Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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 terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
Earlier this year, I read Jenny Han’s latest book, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and enjoyed it for the most part, so I knew that I had to check out her earlier work. I didn’t like the first book in her trilogy as much, but it was still an enjoyable enough start to what will hopefully be a solid trilogy.
I was intrigued by the beginning with a summer setting and various boys to choose from, but I also didn’t quite connect with “Belly” right away. She seemed like your typical YA protagonist – white, female, fairly shy, the best friend of a much more flirtatious and outgoing girl, and someone who catches the eyes of multiple guys. The title makes it seem like Belly might be coming into her own, figuring out her inner and outer beauty and becoming confident, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
I was a bit confused about the plot when I think about it a couple of weeks later (I know, I know, I need to get in the habit of writing these reviews sooner). There really isn’t a lot of plot to it – Belly is trying to juggle the various boys in her life and generally figure out growing up. There are a lot of flashbacks, which can be both confusing and enlightening. A lot of the drama, really, seemed like just that – drama, like I was really reading a story written by someone and not getting a glimpse into someone’s real life. And while I know that’s exactly what I was reading, a fictional story, it’s nice when things truly seem real, like you’re getting a snapshot of someone’s life.
There were some interesting character dynamics, but I feel like they could have been explored better. The relationship between Belly and her brother, the brothers Conrad and Jeremiah, and their mothers – they all could have been really intriguing, but I feel like we didn’t get the depth that would have made them more interesting. I feel like all of these characters could have been more interesting if things had gone in depth more – so, yay for two more books, I suppose.
This book definitely made me want to be back on the beach, living in a beach house with the ocean breeze and the sound of birds and people having fun at the beach and all that.
The Adult Situation
Like I said, I wanted to get more in-depth with Belly’s and Conrad and Jeremiah’s mothers. Since it’s summer and everyone is on vacation, it’s really not that surprising that they didn’t play as big a role as they might have during the school year when all the characters are at home, but I wanted to see them around more. There was some drama surrounding them and there was some interesting stuff about the mother-daughter relationship, but again, I felt like there could have been more with the parent storylines.
The romance was definitely the focus of this book, and the drama mostly revolved around that. There was a love triangle between the two brothers that didn’t really seem genuine until near the end of the book (and I’m not sure it did even then) and another romance that was part of Belly’s growing self-confidence (sort of) that sometimes seemed to be there just to make the love triangle more dramatic. So, I was interested in the romance for the most part, but it could seem too dramatic at times.
Everything seemed very dramatic and a bit rushed at the end, but once I closed the book, I ultimately decided that I was definitely interested enough to read the next book to see what would happen to all of these characters. So, that seems like a pretty good ending to me.
Writing this review, I feel really negative toward this book, but to be honest I did enjoy myself a lot while I was reading it. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but I was interested in it and am looking forward to exploring things further with the rest of the trilogy, so obviously it wasn’t that horrible for me!