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 (From Goodreads.com)
The Summer I turned Pretty was top of my Summer Reading/Review list. Described as the perfect summer book it had to be really, didn’t it? And it is indeed a good book to enjoy on a lazy summer afternoon, with it’s beach setting, where you can almost feel the sting of sand and smell of sea and short easy chapters that keep you turning pages effortlessly.
In a short authors note at the beginning of the book, Jenny Han says ‘I truley Believe in every girls life there is that one golden summer’ and I shouted yes! There is. I had it and remember it fully. Han perfectly captures that magical moment where you are no longer a child, where the summer stretches endlessly before you and anything is possible. The setting is wonderful, who wouldn’t want to spend every summer at a beach house…I know when I was a teen this book would have been my idea of heaven. Belly has been spending summer here her whole life, with her mother, elder brother Stephen and her Mums best friend Susannah and sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Lucky!
But there’s more to The Summer I Turned Pretty than I originally imagined and the story isn’t just about this one summer, but many summers where we learn just how deep and complex the relationship between the two families are. There’s quite a serious side to this book which I wasn’t at all expecting but was covered very well and enhanced the importance of this Summer perfectly. The relationships between the characters are drawn very well, from the bickering between Belly and her brother, the exclusion she feels from ‘the boys’ and the awe she feels for older and more serious Conrad.
Jenny Han’s writing is very atmospheric, evoking vivid images of the beautiful setting and is incredibly easy to read. However I did have a couple of issues with the book, mainly involving main character Belly. I didn’t love her that much, she’s stroppy and self-absorbed believing the whole world revolves round her. She has a ‘poor me’ attitude at times which isn’t warranted and fails to see what’s happening to those she purports to care about. I thought a book, which had the potential to be outstandingly good, was ruined by her attitude. That’s not to say overall I thought the book was bad, it’s really not. However I was sad I couldn’t fully love it because of my feelings toward her. The publisher’s blurb hints at a love triangle and there is, kind of, but not the one I was expecting. Again this didn’t do much for me, and left me wondering about the point of it at times.
So would I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty? Weighing everything up I still say this is worthy of making your summer reading list. I managed to read this in one very easy sitting, the chapters are just a few pages long meaning I kept thinking ‘one more’ and ended up finishing the book very quickly. And by the end, Belly had redeemed herself a little in my eyes … I just wish we’d seen more of this side of her and less of the rest. It also left me wanting to catch the second book in the series; It’s Not Summer Without You. I’d say this was a satisfactory read, not perfect but certainly not a terrible way to spend a few hours on the beach.
Published in the UK by Puffin June 2010