And yet, despite the love triangle (and at one point it progresses beyond a love triangle onto a love square), I actually quite enjoyed this book. I’m in the mood for contemporary YA at the moment, especially in the Summer Romance subcategory, and this absolutely fit the bill.
Belly (Isabel), her mum, her brother, her mum’s best friend Susannah and her two boys, Conrad and Jeremiah spend each summer together at a beach house. Belly has known the Fisher boys since she was little and has harboured a crush on Conrad for almost as long. Belly lives for the summer - she counts the weeks down in winter until she can get to the beach house - but this summer it looks like everything is going to change.
One of the things I especially love about Jenny Han’s books is how she makes writing seem so effortless. Like, I’m sure she sweated blood over this manuscript, but it just comes across as so light and easy, the words just tripping over themselves. In the first chapter, where Belly, Steven and their mum are driving up to the beach house, I could almost imagine myself there, with that sense of anticipation of a great summer ahead of you, smelling the sea air, holidaying in the same place you go to every summer. It probably helps that I’m about to go on my holidays by the seaside in the same place where my family and I go every year, but still. Very evocative.
Unfortunately, the central theme in the book - Belly’s long-standing crush on Conrad - just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I just don’t like love triangles and I could see that Jeremiah would be a much better guy for her, but I just didn’t get why Belly liked Conrad so much. He’s a dick. He’s really unfriendly and mean to her. Why doesn’t this put her off? There are lots of flashbacks in the book to previous summers, and he wasn’t nice then either. I get that the whole silent-and-brooding attitude is a thing, but you need to counterbalance it with something emotional as well, otherwise you’ve just got a girl chasing after a grumpy guy.
Luckily, there was plenty else going on in the book to take my attention away from grumpy-arse Conrad. At one point, Belly starts seeing another boy, Cam (making it a love square), although she mostly likes him because he calls her beautiful and she thinks it makes Conrad jealous. I liked the relationship between the two mums and how Belly saw Susannah as a second mother. There are secrets that come out and some heartbreak as well.
Belly herself was an interesting character. I found her a bit obsessive, and for all that she didn’t want the boys to think she was whiny, she seemed to whine an awful lot! Still, I liked her in all other respects and I guess these flaws just mean she isn’t a Mary-Sue.
Overall, this was a good summer read and made me eager for my own holiday. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of the series.