THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by JENNY HAN
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I love Jenny Han’s books. I’ve even written a review on one of them before. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of my favorite YA contemporary series (and I love the movie adaptation too), so I had pretty high expectations going into The Summer I Turned Pretty. I knew Han wrote this book before she To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and I knew I probably wouldn’t like the protagonist as much as I love Lara Jean (spoiler: I didn’t), but still, I was excited to give Jenny Han another go. And I’m very glad that I did.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first book in Han’s Summer series. It’s the perfect novel for this time of year. Short, sweet, and a little heartwrenching. In Summer, we meet Isabel, but everyone calls her Belly. She’s fifteen and she’s been going to Cousins Beach every summer for as long as she can remember. Together with her mother, brother, her mother’s best friend Susannah, and Susannah’s two kids, Belly stays in the summer house they share, swimming in the pool and going to the boardwalk. While this sounds like your standard YA contemporary setup, it’s Jenny Han’s writing that makes the real difference.
Han is excellent at voice. All of her characters have that special sort of something about them that make them sound so unique. Her writing style is so sweet and poignant, like the happy ending of every Disney movie. I can’t get enough of Han’s books because of how they make me feel. Happy and warm and nostalgic, even if something sad is happening.
To make Belly’s life a little more complicated, however, Han puts her in a love triangle with Susannah’s sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been in love with Conrad all her life and sees Jeremiah as more of a friend. Thus, their summer at Cousins Beach is a complicated one and it only gets worse as time goes by.
Even though I flew through this book and generally enjoyed it–I can’t not love a Jenny Han book–it was the ending that really hit me hard. Belly’s mother and Susannah have a deep and profound relationship. They’re best friends and have been since before Belly was born. Susannah was one of my favorite characters and it hurt enormously when the book took a very sad turn toward the end. I was trying not to cry at work and almost failed in the attempt.
Jenny Han’s books are almost always bittersweet. They make you laugh and then they make you cry. That’s what’s so beautiful about them. The Summer I Turned Pretty is the perfect book to take to the beach. Just as long as you take tissues, too.
You can check out our copy of The Summer I Turned Pretty at the Argenta Library today!