TITLE: The Summer I Turned Pretty
AUTHOR: Jenny Han
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Simon & Schuster/2009
SERIES: Yes, Part of a Trilogy
SOURCE: Local Library
Goodreads / Author's Website
The Summer I Turned Pretty is a deceptive book. It draws you in with the beach, the romance, the summer nights and then BAM hits you with big emotional turmoil.
Belly, the book's protagonist, lives for the summer. Every year she goes to the summer house with her mom and older brother and spends those fleeting months with her mom's best friend Beck and her sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Yes there's a love triangle. Yes there's friendship. Yes there's family drama. Belly is just coming into her own and has always loved Conrad, of course Jeremiah likes her and there's this whole thing with another boy from the beach town. But really, this book is about Belly and how she deals with growing up and all the changes it brings.
I had a really tough time getting into this book. Three quarters through and I still kind of wanted to put it down. In the end I'm glad I didn't because there is a curve ball, game changer there that kind of puts everything into perspective. But I can't say anything more about that. I want you all to be surprised too.
I didn't love Belly. She talks a lot about how she never fit into the boys' group and how they accuse her of whining. Well, the boys are right. She whines. Pretty frequently actually. I thought she was pretty annoying, pretty immature and uses people as playthings. She doesn't mean to hurt them, but she just doesn't seem to think. As a character she just didn't appeal to me. I just didn't really understand her motives, where she was coming from so I couldn't really get behind her story.
The story itself wasn't my favourite. It was just so driven by Belly and I didn't think she was that interesting so how could I find her problems to be compelling. It was a slow build and I thought it got a little too bogged down. The story is told through flashbacks, this summer alternates with summers past, but by the end I thought a lot of the flashbacks were a little unnecessary. The build was a little too slow for my tastes.
Despite these flaws, I thought the Han did an excellent job building characters and setting the scene. The parties felt real. The emotions felt real. Nothing was really overblown and I GET why everybody acts the way they do once we have the big reveal before the denouement. The setting itself actually made me nostalgic for summer even though it's not over yet. It made me miss the summers I used to have, lounging by the beach before work and responsibilities got in the way. It was the type of summer that probably never existed but it FEELS like it does and this book did a great job triggering those feelings.
Overall, this wasn't my favourite summer read, but it wasn't bad. Han struck a perfect chord in creating realistic characters and interactions (even if I did find one insufferable). The setting itself is perfect; I can't resist a good beach and by the end it was definitely tugging on my heartstrings. I've read a few raves for this one and I can see why. For me, it was imperfect, but I'm glad I stuck it out until the end.