Before she wrote the now-iconic To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, Jenny Han was best known for another romantic YA trilogy, The Summer I Turned Pretty.* Isabel “Belly” Conklin has spent every summer of her life at a beach house owned by her mom’s best friend from childhood, Susannah, who in turn has two teenage sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Over the course of the three books—The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer—Belly comes of age, learns some tough life lessons, and realizes she has decidedly non-platonic feelings for both boys. Her journey isn’t all about romance, but there’s no denying that the question of which boy she’ll end up with is a compelling one.
Curious about the books or the upcoming Summer I Turned Pretty television series that Jenny Han is developing for Amazon Prime? Well, if you’re absolutely, positively sure you want to know how the Conrad/Belly/Jeremiah love triangle turns out, read on…
Do Belly and Conrad Get a Happily Ever After in The Summer I Turned Pretty Books?
The short answer: As an unabashed Belly/Conrad shipper, I am blissfully happy to report that yes, they sure do! Not without a lot of angst along the way, of course. Fair warning: Their relationship is on thin ice for a while there, what with Belly and Conrad each Going Through Some Things. It doesn’t help that Conrad’s younger brother, Jere, develops a monster crush on Belly that sends her into an emotional tailspin. She cares about them both so much that it takes a lot of soul-searching for her to choose between them. Which one of these amazing guys is her one true love, and which one’s meant to be her BFF? Figuring that out is the challenge of her life. She gets there eventually, though, and all three of them seem pretty happy in the final chapter of We’ll Always Have Summer.
The longer, spoiler-filled answer: Belly has been in love with Conrad for as long as anyone can remember, but the guy is moody and impossible to read. Does he still see her as a sister, like he did when they were kids? Or is he as attracted to her as she is to him? Just when Belly’s sure she knows what’s in his heart, he says something dumb, sending them back to square one. Teenagers!
In Conrad’s defense, he’s a couple years older than Belly and carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Learning that his mom had cancer and that his parents’ marriage was breaking up ended his childhood abruptly. Plus, his deeply ingrained sense of responsibility, especially toward his little brother, leads Conrad to prioritize everyone else first. That means denying his feelings for Belly over and over again. It also means stepping aside so that Jere can woo her, despite how desperately he wants to be the one by her side. Self-sacrifice is a hard habit for Conrad to break. The good news is, he manages to pull his head out of his ass before it’s too late and he loses Belly to Jere for good. When he puts his mind to it, the man can make a damn fine confession of undying love.
So in the end, not only does Belly choose Conrad, but she promises to love him until death do they part. That’s right: Belly and Conrad get married at the end of the trilogy!!!! (Don’t worry, this happens a few years into the future, after Belly graduates college.) It’s a perfectly satisfying conclusion to a wonderful YA romance series. I can’t wait to see how the whole story plays out on screen.
*Full disclosure: In my day job, I work for the publisher of Jenny Han’s books. I am writing this article purely as a fan, however. My love for these YA romances predates the job by several years.