it's not summer without you by jenny han

it’s not summer without you  is the second book to Jenny Han’s
the summer i turned pretty.
Belly has visited Cousins’ Beach every summer every since she can remember and she’s had a crush on Conrad just as long.  Belly, along with her mother and brother, visit Susannah, her mother’s best friend who is fighting breast cancer and her two sons Conrad and Jeremiah.  (Sorry for the loaded sentence.) The first book talks about the summer she turns sixteen and Conrad finally notices her as girl and not that tagalong pestering little kid.  Jeremiah, Conrad’s younger brother also notices her.  At the end of book one you are left with a kiss between Conrad and Belly, a glimmer of hope that yes, she will win his love. Belly lives for these summers and her life exists between June and August but now that could radically change.

Book two starts off the following summer.  You are asking yourself:  Are Conrad and Belly together or does he break her heart?  Because sometimes he seems in love with her but then other times, you wonder if he just loves being loved so dramatically by her.  Does Susannah survive cancer?  What will happen to the summer house?  Jeremiah is falling in love with her too, what will Belly do about that?

In good ole Jenny Han flashback style, we dribble back and forth to the present, to the recent past and to the distant past.  By the end of the book we discover what has happened in the last year to lead up to these events that might cause them to lose the summer house for good.   And then just when you think you’ve answered it all, she throws you another hook.  I don’t know what the third book is called but I would buy it now if I could. 

Most writer advice is against the use of flashbacks unless it forwards the plot.  If you want a good example of how this is done properly, read Jenny Han’s books.  Every scene is relative to forwarding the plot.  My favorite scene is NOT the kissing scene, though it was fantastic and unexpected, but it is a flash back to when Belly is eight years old. 

She sits on the counter to the bathroom, her legs dangle while Belly’s mother and Susannah get ready for a date with their husbands.  Belly talks about her pathetic make-up bag with lotion, cherry flavored Chap Stick and blush brush with no blush.  But Susannah’s bag has all the eye shadows, lipsticks and other essentials every little girl dreams off.  The beauty of this scene is when Susannah wants to put eye shadow on Belly and her mom says “Please don’t give her hooker eyes.”  Susannah says, “They’re not hooker eyes they’re smoky.”  And cute eight year old Belly says, “Yeah mom, they’re not hooker eyes, they’re mysterious.” There is more where the dads comment on how she looks too old.  Mom starts calling her Countess which makes eight year old Belly feel even more grown up.

That scene, though I did not do it justice in my brief synopsis, took me back in time.  I, and probably every other girl has had some experience with make-up as a little girl and just dreaming of the day when they could be all grown up.  But being grown up is not so glamorous when you’re dealing with a broken heart, which sixteen year old Belly soon finds out.

Jenny Han captures youth, crushes, broken hearts and everything in between so vividly I would have thought she tapped into my memories and wrote them down.  You will find yourself reliving all of that in her book, and then some.