Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. (Grades 7-10.)

Every summer since before she was born, Belly's spent at the beach with her family and her mom's best friend's family. And she's always tagged along behind her older brother and Suzanne's boys, Jeremiah and Conrad. This summer will be different, Belly can feel it. She's turning sixteen, she's blossomed into a beautiful young lady, and she's determined to prove that she's not a kid anymore. But Belly's caught between wanting to grow up and wanting to cling to the past, and this will be a summer that transforms her more than she would ever predict.

Okay, let's get one thing straight: this is not a fluffy beach read. I know, the title and the pretty little font on the cover and the half-smiling models might have you thinking that this is going to be a light little romance for the beach. But it's not.

That's not to say The Summer I Turned Pretty doesn't have its light moments. And its romance. It has those things. But this is not a Yay-It's-summer-and-I'm-tanning-poolside kind of book. It's more of an End-of-summer-getting-back-to-reality kind of book. In my opinion, anyway.

One thing I liked about this book is that Belly felt so very real to me. She's fifteen, turning sixteen, and you get the story of her summer interspersed with flashbacks to previous summers at the same beach house. You get the stories of how she fell in love, how she's been in love with the same guy since she was 10 years old. You also get the sense that Belly's always been on the outside looking in.

During the summer, she's at the beach house with her older brother and two older boys. When she was younger, she wanted to join in their fun and they sometimes excluded her. Now that she's older, she just wants to be noticed. And she is noticed, but not always in the way she wants. The boys still seem to see her as the kid that bugged them every summer, tattling when they wouldn't let her play. What she comes to realize is that growing up means dealing with grown-up things. Though she thinks she's so ready to grow up, to drive, to date, to make her own decisions, Belly wavers on the brink of young-adulthood.

Before I read the book, I really disliked the cover. I heard so many compliments about it, but I just didn't get it. After I read the book, the cover makes a lot more sense. I love the position of the sun, like it's late afternoon and you're starting to think about the end of the day. I love that Belly's looking straight ahead, a kind of thoughtful expression on her face, while the boys' faces are both partially cut off or blocked.

It's a quiet kind of book, the kind I needed to sit with for a little bit to figure out exactly how I felt about it. If you're looking for something a little more serious than your usual summer fare, I can highly recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Check out posts at MotherReader, Reading Rants!, The Compulsive Reader, and The Reading Zone (among others). Looking for some more summer reads to add to your pile? Jenny Han shares her top five YA must-reads (and I agree with all of them; I have Along for the Ride on my bookshelf waiting for me!).


Melissa said...

That's interesting how your opinion of the book changed after you read it... this one's on my list. Hopefully, I'll get to it (soon!).

Anonymous said...

I thought this book was quite good. I haven't had one these summers just yet but i hope too i really wish she writes another one like this

Unknown said...

Do you have any advice on good sumer/beach romance books?

Abby said...

Random - I have a few suggestions for fluffy romances -

The Students Across the Seven Seas (SASS) series (by various authors)

The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen

Cruel Summer by Alyson Noel

All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

Those are all teen/YA books and for adult books I'd recommend Sophie Kinsella - Remember Me? and The Undomestic Goddess. I really enjoyed those.

(Sounds like maybe you're going on vacation - lucky you! Enjoy!)

Anonymous said...

this book, suprisingly looks really stupid and has no life, and in fact, i remember this book, I read it, and it is STUPID ! soo.. get a life, book reviewier, who would review books, so def. get a life :) thanks! k byeee !

p.s. it is such a cheesy romance book !!

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the above comment i love you, i def. hated that book, and i love your comment! :)

Unknown said...

It really wasn't cool to just trash the book like that. You can't find anything positive about this book? I can find plenty of things. I like romance stories. I makes me think more and more about the real word, and what really actually happens. But you know, everyone has their own opinions, and they're not always something everyone else is going to agree with, but I don't think you needed to bring it down so harsh! (: Hahaha, sorry if I offended anyone! This was an amazing book, and I would definitely recomend it to anyone that's looking for a good book to read!