65 pages 2 hours read

Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2011

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Summary and Study Guide


We’ll Always Have Summer is a 2011 young adult romance novel and the third novel in the Summer trilogy by Asian-American author Jenny Han. When Isabel “Belly” Conklin accepts a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Jeremiah Fisher, she is on the edge of realizing her dream to marry into the Fisher family. Belly returns to Cousins Beach to plan her wedding, but her ex-boyfriend and first love, Conrad Fisher, is also there. In this final installment, Belly must finally decide between her two great loves: the brothers Conrad and Jeremiah. This study guide refers to the Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers hardcover edition.

Plot Summary

In a prologue, protagonist Isabel “Belly” Fisher states that she has only ever loved two boys: the Fisher brothers, Conrad and Jeremiah. While her first love is the elder brother, Conrad, she believes now that her love for Conrad is firmly in her past. She claims she sees her past, present, and future in her current boyfriend, Jeremiah Fisher. Belly explains that part of her has always known that she would one day have the last name Fisher but that she did not anticipate it happening in the way it has.

The novel opens at the end of Belly’s first year at Finch University. She anticipates a summer of spending time at her favorite place in the world, Cousins Beach, with her boyfriend, Jeremiah Fisher. Belly is excited about the future she envisions with Jeremiah, someone she has been friends with since childhood. However, Belly’s plans for her summer derail when she learns that Jeremiah had sex with another girl while on a brief break from their relationship earlier that spring.

A few days later, Belly calls Jeremiah to talk in person so she can officially begin moving on. Instead, Jeremiah proposes to Belly, proclaiming his desire to be with her forever. Belly hesitates, worried that Jeremiah only wants to erase what he did, but accepts his proposal when she realizes she does not want to give up on their relationship. They begin planning and decide to tell their families at a garden dedication ceremony to honor Jeremiah’s late mother, Susannah, at Cousins Beach the next week.

Leading up to this, Belly worries about whether Conrad will be in attendance. Conrad is late to the ceremony, and in a chapter from Conrad’s perspective, he explains the profound effect that seeing Belly has on him after not seeing her since the previous December. Belly recalls the same memory and how during that unexpected trip to Cousins, she realized she was still in love with Conrad but had forced herself to believe that her feelings for Conrad were strictly a part of her past.

At lunch, after the ceremony, Jeremiah announces that he and Belly are engaged, and their families are stunned. Jeremiah’s father, Adam, and Belly’s mother, Laurel, tell them that they cannot be serious and forbid the wedding from happening. Belly and her mother spend another week refusing to speak to each other. Jeremiah tries to convince Laurel that she should support their marriage, but Laurel remains firmly opposed, and Belly decides to leave home and spend the rest of the summer at Cousins Beach to get away from her mother and to plan the wedding.

Jeremiah reveals that Conrad has been staying at the beach house since the ceremony and plans to stay there for the rest of the summer while on break from school. Belly convinces herself that it will be fine if they stay out of each other’s way. Jeremiah plans to visit each weekend when not at work.

During their weeks at Cousins, Belly plans her wedding and tries to avoid Conrad. One day, Belly needs a ride into town to mail her wedding invitations, and Conrad offers to drive her. Belly asks him if he has a girlfriend in California, and Conrad thinks about his ex-girlfriend, who asked him whether he has ever been in love. Conrad admits to himself that the only girl he has ever loved is Belly but reminds himself that he promised his mother before her death that he would look out for Jeremiah.

Conrad and Belly begin spending more time together as the wedding draws closer, and Conrad sees that Belly is planning the wedding by herself. The more time Conrad spends with her, the deeper in love he falls and the more resentful he grows. Still, he tries to remain supportive and even meets with Laurel to convince her to attend Belly’s bridal shower. Belly and her mother reconcile at the bridal shower, and Belly feels renewed excitement about the wedding, which has been causing her stress because she and Jeremiah have different ideas for their wedding day. Belly also struggles with her resurging feelings for Conrad, especially after he falls while surfing and Belly cleans the cut. As she bandages his leg, Conrad almost leans his head on her shoulder, and when Belly looks up at him, they are close enough to kiss. This desire in Belly worries her, as she is marrying Jeremiah in only a few short days.

Belly and Jeremiah’s friends descend on the Cousins Beach house for the wedding weekend, and Jeremiah goes out for a bachelor party with his friends at a local bar. While at the bar, Conrad overhears a few of Jeremiah’s friends talking about his sexual escapades while on spring break in Cabo. Conrad is incensed, knowing that Jeremiah and Belly were together at the time, and nearly punches Jeremiah.

When they arrive home from the bachelor party, Belly is worried to see that Conrad is not with them and finds him sitting on the lifeguard stand on the beach. Belly goes to him, and Conrad tells her that Jeremiah cheated on her during spring break. Belly tells him she already knows and that it was just a mistake. Belly states that she put up with worse from Conrad during their short relationship. Conrad confesses that he is still in love with Belly. He admits that he has always loved her but could not be with her before because of his inability to cope with his mother’s death.

He asks her to leave Jeremiah for him, and Belly grows furious with Conrad for only admitting his true feelings for her now that she is getting ready to marry his brother. Belly feels increasingly confused about what to do, her love for Conrad mingling with her anger toward him and uncertainty about whether to still marry Jeremiah. Belly decides that she must let Conrad go but must tell Jeremiah what happened, so there are no more secrets between them.

Belly tells Jeremiah that Conrad confessed his feelings for her. Jeremiah is furious and then tells Belly that he must leave. Uncertain whether they are still getting married, Belly wakes the next morning and begins to get dressed even though she does not know if Jeremiah will return.

Conrad goes to find Jeremiah. He finds him at their mother’s memorial garden, and Jeremiah punches Conrad in the face, yelling at him for trying to take Belly away from him after giving him permission to pursue her. Conrad gives Jeremiah a letter written by their mother for Jeremiah’s wedding day, and when Jeremiah begins reading, he finds that it is Conrad’s letter, not his. Jeremiah tells Conrad that after today, Conrad will never see him or Belly again.

Back at the house, Conrad visits Belly one more time to say goodbye. He gives her the infinity symbol necklace that he bought for her 16th birthday and apologizes for not confessing his true feelings for her sooner. He wishes her and Jeremiah the best and says he is leaving before the wedding begins. Belly’s heart breaks as Conrad walks away for what she feels will be the final time.

Belly and Jeremiah talk before their ceremony is set to begin, and Jeremiah asks her to tell him that she does not love Conrad anymore. Belly cannot do this and admits that a part of her will always love Conrad. Belly and Jeremiah call off the wedding.

In an epilogue, Belly explains that she goes on to live with friends in college and travel abroad, and while in Spain, she receives a letter from Conrad. They next see each other at her college graduation, and from that moment, she knows they are meant to be together. The final scene occurs at the beach as Belly and Conrad run to his car, planning to go to the beach before their wedding reception. As Belly gets in the car, she sees Jeremiah with his date, and they acknowledge each other warmly. Conrad and Belly arrive at the beach, and as they jump into the water together, Belly thinks about how her lifelong dream has come true and that she is finally married to the first boy she ever loved.