63 pages 2 hours read

Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide


It’s Not Summer Without You is a 2010 young-adult romance novel by author Jenny Han and the second novel in the NYT-bestselling Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy. Isabel “Belly” Conklin is struggling after the death of her family friend, Susannah Fisher, and her breakup with Susannah’s elder son, Conrad. An opportunity to spend what might be their last summer days in the Fisher beach house allows Belly to navigate her complicated love triangle with the Fisher brothers and cope with her grief.

This study guide refers to the Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers hardcover edition.

Content Warning: Readers should be aware that this novel contains sexually suggestive content and mature language.

Plot Summary

It’s Not Summer Without You opens with Belly Conklin struggling to cope with the death of lifelong family friend Susannah Fisher, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Belly, her mother, Laurel, and her brother, Steven, have spent every summer of her life at the Fishers’ house in Cousins Beach with Susannah and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. This summer, Belly finds herself at home, unsure of how to acclimate to her new reality. Belly’s best friend, Taylor, tries to encourage her to move on, not only from Susannah’s death but from Belly’s recent breakup with Conrad. This only pushes Belly further into her memories and desire for Cousins Beach—and the people who come along with it. Belly recalls her nearly yearlong relationship with Conrad, which ended the night of prom, just before Susannah’s death. Belly has not seen Conrad since the day of Susannah’s funeral, when she found him in the basement with his ex-girlfriend and, stunned and heartbroken, blew up at him, saying that she hated him and never wanted to speak to him again.

In the present, Belly receives a call from Conrad’s brother and her best friend, Jeremiah, who says that Conrad has gone missing from his summer-school program at Brown and is in danger of failing out of school. Jeremiah asks Belly if she will go with him to try and find Conrad, and Belly immediately agrees. She lies to her mother, saying that she is going to Taylor’s overnight. Laurel does not question Belly’s lie and tells her to have fun, her lack of interest showing Belly just how deeply her mother is grieving the loss of her best friend.

As Belly and Jeremiah begin driving, Belly is anxious about seeing Conrad again. Belly and Jeremiah each recall to themselves the events leading up to and after prom. Belly remembers how she had to nearly beg Conrad to go to prom with her. At the dance, Conrad says that he does not want to go to the after-party and that he should get back to school. Sensing that Conrad wants to end their relationship, Belly tells him that it is over and leaves. Conrad half-heartedly tries to stop her but lets her go. Meanwhile, Jeremiah recalls how Conrad lied about prom to their mother the next day, making up a story about the good time they had. Jeremiah wishes he had taken Belly to prom instead and is angry at his brother for how he treated Belly. Jeremiah nurses his own growing feelings for Belly but struggles, knowing that Belly only has eyes for Conrad.

Belly and Jeremiah arrive to find Conrad is still missing, but another student offers a clue: Conrad mentioned something about going surfing. Jeremiah and Belly know this means Conrad is at the Cousins Beach house. Before they leave, Belly finds an infinity-symbol necklace in Conrad’s drawer and intuits that he bought it as a gift to symbolize his love for her as well as the countless nights he spent tutoring Belly in trigonometry.

As they drive to Cousins, Belly recalls the last time she was there: not last summer, but a night in December when Conrad drove to her house from school and the two secretly spent the night at the beach house together. Belly remembers as they kissed how careful Conrad was to not push her further than she was comfortable with, stating that he always wanted to make sure she felt secure. Despite the pain of their breakup and the fallout with her mother when she discovers where Belly was, Belly remembers it as one of the best nights of her life.

When Belly and Jeremiah arrive at Cousins, Belly expects the house to feel different in Susannah’s absence. Instead, she finds that she feels Susannah’s presence everywhere in the house, which is both comforting and challenging, as it makes Susannah’s death seem real to her for the first time. Conrad is unhappy to see them, especially Belly, and informs them that he will not be leaving the house to finish his exams.

The next morning, a visit from a realtor reveals Mr. Fisher’s plans to sell the Cousins Beach house. Belly realizes the real reason Conrad left school: to save the house. Conrad informs the realtor that they will not be selling and asks Belly not to tell Jeremiah about their father’s plans.

That night, Mr. Fisher arrives, and an argument erupts between him and his sons. Conrad yells at his father, telling him that he was a bad husband to Susannah after cheating on her when she was sick and that the house isn’t his to sell. Mr. Fisher leaves but assures the boys he will be back in the morning and that they should begin packing.

Jeremiah is hurt that Conrad and Belly did not tell him about Mr. Fisher’s plans, and the brothers argue. Jeremiah leaves, recalling how much their father favored Conrad growing up. Eventually, he returns with pizza and alcohol to reconcile and announces they’re having a party to celebrate their last night at Cousins. In a pre-party toast, Belly turns on a home video, and they watch their younger selves on the beach, becoming nostalgic and emotional when they see Susannah on-screen.

Belly gets increasingly drunk at the party and, after an altercation with Conrad, apologizes for how she treated him at Susannah’s funeral and begins to cry. Conrad forgives her but leaves her feeling rejected after letting a potential kiss slip by. Realizing how drunk she is, Belly calls her mother, confessing her whereabouts and asking for Laurel’s help in saving the house.

When Belly wakes the next morning, a furious Laurel is there and ready to drag her back home, refusing Belly’s pleas to stay. Belly tells her mother that Susannah will never forgive her for not helping them, and Laurel slaps Belly across the face. Belly runs out to the beach, and Jeremiah follows, encouraging her to go back home with her mother and apologizing for bringing her on the trip at all. When they return, Laurel apologizes for being emotionally absent after Susannah’s death and says that she will call Mr. Fisher.

Mr. Fisher comes over for breakfast, and Laurel convinces him not to sell the house, arguing that it belonged to Susannah and therefore should go to her boys. Mr. Fisher is at first resistant, telling Laurel that it is not her place and that he needs to sell the house because the memories of Susannah are too painful, but eventually comes to an agreement. He makes a deal that if Conrad returns to finish—and pass—his exams, the boys can have the house. Conrad reluctantly agrees, and Jeremiah and Belly are permitted to stay and help Conrad study.

After a late-night study session, the three make it to Brown in time for Conrad’s exams. While Jeremiah and Belly wait, he admits his hurt that Belly never reached out to him after Susannah died. Belly apologizes, realizing how much she wants to be there for Jeremiah. They exchange a passionate kiss, which Conrad witnesses and interrupts. When Belly chases after Conrad, he sees that she is wearing the infinity-symbol necklace. He tells her to take it off because she knows what it means and she clearly likes Jeremiah now. Belly realizes that Conrad will never explicitly tell her his feelings for her, even though she knows that he loves her. Belly decides that this is no longer enough and that she wants to be with someone who will tell her and show her how they feel about her. Conrad tells Belly that he never cared about her or wanted to be with her anyway, so she should go be with Jeremiah. Belly gives Conrad back the necklace, effectively ending their relationship for good.

The three of them begin driving in awkward silence. A storm closes down the highway and forces them to stay overnight in a motel. As Belly lies in the darkness, trying to figure out how she feels, she hears Conrad say that he did not mean it when he said he didn’t care about her. Before Belly can respond, Conrad says goodnight and does not speak again. The next morning, Conrad gets a separate ride. As she says goodbye, she silently releases Conrad from her heart. As they drive away, Belly asks Jeremiah if he wants to talk about their kiss. Jeremiah begins to shake his head, but Belly reaches over and holds his hand for the rest of the way home.

In an epilogue, it is a couple of years later, and Belly thinks about how she always pictured her future with one person. Instead, Belly is wearing a white dress and running toward a car in the pouring rain while a man runs ahead and opens the door for her. Belly feels at peace knowing that while the future is uncertain, it still belongs to her.