mother was slowly dying, Belly was Conrad’s constant in a suddenly turbulent life.
. . . So it’s pathetically sad how they ended. With Belly crying at her Prom and Conrad walking away, not even looking back.
Then Susannah died and Conrad slipped even further away. In the process, Belly cut herself off from Jeremiah, right when he needed her most.
Now Conrad has run away. Jeremiah and Belly know where he has taken refuge, but not why. Belly lost her best friend and first love when Conrad rejected her months ago, but her summer boys need her now and she won’t turn her back on either of them.
‘It’s Not Summer Without You’ is the second book in Jenny Han’s YA contemporary romance ‘Summer’ trilogy.
I was crying from the first page of this book. Susannah’s death was inevitable since the tragic reveal of her worsening condition in ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’. Still, I was blubbering like a fool for the first half of this book.
Susannah’s passing is the carrying tragedy of the follow-up book. Her death impacts everyone – Belly’s mother, Laurel, is withdrawn and distant since losing her best friend. Conrad has become self-destructive, and Belly is heartsick at losing her pretend-mother. Susannah’s loss is felt by all, even the reader. She was just a lovely presence in the first book, and clearly an impact on Belly’s young life. The sorrow of her death reverberates throughout this second novel.
But Han’s trilogy is focused on young love. And for that reason I found myself crying for the romantic heartbreaks in Belly’s young life as for the more saddening and maddening death of Susannah.
When ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ ended, Belly and Conrad were embarking on a tentative and tender new romance. When ‘Without You’ begins, Belly speaks haltingly about her and Conrad’s disastrous break-up, and a fall-out that has yet to be fixed. This second book doesn’t have the same year-leaping flashbacks as ‘Turned Pretty’ did, instead Han slowly revisits Belly and Conrad’s crumbling relationship bit by bit. And it is a disaster; of epic proportions (at least it is for a sixteen-year-old girl). The height of Belly’s heartbreak comes at her prom, where she is left crying and bedraggled, watching Conrad stride away and knowing that they are over (if they were ever even together?).
Now, in the grand scheme of plot Susannah’s death is far more gut-wrenching than Conrad and Belly’s collapsed puppy love. But I absolutely bawled my eyes out during Belly’s recount of her prom-date heartbreak. I think it’s because Han is so evilly and wonderfully good at recounting the disasters of youth. You feel Belly’s crushed hopes with visceral tenderness as Han forces you to remember your own first love, and the inevitable first heartbreak. She deftly conjures those feelings of crushed dreams and tormented love – all of it felt deeper and was heightened for being your first. But it’s even worse for Belly – for most people first loves are classroom disasters and playground fancy – but Belly had known Conrad her whole life, and loved him for almost as long. His rejection of her is a tragedy from a much greater height.
We stood there, looking at each other, saying nothing. But it was the kind of nothing that meant everything. In his eyes, there was no trace of what had happened between us earlier, and I could feel something inside me break.
So that was that. We were finally, finally over.
I looked at him, and I felt so sad, because this thought occurred to me: I will never look at you in the same way ever again. I’ll never be that girl. The girl who comes running back every time you push her away, the girl who loves you anyway.
I really didn’t like Conrad in this book. Objectively, I can see his appeal (and understand his crush-worthiness for a young Belly). Conrad is smart and reclusive; he keeps to himself and doesn’t trust easily. But when he loves you, he protects you viciously and gives so much of himself. There’s an addictive quality to him – this unattainable, gentle soul. But he’s also somewhat selfish, and cowardly in his love for Belly. I couldn’t get past his prom debacle, nor his subsequent ill-treatment of the heart-wounded Belly. I understand his appeal, but as far as I can tell, he has done nothing to earn Belly’s devotion.
Now, Jeremiah is a different story all together. Jeremiah is a goofball who is never happier than when he’s making other people laugh. Part of ‘Without You’ is told from Jeremiah’s perspective – and for the first time we get to understand his angst at being Conrad’s shadow (to their father, and now Belly). We read his changing feelings of protective love towards the girl who is his best friend. I loved Jeremiah! He is such a sweetheart, and I hate that he feels second-best in all things to Conrad (especially Belly). I can’t wait to read how that all changes in the final book . . .
‘It’s Not Summer Without You’ continues Jenny Han’s ludicrously addictive ‘Summer’ trilogy. In this instalment Belly deals with loss and heartbreak in one disastrous year, devoid of summer. She learns the perils of loving and starts to understand that a person’s first may not necessarily by their last.