Do you feel like the summer went by too fast? Well, I have the perfect book for you that allows you to experience a taste of summer in the fall: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. Jenny Han is known for the book series, To All the Boys I Loved Before, which is now a popular Netflix movie series. Her writing style provides playful dialogue between the characters, allowing the reader to stay engaged and experience what the characters are feeling. The Summer I Turned Pretty delves into the themes of young summer love, the joy of family and friends, and the struggles of being a teenager. I enjoyed how this book demonstrated many young girls’ desire for summer love and how that budding romance does not always go according to plan. If you want to see the realities of romance through a young girl’s eyes, this book is perfect for you.
The story begins with fifteen-year-old Belly on her way to vacation at Cousins Beach with her mother, a lifelong tradition that Belly loves. They soon arrive at her mother’s friend Susannah Fisher’s beach house, where they will be spending the summer with Susannah and her two teenage sons, “tall, dark, and handsome” Conrad and “loving momma’s boy” Jeremiah. After a school year apart, both brothers immediately recognize a new beauty to Belly, hence the title. Once everyone is settled into the house, the three teens go to a party where Belly meets Cam, a cute, nerdy boy who seems interested in her. Before Belly leaves the party with the brothers, she gives Cam her number, allowing Belly and Cam to start a relationship. As their relationship forms throughout the book, Hans also includes flashbacks to past summers to show how Belly’s relationships with the brothers have developed.
Conrad’s rebellion, Cam’s interest, and Jeremiah’s steadfastness keep Belly’s summer interesting. While the main focus is on Belly’s growing feelings for Cam and Conrad, something is also happening with Susannah, causing Conrad to rebel. Everyone in the house seems to know and be hiding Susannah’s secret from Belly. Han’s novel leaves readers wondering: will Belly overcome her friends’ betrayal when she discovers the secret, and will she find true love?
Analysis: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Although I have a fond affection for all YA fiction, this book goes above your standard teen romance. The story pulls readers into the action and allows them to live vicariously through Belly to experience her wild summer. Each love interest adds another level of depth and new elements to the story. For instance, Conrad is the bad boy, Jeremiah is Belly’s guy best friend, and Cam is the boy who relates to her. Conrad is Bell’s first love who has a bad-boy persona. His character allows Hans to explore the theme of first love. Jeremiah is the boy who’s always there for Belly, which causes Belly to develop a love for him but in the way you would love your brother. Cam is the new guy in her life and her first official boyfriend. With Cam, Belly feels like she can talk freely and express her interests. Each of these boys plays a vital role in Belly’s maturity over the summer.
Another unique factor in the book is its transitions from the past and present. Some chapters flashback to Belly as a child and a preteen, allowing readers a unique view into her current feelings. For instance, many of the past scenes center around Belly’s crush on Conrad. Readers get to see Belly grow older and her crush develop into something more, love. This love is seen throughout the present circumstances too. However, Belly does not fully understand her feelings. The present drama keeps readers entertained because they want to know who Belly will choose.
The Summer I Turned Pretty also deals with the uncertainty and fear of sickness. Belly later discovers that Susannah Fisher’s secret is that her breast cancer has returned after years of health. Han foreshadows Susannah’s health issues by describing her as skinny and needing to take naps more often. These descriptions of Susannah’s struggle with cancer show how teenagers can perceive the effects of cancer. Throughout the story, everyone tries to hide Susannah’s cancer from Belly to protect her, causing friction between her mother and friends when she discovers the truth. The discovery toward the end of the story hurts Belly, as the people she trusts the most deliberately keep something life-changing from her, which causes her to feel like she can’t trust her loved ones. However, the conflict is resolved when Belly learns to lay down her own hurt and support Susannah. Between Susannah’s cancer and Belly’s developing romances, the book’s ending was satisfying while also leaving room for sequels.
I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Although some readers could view Belly as selfish because she can’t decide on her love interest, I didn’t find this to be a significant issue because it built suspense and intrigue in the book. Belly was not stringing the boys along for fun, her feelings were complicated, and she honestly didn’t know who to pick. Belly’s summer experiences help readers see that decisions concerning love aren’t easy, and you can’t always make those decisions quickly.
I loved this book, but I want to know what you think. So check it out, and then share your thoughts with me! You can find this book on Amazon, and it is also getting an Amazon T.V. series. I can’t wait to see Jenny Han’s masterpiece on screen. Check out the show’s Instagram for more info.