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.
This is the quintessential summer read, in all the best possible ways!
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" follows Belly, a fifteen year-old protagonist who, as the title suggests, seems to have become a pretty girl rather than an excitable child overnight. The boys she spends her summer with, who used to view her as their baby sister, now seem to be developing a different sort of interest in her. Suddenly she finds herself invited to the same parties she once had to beg someone to take her to. The days of being the odd-one-out are coming to a close all around. Suddenly, Belly is a young woman. And just as suddenly, she will find that becoming one isn't all she's cranked up to be.
I wouldn't advise reading "The Summer I Turned Pretty" during any season except - you guessed it - the summer. It will make you long for the beach, for those long days and warm evenings, for the summer breaks and holidays when freedom is so real, it seems almost tangible. It'll make you wish you could lounge in the sand and swim in the ocean, and meet your friends in an imaginary beachhouse for a movie marathon afterwards. It's everything a summer read should be - it's fun, it's light and it's real.
And while "The Summer I Turned Pretty" made me nostalgic for those high school summer breaks and trips to the nearest beach with friends, what it also reminded me of was how annoying teenage girls can be at times! This earns the book extra points with me. Jenny Han is one of the rare authors out there who can write a fifteen year-old, in the sense that they will act, think and sound like a fifteen year-old. More often than not, especially in YA literature, it's easy to forget that it's a young protagonist we're reading about. They will be portrayed far more maturely, and their dilemmas and issues will likewise be of a more mature variety. In YA, we frequently put teenagers in the position to save the world, and in doing so have them grow up mighty fast. "The Summer I Turned Pretty", however, is a highly realistic, highly relatable contemporary read, where the protagonist's dilemmas are of a more grounded variety. (The most frequent of which are: "Why am I always left out", "Why don't they treat me like a grown up", "Why doesn't he like me?" and "Why won't they accept me?". See what I mean about annoying teenage girls? Belly is one. She is also highly relatable and a deeply sympathetic character. If you've never come across such a stark contrast in one character before, I suggest you pick this book up. It will surprise you.)
The plot teeters on the edge of a love triangle, but never quite evolves into one, which is also something I've come to appreciate, especially where YA literature is concerned. While there's no shortage of drama, especially when the world is seen through Belly's eyes, there is also no shortage of realism. The events are leveled, balanced, never overdone. Jenny Han reminds us that sometimes people just drift away. And sometimes they just fall back together. Sometimes, there's no starting point. Sometimes we just are, continuously.
And so, in less than 300 pages, Jenny Han achieves the admirable: she creates beautiful, three-dimensional characters, whose struggles become your struggles and whose success becomes your success. You live out the summer with them, you long and dream, you plan and fail, and at the end of the day you're left craving that perfect summer memory of your own.
GOODREADS: THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY
BOOK REVIEW: THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY BY JENNY HANN
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub