Top critical review
The right ending; the wrong way to get there
25 October 2012
It was always going to be hard for Jenny Han to write a really brilliant ending to this trilogy. In THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY she created the most wonderful love triangle - two brothers who were so different, and Belly, the touching, slightly awkward heroine who was brave when she needed to be. Resolving it has made for some unfortunate character development that, as other reviews mention, doesn't seem fair to the characters I loved in the first book. There is literally no reason for Belly to choose one of the brothers over the other; she would have to be insane to pick one of them and mad to turn the other down. For me, having the choice made so simple was a problem because it made the story drag while you waited for the situation to be resolved. I do think though that if they had stayed as they are in the first book, it would have been impossible for Belly to pick one without making herself very unpopular with readers.
In this book, Belly is very passive, to the point of being dim, and seems to have lost all self-knowledge as she's got older. Jeremiah is irritating and so (in a different way) is Conrad, as Han reworks what happened in IT'S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU to make sense in the light of what's happening in this book. While I like her writing immensely, I think her heart wasn't in this book. I felt she was bored with the characters and struggled to make a thin story reach the extent she was aiming for. The world of Cousins is so vivid and atmospheric, but revisiting it this time we hear very little about it, or about summer, and a lot about stationery. The last scene resolves everything, but it's an impression more than a scene - a moment in time that is truly lovely, but not enough.
If you've read the other two books, do read this; if you haven't, don't start here as this is not her strongest work. There were parts of this book that I adored, and others that I didn't, but I think Han's talent is unquestionable and I still want to read whatever she writes next.