Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
The perfect hot-sun-cool-water-sand-between-your-toes beach read, The Summer I Turned Pretty features a romance- and character-driven story with some surprisingly emotional moments. I thought it would be a light, fluffy read - and it is, for the most part - but I was surprised at how quickly Jenny Han's quietly compelling writing drew me in.
Belly – whose nickname is ridiculous, even if there is a cute story attached to it – is an ‘every girl’ type of narrator. Her frustration at forever being the overlooked kid sister is juxtaposed with the uncertainty of growing out of that role. It's easy to relate to her feelings, though she sometimes seems a little selfish, a little too preoccupied with the boys in her lives. Nevertheless, Han perfectly captures the growing up stage between adolescence and adulthood, which as Belly discovers, isn't always 'pretty'.
The flashbacks to past summers are a bit jarring at first, but become more well-timed as the book progresses. The reader really gets a sense for how these characters’ relationships have been shaped by their time at Cousins Beach; Belly’s history and back-and-forth exchanges with Jeremiah and Conrad are very real-seeming, and the boys themselves are both likable in different ways. All the characters are nuanced and well-developed, teenagers and adults alike. Sibling, best friend, and mother-daughter relationships are also touched on in a way that adds to the depth of the main romantic plot(s).
Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a simple but surprisingly poignant coming-of-age story best enjoyed against a backdrop of ocean water and sunny skies.