One of my favorite series happens to be one of the most innocent teen romances out there in the world of books today. By this, I mean, no intense steamy make-out or sex scenes. Can you guess what this series is? I'll give you a few hints - 1. The protagonist's nickname derives from jellybeans 2. One of the protagonist's "loves" is a dark, brooding boy who shelters himself from the world, displaying little to no emotion most of the time. 3. The setting of this story is a dream, calming beach house in a small town known as Cousins Beach.
If you didn't get the answer from the hints, then don't worry, I'll tell you. This series is known as the Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han. The books include The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer. Why, you may ask, do I love this series so much? Is it because of the BOYS? No, Yes, Maybe....but it's not the only reason why I adore this series as much as I do.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Every summer since before she was born, Isabel "Belly" Conklin, her brother Steven, and her mother Laurel, have gone to spend the summer at Laurel's BFF Susannah "Beck" Fisher's beach house in Cousins. Every summer, Belly gets to spend with Susannah's two boys - Conrad, the eldest, the smart one, the secretive one, and Jeremiah, the fun & funny one, the golden boy of the Fisher family. Ever since she was ten, Belly's pined after Conrad, hoping he'd notice her, like her enough to actually want her, with no luck, apparently. But now Belly's almost sixteen, and she's changed over the past school year, not just physically, but mentally/emotionally, it seems. She arrives at the beach house in all her new undiscovered glory, being center stage for the first time in Conrad's - and Jeremiah's - eyes. This summer, she gets to enjoy having all the luxuries she's been denied her in years past - such as attending parties with the boys, or being noticed and whistled by the go-kart operator. Another luxury she gets to enjoy is her first real boyfriend - Cameron, or "Cam." They share a common bond - both went to a Latin oral competition in D.C. (being intelligent, like Conrad, Cam won the oral competition.) However, Conrad becomes jealous of Cam and Belly's relationship, although he doesn't tell Belly he likes her, either, so Belly is confused by his protectiveness of Belly and the sarcastic attitude directed at Cam. Jeremiah also starts to like Belly this summer - and after he admits his feelings to Belly, things become a bit awkward between them, although they try to not let this affect their friendship. Things come to a head when Belly confronts Conrad to tell him her true feelings for him. He rebuffs her and rejects her, making her angry, because it's obvious, even to her at this point, that he does like her, too. Jeremiah intervenes, and warns Conrad not to hurt Belly like he's done a million times, and Jeremiah and Conrad begin to fight (literally, physically fight) - but Belly - poor, ignorant, clueless girl she is at this moment - doesn't realize until the end that this fight had almost nothing to do with her.
Sadly, unfortunately, Susannah, the boys' mother, has cancer again. This is why Conrad had been acting out so much over the summer, in his anger and grief. Of course, they aren't supposed to know about their mother's illness, she was deliberately hiding it from them, wanting that summer to be the same as in years past, but they found out about it anyway. Belly is devastated, of course - Susannah is practically a second mother to her. This novel ends this way, sad and bittersweet, with the inevitable end of Cam, Belly's summer fling, and with the irresolute promise that she and the boys will always come back to the summer house, regardless of what happens to Susannah. Oh, how promises can be so easily broken because of loss and sorrow.
I really liked Belly. I know a lot of people don't like her because she's a bit whiny, but aren't most of us like that at the age of fifteen? Even if you told me you weren't whiny and annoying at 15 years old with a straight face, I still wouldn't believe you. Trust me, 99% of the people I know are WORSE in the annoying/whiny factor than this girl. I definitely sympathize with her frustration/fascination/desperation with Conrad. I also really liked Cam. Although half of the time I wished he would just disappear out of Belly's life so that she and Conrad could be together, he was a genuinely nice guy. Any girl would be lucky to have him as a boyfriend. Nothing personal, Cam...but Conrad's the perfect guy for Belly, even if he won't admit it. Jeremiah was swoon-worthy, even if he's not Conrad. He's hot, AND he's funny. He's nice to Belly, and they share everything - I wish I had a friend like him. This book is a great quick, easy read - absolutely marvelous for sitting out on a towel on the beach or on a pool chair and reading (although since it's only February, I'd highly recommend that you wait to do this until it gets a bit warmer - in no way whatsoever do I want to be responsible for anyone suffering from frostbite or succumbing to hypothermia.) I would totally go see this in theaters if the movie was made! But warning - I will be very angry if the characters/plot are not the way they should be! So Jenny Han had better be collaborating on any movie project so that it doesn't turn into a total ruin like Twilight.
I would review the second and third books for you all, but I'll just let you guys find out what happens to Belly, Conrad & Jeremiah for yourselves. Does Conrad ever tell Belly how he feels about her? What will happen to the summer house - and more importantly, to the friendships/relationships that exist between the Fisher/Conklin families - if Susannah passes away? The world may never know...
Just kidding - the answers are all revealed in the next two books - titles are above! So go read them, people!