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A Book Summary & Review of the Summer I Turned Pretty Series

Books & Writing

August 12, 2023

The Summer I Turned Pretty series takes place at Cousins Beach: a haven for the Dunne and Fisher children. Susannah Fisher and Laurel Dunne's inseparable friendship arranges the annual summer gathering. However, their children adore the summers together as well.

The time Belly, Steven, Conrad, and Jeremiah have shared has blended them into one pseudo-family. However, children cannot stay children forever, and as teenage years are in full force, their friendship begins to pull at the seams. Tensions pull between friends as family troubles arise, including sickness and teenage reservedness. Most of all, relations shift between Belly and the two Fisher boys as their simple friendship morphs into a complicated love triangle.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The first book of The Summer I Turned Pretty series picks up at a time when feelings shift between Belly and the Fisher boys. In the past, the Fisher boys saw Belly as nothing but Steven's little sister. As a result, Belly was often excluded from the older boys' fun. However, as soon as Belly jumps out of the car once she arrives at Cousins Beach, Jeremiah and Conrad take deeper notice of Belly than in past summers.

Unfortunately for Belly, the brother to develop feelings for her is Jeremiah. Try as she might, Belly cannot like him back. Belly likes Conrad.

As a child, Conrad was the only boy to take notice of Belly when she was feeling left out. Belly adored Conrad from a young age for making her feel seen and loved, and this admiration carried over to her teenage years. This summer, Belly wants Conrad to finally know how she feels, even though her chances are more than likely futile. However, sixteen-year-old Belly is still a child to eighteen-year-old Conrad, and the confrontation does not go well. Belly says to Conrad,

'You like me too; I know it.'

To which Conrad replies,

'Not the way you want me to. You're still such a kid, Belly' " (Han 244).

Although love is ripping the seams between Belly and the Fishers this summer, she still has an unbreakable friendship with the boys, especially Jeremiah. Although Conrad has always been more reserved, Jeremiah is one of Belly's closest friends and always has been. The pair share a special childhood bond. After Jeremiah confronts Belly about her feelings for Conrad, she refuses to admit them.

"No secrets was something Jeremiah and I had been saying for pretty much forever. It was a tradition, the same way Jeremiah's drinking my sweet cereal milk was tradition - just one of those things we said to each other when it was just the two of us" (Han 241).

However, Conrad is more distant than usual this summer. At first, Belly thinks that Conrad is distancing himself because he is inconsiderate of her feelings: she only gets to see the Fishers once a year. He even forgets her birthday, something that has never happened before.

However, there is a reason behind Conrad's moodiness that Belly does not see. Susannah, Conrad and Jeremiah's mother, has cancer.

Although Susannah had cancer before, this time, the disease is more potent. Belly's mother tells her,

'She's sick. She has been for a long time. The cancer came back. And it's-it's aggressive. It's spread to her liver' (Han 251)

Initially, Susannah Fisher and Laurel Dunne agreed to keep the problem between the two of them. However, now, the kids have found out. This is possibly the last summer she has with Susannah and the family, and Belly knows it.

Adeline Yang

It's Not Summer Without You

Adeline Yang

With the death of Susannah, the bond keeping the Dunnes and Fishers together is finally broken. Jeremiah and Conrad lost their mother, and Belly lost her confidant and role model. Grief strikes them all in different ways.

However, it goes overboard with the sudden disappearance of Conrad. Just as always, Belly is first to jump into the fray of searching for Conrad at whatever cost, even her mother's trust.

Belly and Jeremiah make their way back to Cousins Beach after a friend hints at Conrad's whereabouts.

'I think he said he was going to the beach, to surf or something?' " (Han 77)

It's strange to be at Cousins outside of summer, but it still carries the same fragrance of the togetherness that Belly, and everyone, misses. Evidently, Conrad agrees. Belly and Jeremiah find Conrad doing the everyday things he would do during summer; surfing, swimming, and eating.

However, he refuses to open up to the grief the rest of his family is experiencing. Instead, he is trying to live as if Susannah was still alive, when there was no sadness. However, the deeper reason that Conrad is at Cousins is to save the house from being sold by his father. Mr. Fisher was never one to join in on the summers that the rest of his family and the Dunnes shared. To Conrad and the rest of the family, the beach house symbolizes the happy times when Susannah was alive. Conrad is doing everything he can to convince his dad not to sell. In the end, though, it takes Belly, Jeremiah, and, most of all, Laurel Dunne to pitch in and deter Mr Fisher. Mrs. Dunne tells Mr. Fisher,

'This house is hers. It's not yours. Don't make me stop you, Adam.

Because I will. I'll do everything in my power to keep this house for Beck's boys' " (Han 179).

Through all this, the Fisher boys and Belly cannot forget the events of last summer. During the past school year, Belly finally got her wish to be with Conrad, although the relationship ended with a horrible night at prom. Although Conrad drove down to Belly from Brown University amid his strenuous study schedule, the timing was wrong for their relationship. At the end of the summer, Jeremiah kisses Belly, reaffirming his statement from the summer before

'You've always been my best friend. But now it's more. I see you as more than that' (Han 237).

Although Belly and Conrad have been through a whole relationship together, Jeremiah still likes her. Belly kisses him back, but she is again left with the decision: Jeremiah or Conrad?

We'll Always Have Summer

Adeline Yang

Now that Belly attends Finch University, she deals with being away from her family, frat parties, and, most of all, her relationship with Jeremiah. Although her feelings for Conrad sometimes resurface, she condones them, as she believes her feelings for her first love can never fully leave. Belly is confident in her and Jeremiah's relationship until she finds out that Jeremiah cheated on her.

Belly is devastated, and Jeremiah is likewise. His solution is to propose to her and rebuild her trust. Although Belly is still hurt, the appeal of marrying Jeremiah is more substantial, and she accepts.

"I didn't want to see a mark on his face one day and not know how it got there. I wanted to be with him. His was the face I loved" (Han 51).

However, their families don't see the marriage as the good idea that Jeremiah and Belly see it as. Upon telling their families at a restaurant, the party leaves having ordered nothing but appetizers.

"I was right before. This was a mistake, a tactical error of epic proportions. We never should have told them like this.

Now they were a team, united against us. We barely got a word in edgewise. There was all this food on the table and no one was touching it, no one was saying anything" (Han 95).

When Belly gets home, she and her mother don't speak to each other for a week. When the two, along with Mr. Conklin, have a family talk about the marriage situation, Mrs.

Conklin states that if Belly goes ahead and gets married, she will not be attending the wedding. Even Belly's brother, who takes situations lightly, tries to talk Belly out of the idea. Steven says,

"This whole marriage idea-I'm sorry, but I think it's stupid. If you guys love each other that much, you can wait a couple of years to be together. And if you can't, you for sure shouldn't be getting married" (Han 119).

Even so, Belly calls Jeremiah to let him know to proceed with the preparations.

Finally, the tension grows too palpable for Belly to stay at her house. She moves back out to Cousins Beach until the wedding in August to get away from her disapproving mother. Conrad is staying there too, but Belly tells herself that it will be fine; Conrad will be busy, and she'll have the wedding to work on. However, the narrator switches from Belly to Conrad, revealing that the situation is more complicated than a premature marriage. While surfing with Jeremiah, Conrad angrily thinks,

"He was marrying my girl, and I couldn't do anything about it. I just had to watch it happen, because he was my brother, because I promised" (Han 146).

However, although Belly has known Jeremiah her whole life, their differences begin to shine negatively regarding wedding planning. Jeremiah is a laid-back person, perhaps too laid back regarding the wedding. He would throw predations together, while Belly would instead think the details through. Jeremiah says,

" 'Don't worry about the food and stuff. My dad will hire somebody to take care of all that.' " Belly retorts, " ' It's easy for you to say don't worry. You're not the one planning our wedding' " (Han 172).

Additionally, Belly's feelings for Conrad reemerge more potent than before. Small moments between them, such as buying peaches or bandaging up a wound, confuse Belly again about where she stands between the brothers.

One night, Conrad is out "babysitting" Jeremiah and his college friends while they get wasted. In a drunken haze, one of Jeremiah's friends let slip that Jeremiah cheated on Belly. This is shocking for Conrad: first, he is ashamed of his brother, then he is disappointed in Belly for still wanting to marry Jeremiah after what he did.

Conrad spills the news to Belly out of concern for her. Deep in his heart, Belly is still his. Only because Conrad took himself out of the picture two years ago, Jeremiah and Belly could be together. Conrad admits,

" 'I don't know if I'll ever get you out of my system, not completely. I have...this feeling. That you'll always be here. Here.' Conrad clawed at his heart and then dropped his hand" (Han 236).

Although Belly tries her hardest, she cannot get the incident out of her mind. Early morning on the wedding day, she wakes Jeremiah and pours out everything that happened that night. Jeremiah and Conrad get into an ugly fight, and Jeremiah threatens Conrad never to show up to see Belly and him again. Conrad agrees; he goes to Belly to tell her that he will not see her again for a long time.

Just before Jeremiah and Belly are married, Jeremiah comes in to talk with her. The situation is too rocky for them to be married; they call the ceremony off.

Years later, Belly is no longer a teenager. At twenty-three, she is an adult ready to marry, this time with her mother's consent. She marries Conrad, who has always had her heart.

The Summer I Turned Pretty series gratifies the appetite of the teenage reader. The series is fast-paced, revolves around relationship drama, and includes relatable characters. As seen on BookTok, many books teenagers love today are surface-level reads; no above-average intelligence or deep comprehension is needed. Understandably, this appeals to the many teenagers that have grown up with instant entertainment, such as video games, social media, and the Internet.

However, despite being a surface-level read, the Summer I Turned Pretty series believably writes about love and family. In most entertainment revolving around relationships, there are big coincidences between lovers. Additionally, heroic love scenes and feelings get firmly planted toward one person or another.

While these situations may appeal to the hopeless romantic, these types of perfect love do not typically happen in real life. Belly captures this reality through her feelings shifting between Jeremiah and Conrad.

(quote) She has always loved Conrad, but the relationship she had with him ended in disaster. On the other hand, Jeremiah has always been the closer Fisher brother, and likes her. However, the feeling is not mutual. Like on Cousins Beach, in real life, love is not a straight forward issue.

The series portrays family life in a realistic light as well. Both the Dunnes and the Fishers have homes that, although not perfect, still love each other, a picture of many families today. Although Belly loves her mom, the two still fight, such as over Belly's wedding. Belly's mom states,

" 'I can't support you in this decision, Isabel. If you go forward with this wedding, I won't support it' " (Han 115).

Likewise, in the Fisher family, Conrad is dedicated to Jeremiah, but they also fight. Conrad goes as far as letting Jeremiah have Belly because Conrad loves them. However, the two still argue as brothers do. While some books polarize family relationships and love in one way or another, the Summer I Turned Pretty series sticks to a realistic portrayal of these themes.

If you want a light and entertaining read, I recommend this series.

Adeline Yang
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Writer since May, 2022 · 13 published articles

Adeline, known by friends and family as Addie, can be found reading, practicing her instruments, running or eating ice cream. She has two dogs, Ellie and Raegan!

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