Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
May 5, 2009; 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.(courtesy of Goodreads)
So many bloggers rave about Jenny Han's Summer series. After finishing The Summer I Turned Pretty, I have two questions. Why does everyone love the series? Does it get better? I liked The Summer I Turned Pretty, but it wasn't the kind of book that makes me run around screaming the title to all of my friends. What did I miss?
Belly is a controversial character. I have mixed feelings about her. Because I was seeing the world through Belly's eyes and thoughts, I sympathized with her emotions and the events going on in her life. However, she was often infuriating. Selfish, whiny, and naive. She felt younger than 15 years old. But I think that was also a factor of being the perennial little kid around her brother, Conrad, and Jeremiah. It made her seem more immature than she would at home. We get the impression that she's a smart, fun, nice girl during the school year, but she doesn't act that way at all during the summer.
I enjoyed seeing how her relationships with Conrad and Jeremiah evolved. Conrad is the moody, quiet type of guy I normally like. But there's good moody and there's annoying moody. He was annoyingly moody for almost the entire book. At the end, I started seeing why Belly adored him so much. I wish Conrad's good side had shown up a little sooner. Jeremiah is the sweet kid that everyone likes. Funny, outgoing, friendly - he is Jacob to Conrad's Edward. It's a hard choice between the two.
On the bright side, Jenny Han does a wonderful job of setting the beach town scene. I've never spent a vacation at the beach, but this is the idealized vision that I've always had of it. Warm sand, midnight swims, beach parties, lifeguarding. You can almost smell the ocean when you read this book. I also liked how serious the book was. I was expecting a light beach read, but there was a lot of drama and anguish. It isn't necessarily what I want to read on a beach, but I'm a fan of angst.
Unfortunately, the setting is the best written part of this book. Jenny spent far too much time telling us why Belly was in love with Conrad or Jeremiah and not nearly enough time showing us. I also didn't like how the flashbacks were structured. The back and forth felt so abrupt so I had literary whiplash from trying to figure out what was happening.
Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is an entertaining story. I was disengaged for much of the book, but it hooked me at the end when Jenny Han found her footing. I didn't love this book, but the last third made me want to continue the series.