I had a lovely review written. It had examples, quotes, and a feminist soapbox moment about Belly and Female, Rival & Friend (FRaF because I can’t remember her name).
That review is harder to find than Carmen Santiago because it was sucked into the ether at the cross streets of I’m Stupid Way and Technology Is Only As Smart As The User Highway.
What follows after the jump is my attempt at reconstruction after I finished banging my head against the floor. Again.
I read this for free on Riveted Lit and usually that means typing out quotes instead of copy/pasting and a simply attribution. But not this time. Since I lost everything for this review, it means all my notes are gone with my bookmarks and highlight quotes. Now, I can’t even name some fucking characters correctly let alone provide documentation.
Have I mentioned I’m an idiot yet? Anyways…
Series: Summer #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Ebook, 292 pgs.
Source: Free on RivetedLit.com
Rating: 1.5 Stars
CW: Slut shaming
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
|The Good||The Bad & The Other|
|+ Enjoyed the past and present narratives||- Felt bad for Other-School Guy|
|+ Group dynamic I never thought of before||- Don’t understand Belly’s attraction to Conrad|
|+ Light summer read||- Don’t see Jeremiah’s attraction|
|+ Entertaining||- Don’t care for the characters and hardly liked them|
|+ Their mothers are wonderful parents and their friendship is phenomenal||- Don’t like this love triangle|
|+ One father at least tries though he’s removed and absent in this tale||- Bullshit Intro and Epilogue passages|
|- Felt manipulative with missing information|
I’m a huge fan of Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I Loved Before series (there’s a third coming out!!) and her Burn for Burn series with her BFF Siobhan Vivian (they are fucking adorable). So of course I put this series on my TBR. Then it was free to read and it’s summer, I figured it was meant to be and dove right in.
And face planted. Before I lost my work.
After a seemingly innocuous introduction passage, The Summer I Turned Pretty starts with the tail end of the trip up to the beach house with belly’s family. Quickly we meet The Fisher Boys and know Belly’s right that this summer will be differently.
It was very easy to get into and I was curious about the dynamics at play. As an introverted only child, none of this is familiar to me. I liked the past chapters included for relevant context because they seem to have a really complicated history. In reality? It’s very simple but dramatic. It’s the beginning of a soap opera before they move to a small town with a cast with equally convoluted relationships and become entangled themselves.
Belly had me from the get-go and then lost me with her antics. She’s a relatable late-bloomer of a girl. Sadly, she’s shallow and melodramatic. Everything is about her and even after the reality-slap “twist”, it still is. I wish someone wasn’t interested in her, someone talked some sense to her, and she grew up but none of that happens.
Instead, Belly slut-shames her closest girl friend from school, uses a guy to make another jealous, pushes her brother away until it’s too late, and plays the brothers against each other.
It’s disturbing how wrapped up in her beach life she is; she wastes the other nine months of her life not participating because of it. Belly happily admit to this and FraF confirms it. Why does no one else realize how fucked that is?
Neither boy appealed to me and if there was any justice Other-School Boy and the Bonfire Girl would hook up. I’d rather follow their story.
Instead, we get Conrad and Jeremiah. The classic bad boy and nice guy dichotomy. I hated how Conrad acted and treated other people. Jeremiah was obviously more charming but it felt fake. The narrative felt manipulative in general and what illuminates that is the part I solidly enjoyed: the past memories.
It’s clear in the past Conrad stuck up for Belly and noticed her. There’s even a few moments in the present that continues the thread before he ruins it all. Yet Belly insults him with how self-absorbed he is and how he dates other women. She’s clearly still bitter, jealous, and something happened to change him but we never find out what.
Jeremiah, who Belly calls her best friend, has the exact opposite going on. He was a dickbag growing up and now is too good to be true.
Supposedly, Belly is only torn because Jeremiah is attainable while she lusts after the aloof and brooding Conrad. I’m supposed to feel bad for Jeremiah, and root for Bellyrad but something is off. My Spidey-senses are tingling. I wish I still had my notes so I could be less fucking vague.
Somehow this train wreck of teenage drama and angst kept me reading. It’s light and breezy. I still like the way Han writes, even if I don’t like what I’m reading. That is until the end.
The ending itself is fine and the end of summer is a natural breaking point. I have zero issues with this. It’s the epilogue that’s an extended version of the intro passage that I fucking hate.
I thought since the intro was in the future, the ending would lead there. Nope! Summer ends, everyone goes home, and then we get this titillating passage of Belly sneaking to be with one of the boys. IN WINTER!
There’s zero connection between the end of summer and this moment. Not only does it kill the natural ending, it spoils who Belly ends up with no context or growth. Before this section, it was an alright beach read. After, I wondered why I wasted my fucking time. I wouldn’t have bothered reading The Summer I Turned Pretty knowing all this going In, even as a fan of Han’s previous work.
Sexism, People as Things & Monogamy W/ Some Spoilers
One summer Belly invites her friend from school along to the beach house. I cannot remember her name and can’t find it in other reviews so let’s call her Female, Rival & Friend or FraF for short. FRaF is the more popular and pretty of the two. Quickly their friendship turns ugly with rivalry, sexism, and jealousy.
There’s a lot of drama, but basically Belly invites FRaf to even the odds of boy vs girls and finds herself on the outs anyways. FRaF has always wanted one particular boy, but decides to have fun and pick one of Beck’s boys to have it with. Not only is Belly miffed because FraF gets noticed as sexual but someone going after her boys? Making her pick one? Oh boy, it’s about to go down.
FraF knows what she wants and goes after it. While she might not always win, but she puts herself out there. She’s the stereotypical girly-girl. FRaF = Belly’s exact opposite.
Once Belly finds out that FraF got what she wanted, there’s a fight. It’s short but soul crushing. Belly calls FRaF a slut, recognizing her innocence as the only thing she has to fight FRaF with. Then immediately says she’d trade her places with FRaF in a heartbeat.
I had to take a breather after this fucked up moment.
It’s a solid demonstration of the perils of growing up female in our society. It wreaks havoc on self-esteem, body image, and friendships. But to make it worse, Belly doesn’t equate FRaF’s sluttiness with freedom and doing what she wants, but with male attraction. It’s a competition between purity and smutty to win the male gaze and earn their affection.
Of course the boys involved in the make out melodrama face no repercussions, no in-fighting, nothing. The scandal doesn’t affect them and they don’t realize how it affected the girls.
The one thing they all agree on is that bringing FRaF was a mistake and FraF and Belly’s relationship is never the same. She popped their oblivious chicken-shit bubble and paid the price.
This moment would’ve been pivotal but instead it’s undercut by accepting uncritically the fundamental principle of people as possessions and monogamy as default. It isn’t the only way and Belly’s never had a relationship because she’s wrapped up in loving two boys.
She doesn’t know what she wants besides Beck’s boys yet it never crosses her mind that there could be more than one person for her or more than one way to have a relationship. She’s keen on having one for life as the end all be all for no apparent reason besides societal norms.
I would’ve forgiven Belly for everything if she made such a suggestion to the boys, even if it was just to see the looks on their faces. Just realizing that there are other options often makes people think and view things differently. I think Belly would’ve benefited from that knowledge. Sorting through why it wouldn’t work might’ve lead to an epiphany, a decision and growth.
Bottom Line: No.
Given my reading experience, the blurbs for the next two installments and subsequent reviews, I won’t be continuing the series.