1/5

Genre: Asian-American YA?

Because I apparently didn’t learn from last time‘s mistake, I once again succumbed to the siren song of the Bestseller. This time it was the Summer trilogy by Jenny Han.

The names of the books should have let me know what I was getting into- The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer. (Followed by I Know What You Did Last Summer?)

The main character is Belly Conklin, a teenaged girl who has spent most summers at a holiday home belonging to her mother’s best friend. With her mother, brother, and the sons of her mother’s friends. One summer, she turns pretty. I’m not sure how exactly this happens, but it’s acknowledged by everyone that Belly is now Hot. Of course, the boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, are both immediately in love with her. Which one will she choose? It takes 3 books to find out.

Apart from the slightly worrisome fact that Belly is involved with two brothers, there were many things I disliked about these books. Firstly, the writing is very simplistic but at the same time, vaguely nostalgic and dramatic. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it was annoying. “I decided to get a strawberry milkshake instead of vanilla. Little did I know it, but everything was about to change, irretrievably and all at once.”

All in all, a coming-of-age story set in a culture and environment that’s utterly strange to me. Vacation homes? Getting married in college? Being hot? Nope.

A very generous 1/5 from me.

Addendum:

I am incorrigible,  I also read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This is the first novel of another trilogy by Jenny Han. The protagonist of this one, Lara Jean Song, writes secret letters to the boys she falls out of love with- what happens when *gasp* someone sends them out? This is not a terrible beginning, but Lara Jean is all of sixteen, which makes me skeptical that she was ever really in love in the first place. Oh, and one of the boys is her sister’s boyfriend. Much like Belly, Lara Jean is childish and self-centred – I don’t recall being that immature at sixteen. Sex is a big part of it- somehow Lara Jean is young enough to be shocked by it, yet old enough to do it? Maybe it’s a cultural thing that I missed.

 

So what, exactly, is a half-girlfriend?

Half Girlfriend- Chetan Bhagat

Don’t get me wrong. I have read all of Chetan Bhagat’s books so far. Lazy engineering students who spend more time listening to Floyd than attending class? Yes! Not so subtle regionalism and Mickey Mouse underpants? Amusing.

The problem here is that the character development has been replaced entirely by stereotypes, clichéd ones at that. The hero, Madhav Jha, is from Dumraon in Bihar. He goes to St Stephens in Delhi to study Sociology, and finds he can’t fit in because of his poor English. The heroine, Riya Somani, is a rich Marwari girl from Delhi pursuing her BA in English. So how do they even meet? They’re both sports quota admits, and basketball brings them together. This convenient plot point is forgotten almost immediately.

So boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, a tentative relationship ensues. Enter the clichés…

Poor little rich girl finds it hard to open up, because apparently privacy is a concept known only to the rich. Insecure village boy pressurizes her to get physical, and they break up. She promptly discontinues her degree to marry the first rich brat who comes along. Meanwhile, our hero heroically returns to his hometown to run a school.

A few unbelievable plot twists later, and our hero manages to learn English and moves to NYC to find Riya- on a hunch of course. Here the author takes pains to make sure the jump is not ridiculous. (‘Cause you need a visa to get to Amrika, everyone knows that!) So Madhav gets an internship with the Gates Foundation (!) and gives a visa interview before flying out.

Needless to say, he finds her, even in a city as huge and crowded as NYC. They return to hero’s hometown to run the school and live happily ever after.

1/5. Sir, you can do better.