Book Review: It’s not Summer without You by Jenny Han

***UPDATE: If you like The Summer I Turned Pretty and other titles by Jenny Han, and novels by Sarah Dessen, then you’ll love my new novel Over My Head, with its summertime vibe and realistic, heartfelt conflicts. You can find out more about Over My Head by clicking here!***

REVIEW: First of all, I’m a definite Jenny Han fan.  I adored her novel Shug, and you can read my review of that here. And I also really loved her book The Summer I Turned Pretty, which I highly recommend.  Best of all, Jenny is a nice person.  I got to meet and hang out with her a bit last year when Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA held its first children’s lit festival and Jenny and I were both featured authors.

It’s not Summer without You (Simon & Schuster, 2010) is the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty.  It definitely stands on its own.  Han does a brilliant job of portraying the confusing sorrow of loss and what it does to relationships.  Her clear prose captures the sweetness of childhood gone by and of regrets in the making.  Warning: bring your tissue box.  You will be crying a bit.

In the hands of another author, the events in this book – a loss of a mother to cancer, plus the lost dream of really loving the boy you have wanted most of your life – would be maudlin, depressing, bleak.  But Han creates a book filled with sunshine summer moments, and hope and the promise of the future.

So pick it up, pick up your tissue, and experience this novel.  The characters end up with no regrets, and neither will you!

Book Review: “Shug” by Jenny Han

Sometimes you’ll read a book that will choke you up. Rarely will I read a book that makes me flat out bawl…in a good way. Shug by Jenny Han (Alladin Mix, 2007), is one such book, and it has instantly become one of my favorite tween YA novels.  Han grabs you immediately with Shug’s authentic voice and sharp point of view.

The novel  is all about the way things change once you enter middle school, whether you are ready or not.  It starts in summer just before school starts, and already things are different. For one thing, Shug is suddenly seeing her best friend in a different and romantic light, but he doesn’t notice at all.  And then there is the whole friend thing. What do you do when your other best friend (who is a girl) suddenly befriends some popular girls, and gets a boyfriend? Where do you fit in then?  And how do you be a good person when you are sitting at the lunch table with this popular crowd, barely hanging onto the right to sit there, and another girl, who used to be your friend but also makes the popular’s eyes roll, walks by, and obviously has no one to sit with?  Do you commit social suicide and invite her, or do you avert your eyes and shut up?

Shug, by Jenny Han

Shug, by Jenny Han

Oh how well I remember those painful moments.  Shug experiences the guilt and the sadness of being on both sides of the story.  She finds herself being part of the crowd that is nasty, as well as being shunned by the nasty crowd. We’ve all experienced both sides, and at some point we all have to decide just who are we? What do we stand for? What is really important? And can we ever forgive ourselves or others for being such horrible jerks?

If you are going into middle school, read this book. If you’ve ever been through middle school, read this book.  And love this book.  It is unforgettable.