Friday, 22 July 2011

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she has spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, but her favourite people are there: Susannah, her mother's best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a new guy called Cam and lingering looks from Conrad's brother, Jeremiah, Belly's heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?
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Summer is my favourite season and I love nothing better than to sit and read out in the sunshine and this was such a perfect book for that exact purpose.
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Belly lives her life waiting for the adventure of summer to start where she can finally pack up her schoolbooks and head on over to the beach house she has been spending her summers at for as long as she can remember. Along with her mother and brother they spend their holiday with family friend Susannah and her two sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Even though Belly has always had a crush on Conrad, both boys have always treated her like a little sister. However, this summer Belly has grown up and hopes that they will now see her in a different light.
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I loved how the story was told in the present but with flashbacks to some of Belly's previous summers at the beach house. It really allows for you to get a feel of the dynamics between the characters and how bittersweet memories sculpt who they are now. We get to see how Belly always tried to join in with the boys games even though they thought she was too young and silly to play, especially her brother Steven. However, now Conrad and Jeremiah are starting to see that she isn't just an annoying little girl that is always stubbornly trying to tag along. They stop overlooking her and start to realise how pretty she is (hence the title). There is a lot of tension about as everybody adjusts to their new-found outlook and feelings.
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I really loved the two boys but I think my favourite was Jeremiah. He appears to be completely carefree and happy but with a big heart. There is a bit of heartbreak for him when he realises Belly's heart will always belong to Conrad but I love how he doesn't go off and sulk about it or jeopardise his friendship with Belly because of it. He just gets over it which is so refreshing. Conrad is the more intense of the two and has always been so, but this summer he has started to isolate himself and has become more aloof. This annoys and frustrated Belly because she just wants him to notice her in the same way as Jeremiah but Conrad has more important things on his mind which could leave him distraught.
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Belly was also a likable character. She felt realistic and relatable. Sometimes she seemed to be a little self-centred but that's what made her more realistic because there's always a time in a teenage girl's life where you lose sight of what's happening to the people around you because you are too focused on trying to get the boy of your dreams to notice you. However, what I really loved about Belly is how she can hold her own amongst the boys and also her deep care for them and their mother. At first when I read the name Belly I thought it was ridiculous but when I read on and found out why she has this nickname it's just perfect as it represents the relationship between young boys and girls perfectly, especially siblings.
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I did love the other characters in the book too; Belly's mother, her brother and also Susannah. I particularly liked the friendship between the two mothers and how they support each other through difficult times. The only character I wasn't sure about was Belly's short-lived love interest Cam who was a bit pointless because he was only there to incite jealousy from Conrad and didn't feel like it added anything worthwhile to the story. Although I suppose he was the one that ignite Belly's new-found freedom and independence form the boys now that she's old enough.
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This was an amazing summer read that brings back nostalgic feelings from those warmer months. It's an easy read that flows with down-to-earth writing. It's charming, endearing and doesn't give you a headache from an overload of teenage angst. It has a narrative that seamlessly weaves the current summer with summers past and has a great blend of interesting characters, magical summers and emotional scenes. I would recommend it for fans of Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler and I can't wait to read the sequel 'It's Not Summer Without You'!
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Random Passage: The thing is, Susannah was right. It was a summer I'd never, ever forget. It was the summer everything began. It was the summer I turned pretty. Because for the first time, I felt it. Pretty, I mean. Every summer up to this one, I believed it'd be different. Life would be different. And that summer, it finally was. I was.

4 comments:

mummazappa said...

I don't generally read much contemp YA - I prefer the paranormal type stuff, but this does sound like a good nostalgic read of a really lovely time in life! Maybe one to keep in mind for a beach read next summer (for us down here in the southern hemisphere :-))

The Library Owl said...

Yes, it's definitely a nostalgic sort of read which takes you back to those teenage summers and it's the perfect beach read :)

Clover said...

I really loved this one!

The Library Owl said...

Me too! I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel :)