Warning: This is a review of all the books in Jenny Han’s Summer series and the TV series. Each review will have spoilers for that book and its prequels.
I read this ahead of the TV series! So I actually really liked the first ~70% of this — yes, it was really cliche and yes Belly was kind of an annoying main character (very focused on appearances and boy-crazy the way you might expect a middle-grader to be) but at least it was fun and there’s something so nostalgic about reading about a teenage girl’s coming-of-age. Plus I have to admit that love triangles are kind of a guilty pleasure (thus, rounding up).
In the last 30%, however, the romance got really annoying. It wasn’t just that she didn’t end up with who I was rooting for (sad) but also that it felt like the way it was done was so whiny, with the love interest being really rude — I just feel so over the trope where the girl ends up with the brooding guy just because “it’s always been him”. And even though the other subplot with the parents had been hinted at very slightly, it just felt like it all climaxed in a way that was both overdramatic and underwhelming.
Do you ever get the exact ending you want, but something about how the plot got there just feels wrong? That’s how I felt about this book and the way Belly and Jeremiah ended up together. It just felt a little rushed and sudden, and most of the romance had still completely focused on Conrad throughout the book.
Similar to the family plot in the first book, I felt like the house plot in this one was also cliche and overdramatic. The relationship issues were similarly immature. AND YET…I also felt a similar sort of nostalgia for this kind of coming-of-age story.
This was worse than all those Wattpad books I binged under the covers when I was twelve. And that’s very disappointing because even though I thought the first two books were cringey, there was some coming-of-age nostalgia there, remembering what it was like to have a crush and a carefree summer. There was NONE of that here, and even worse we completely lost any semblance of friendship or brotherhood between the trio.
It was disappointing right off the bat when we started off with a time jump, which always feels to me like an excuse to change things and characters without having to go through the labor of actually showing it. And that’s exactly what happened — every single character just felt insanely out of character, especially our main three.
For Jeremiah, it was just utter character assassination; they turned him from this fun-loving golden retriever happy-go-lucky character into this brainless, drunk frat bro.
For Conrad, this actually might’ve worked in his favor; he was a lot less brooding and rude even when things were written from his perspective (chapters which I actually kind of enjoyed) — but from a writing perspective, it just felt like the author was flipping her characters’ personalities so that whoever was endgame for that book would come across as nicer.
For Belly, well, her decision-making just became even more questionable and wishy-washy.
Starting the book off with a Ross & Rachel WE WERE ON A BREAK type situation between Belly and Jeremiah was so sudden when neither of them was acting like themselves; the sudden wedding proposal was even more outlandish and it was even more annoying when Belly agreed to it. The following wedding conflict between 19/20-year-olds was just impossible to take seriously when we already knew, ten pages in, how things would turn out at the end. And romance sequels REALLY need to stop doing the “emotional cheating” thing as its entire premise. Please. Nobody enjoys it.
The Summer I Turned Pretty TV Series: Season 1 (Actual Rating: 6.5/10)
I think Conrad in the show is so much better than Conrad in the books and maybe that’s one reason why I actually sort of enjoyed this. It had the same feeling of nostalgia and coming-of-age awkwardness that the first two books had, even though I was still a little annoyed by the underdeveloped wishy-washy love triangle (square?) situation.
In terms of the music, as much as I love Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, sometimes I felt like the music directors liked it a little too much and tried too hard to insert songs in random places — it felt abrupt and made the show suddenly seem like a music video.
Nevertheless, I think something about the show handled the drama a bit better than the book did, some of the characters were more likable, and overall this is just something kind of fun, uplifting, and no-brain that I can put on in the background.