It’s Not Summer Without You picks up nine months after the tragic revelations at the end of the first book. Spoiler Alert (although if you’ve read the first book it won’t really be that much of a spoiler) - Suzannah has died and the two families have splintered. The two dads have kind of gone off into their own orbits; Laurel, Belly’s mum, has retreated into her own grief-shell; and the two boys Belly loves, Conrad and Jeremiah, are having their own problems and it looks like long, hot summers at Cousins will be a thing of the past.
Because the trilogy is based around the summer, Jenny Han has obviously had to set this book the summer after the last book. That’s fine, but it did mean that there were a lot of flashback scenes to catch us up on the intervening nine months. I was glad to get some infill, but the flashbacks did pull me out of the story a bit.
The tone of this book is a lot darker than the previous book. The Summer I Turned Pretty is just about as fluffy as its title suggests, but It’s Not Summer Without You deals with the impact of Suzannah’s death on everyone who loved her, as well as the toxic relationship Belly is struggling to hold onto with Conrad.
Speaking of which, can I just take a moment to say what an arsehole I think Conrad is? Seriously, he is such a penis and I really couldn’t see what the attraction was with him. I didn’t ship him and Belly in either of the books, but in this one his spoilt-brat behaviour reaches a crescendo. I won’t go into details, but Belly does grow a pair in the book and call him out on his behaviour, but I would have been happier if she’d seen from the start what a tit he was being, especially when his brother is so pleasant. I’m not saying she has to marry Jeremiah or whatever, but if she ends up with Conrad at the end of the third book, I will be writing a very strongly-worded review. Possibly with swearing.
Like in the first book, the house at Cousins seems to be a character in its own right. It holds so many memories for all the people who spent their summer there that when its future is jeopardised it feels like a real tragedy.
In all, this was a decent follow up to The Summer I turned Pretty, but I think the final book in the trilogy is probably going to be the doozy. I hope so, anyway.