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.
Over the course of my time spent on Blogger I have read dozens of mixed reviews for The Summer I Turned Pretty, and finally decided to check out this YA read for myself. I was pleasantly surprised! Jenny Han's novel is a classic beach read, and yet its moments of seriousness sometimes make it seem like more than just another fluffy teen romance novel. Her focus on typical teenage conflicts makes the story more realistic in my opinion. For example, throughout the story the character of Belly struggles with the fact that she is growing up, and that the summers of her childhood will soon become a thing of the past. This is something that I myself went through when I was a teenager, and still do sometimes when I reflect on the carefree summers I spent with my friends and family before reaching high school. While I am now far past the age of Belly in the book, I can definitely see how teen readers could relate to her conflicts about growing up.
Not only is growing up a main concern of this novel, but also the need to maintain the bonds that tie friends and family together. *Tiny Spoiler Alert* The plot's focus on Susannah's struggle with cancer highlights the importance of never taking the people you love for granted. In an age where cancer seems to affect at least one person we know, Belly's story reminds readers that they are not alone, and to appreciate the little things in life. *End of Spoiler*
In many of the reviews I read online of The Summer I Turned Pretty, one of the constant conflicts that kept coming up was an annoyance of Belly's character. While Belly was a bit childish at times, I didn't find her as irritating as I expected. Perhaps this was because I was well forewarned about this aspect of the novel? Or maybe I've just read other YA novels where the main female character was even more annoying? Anyways... One of the aspects that I loved about Belly's story was the way Jenny Han kept bringing us back in time to experience Belly's past summers spent at the beach. I think this made me more attached to her character, and allowed me to sympathize with her a little bit more.
On the whole, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a perfect summer read and will have you scrambling for the sequel (I already have it on hold at the library!). If you go in expecting Belly to be super annoying as I did, I think that you will be able to overlook her irritating qualities and enjoy the story for what it truly is: the tale of a girl struggling to leave her childhood behind.
Rating: 5 Stars