Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reading Roundup: Eternal Summer

When I read Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty a while ago, I had just grabbed it from the shelf at the library because I recognized the title and needed a light summer read. I didn't realize it was the first in a trilogy, and I also didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did. I'd decided to space out the reading, so as not to totally binge, and I picked up the second in the series about two months later. Well, after speeding through that one, I just threw out my pacing plan and finished the last one about a week later, reading it all during one bus ride home from the Jersey shore.

I won't give any spoilers away in this post, because these books are like an angsty WB teen drama with the constant "will they or won't they?" tension keeping you guessing how it's going to turn out in the end. I will share my thoughts, though, because these books gave me some feelings.

The second in the series, It's Not Summer Without You, starts off where we, unfortunately, kinda knew it would (based on the first book and this one's synopsis)—and it's not very joyous. Susannah has passed away and Conrad's gone distant and AWOL. Belly is miserable at the prospect of spending her first summer away from Cousins. She's going through the motions at home, but nothing feels right. Belly, being a 17-year-old girl, is prone to melodrama, but this time even the cynical adults like myself can see justification in her moodiness—she's lost everything most important to her and, in a nutshell, is having to grow up. That harsh light of day is tough, and Belly's having to experience it without her security blanket.

What I like about this one is just that, how actual drama takes the place of melodrama and forces Belly to move beyond the inconsequential angst that has defined her for years. She's held onto this fantasy of Conrad since she was a kid, but real life is teaching her how to handle new situations and how relationships with those you love should be. We see a lot more of Jeremiah in this one, which I love, and I love seeing how Belly changes as she experiences the dichotomy between the two brothers. Han's use of changing perspective and flashback moments paints a thorough picture of Belly's world that helps the reader feel totally immersed in it.

Jump forward to the last in the series, We'll Always Have Summer, and all hell broke loose for me. The story jumps forward about two years, finding Belly in college and happy in a relationship with [highlight for spoilers] Jeremiah. But of course, because it's Belly, the past has its way of surfacing and making her head spin. [Spoilers] Of course, it's Conrad, because she just can't quit him.

Here's my very serious issue with this third book: I feel like I was taken for a ride. Over the last two books, we've gotten to know these characters very well; their personalities have been very well defined, to the point that we believe the "growing up" you do in adolescence can't possible change their roots because we have seen their backgrounds, we know what's engrained in their very souls, and we know what is true to character.

And the author, excuse my language, just shat all over that. It became very clear that she wanted a certain ending, and she manipulated her characters to reach it—leading them to actions that are 100% opposite of what we've felt to be so true about them. [Spoiler] THERE IS NO FREAKING WAY JEREMIAH WOULD SLEEP WITH SOME FLOOZY ON SPRING BREAK. NO. WAY. It's like she wrote the two books and then started the third and said, "Wait, I want it to end like this but I've already led it to this opposite direction....well SCREW EVERYTHING I ALREADY WROTE, I'll just switch it all out of the blue and BOOM, happy ending." More than anything, I felt insulted, because she abandoned these characters that we've grown to root for to achieve this ending that felt totally unauthentic.

So whatever. I adored the first two books in this series and am just sorry the last one disappointed me so. It's like how I've heard the 3rd season of Veronica Mars is terrible—that it's not even worth viewing because it just makes you so mad and almost ruins the entire experience—which is why I just watch Season 1 on repeat.

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