Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

What You Need to Know:  This is a fast, beachy love story,  for girls who like their romance with a little bit of depth.  

Summary:  Belly, her older brother and her mom have spent every summer at the beach with her Mom's best friend, Susannah and her two boys, Jeremiah and Conrad.  Jeremiah, Conrad and Steven formed a trio of boys that Belly (short for Isabel) desperately wants to join.  She is also desperate for Conrad, the boy she will love forever.  While her Mom and Susannah spend time together, and the boys off on their own, Belly has always lived in the spaces between them.   However, this past summer, the summer Belly turned 16, something was different.  Belly isn't a little girl anymore, and everything  changed. 

What worked:  Han perfectly captures the tone of a summer vacation, that magical time that you look forward to all year, when there's nothing to do and you like it that way.  Also perfectly portrayed is Belly's voice, a girl who has grown up (happily) in the shadow of boys, who is just beginning to transition into young womanhood.  It's a testament to the power of Han's writing that I enjoyed this book so much without particularly liking Belly, who is a little whiny and pouty, like all little sisters.  I also adored Cam, the first boy Belly notices who isn't Jeremiah or Conrad.  He's the perfect first boyfriend. 

What Didn't:  Belly spends a lot of time telling the reader how wonderful Conrad is, but doesn't show much of that.  From what we see of him, he's a jerk.  There are reasons for this, but, he's a jerk nevertheless.  Also, I found the tense a little confusing.  Belly is telling the story of her 16th summer from a point in the near future, but also describes times in the more distant past.  Because the voice doesn't really change, it was tricky to figure out what happens when. 

However:  I tore through this book, and if I was taking more time, the tense thing probably wouldn't have bothered me. 

Who Would I Give this Book To?  Girls who are fans of Sarah Dessen or Deb Calletti.  Romance readers.  I might give this one to my mom, if she would ever take a book recommendation from me.  

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