Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

After enjoying Jenny Han's collaboration with Siobhan Vivian, Burn For Burn, I decided it was definitely time to try their individual works. Combined with the fact that I'd already heard fantastic things about Han's Summer Trilogy, plus that it was currently summer time and a great reason to pick up the books, and I found myself reading The Summer I Turned Pretty. Although I started the novel as an audiobook, I wasn't totally in love with the narrator, and wasn't really having the opportunity to listen to it much, so I ended up reading the final two thirds in a print edition instead.

The Summer I Turned Pretty takes place across one summer that changes everything for fifteen year old Belly, a girl who has always felt like the odd man out at the beach cottage where she, her brother and her mom stay each year along with her mom's best friend and her two boys. Always the youngest, always the girl, always ignored. But things are different this summer, not only has Belly grown up but the boy she's been in love with for years, Conrad, has changed too, sulking in his room and ignoring her. His brother, Jeremiah, is the same as always, easy-going and open-hearted, while Belly's brother Steven spends most of the summer touring colleges with their father. Then Belly meets a new boy, but does she really have space in her heart for another one? Interspersed with the story are flashbacks to Belly's previous summers, showing just how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

Honestly, it took me awhile to get used to Belly as a narrator, though that might be blamed at least partially on the audiobook reader. She really just seems whiny. And then when the boys point out that she's whiny, she gets whinier about it. I get that she's the youngest and she feels left out of their special little club, but she's also constantly playing the victim and it's rare to see her take action for The Summer I Turned Pretty. Despite Belly's complaining, I really loved the writing. Han's description and perfect moments just feel completely like summer, salty and warm. It was absolutely perfect that I read the majority of this book while on vacation at the beach– and I plan to pick up the next two books before I leave my ocean-side paradise.

Even though this is a summer book, it doesn't stop Han from taking on some serious issues, like divorce and sickness, as well as what it is like to grow up. The Summer I Turned Pretty is really Belly's coming of age story, but each of the characters is complicated and real. I loved the different dimensions everyone had, and it made the story feel that much more authentic. The complicated love story manages to seem genuine, even if I sometimes had a hard time seeing what everyone else saw in Belly. My own heart was definitely pinning for Jeremiah, but there were some softer Conrad moments to counter-balance that.

Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a beautiful and complicated love story, a perfect summer book, and an eloquently written novel. I am incredibly glad I decided to pick up Han's book, and look forward to reading It's Not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer next. 

Release Date: May 5th 2009  Pages: 276  Format: Audiobook/E-book  Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster  Buy It: Book Depository

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