Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty

Book: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Once again, Belly’s family is going to the beach house with the Fisher family, as they have every year since her birth. They’ll swim in the same ocean, they’ll walk on the same boardwalk, they’ll share the same jokes and traditions.

But Belly is on the cusp of her sixteenth birthday, and she’s determined that this summer will be different. No longer will she be the ignored little sister, left out of everything. Her brother and the Fisher boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, will have to include her. This year, she’s going to make Conrad just as much in love with her as she’s always been with him.

You know what they say about best-laid plans, though. There are things Belly doesn’t know--about Conrad, about his mom Susannah, and about love. But she’s going to find out.

This book seems like a recipe for fluff. Summer? Check. Beach house, tans, and bikinis? Girl growing into her new body? Check. Hot older boy, subject of years of unrequited yearning? Check, check, oh so check.

But even before we discover the Big Secret in the last quarter of the book, (hardly a secret, it’s foreshadowed so much Han might as well have taken out a neon sign) this story has a heft to it that belies its fluffy aspect. Everyone wants to have a summer of fun while serious changes are going on underneath, and Belly seems to be the last one to notice any of them. This is partly about being the baby of this expanded summer family, and partly the sheer self-absorption that comes along with feeling your way into a brand-new skin. That can be kind of frustrating sometimes, but ultimately Han pulls it off.

So . . . does Conrad ever notice her? It seems so, but then again, so does Jeremiah, and the epilogue can be read both ways. There's a sequel out, It's Not Summer Without You, which I want to pick up both to see which brother Belly picked and how she's dealing with the fallout from last summer.

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