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28 April 2013

Review: 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' by Jenny Han (2010)

Every year Isabel spends a perfect summer at her family friends' house. There's the swimming pool at night, the private stretch of sandy beach ... and the two boys.

Unavailable, aloof Conrad - who she's been in love with forever - and friendly, relaxed Jeremiah, the only one who's ever really paid her any attention.

But this year something is different. They seem to have noticed her for the first time. It's going to be an amazing summer - and one she'll never forget...

Jenny Han’s novel ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ had been part of my to-read list for quite some time already, but somehow I never ended up actually buying the book somewhere. However, a couple of weeks ago I joined The New Book Club on Twitter (@thenewbookclub) in order to discuss lovely books with other avid readers. The first book to be discussed is ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’, so I finally ordered the book online and dived in as soon as it arrived in my mailbox.

The novel tells the story of Isabel (called Belly by almost everyone around her) and her summers spent in the big beach house of the Fisher family, which consists of Susannah and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has always enjoyed her summers at the beach house, but this summer, things are different. Belly is dealing with everything a typical 15-year-old teenage girl goes through at a certain moment in time: crushing on boys, finding out who your true friends are, and slowly discovering your own identity. Belly has always been left out by the boys, but this summer... Things are changing, and so will Belly.

I was surprised at what a quick read this novel was. I seemed to fly through the chapters and before I knew it, I had reached the last page. It was a light read (a book perfect to take with you on your summer holiday), but at the same time it managed to transport me back to those days when I was a 15-year-old girl, trying to figure out the world. That feeling of thinking that the world revolves around you (didn’t we all at one point in our lives?), and how much one summer (and that one boy) can change absolutely everything. I really liked the nostalgic feel of this novel (also caused by the occasional flashbacks): the setting of the large gorgeous beach house with the sea in the background, a long summer holiday away from school and home... The book really managed to grab me and not only take me into Belly’s world, but back into the world of my own teenage self as well.

If I’m completely honest, I didn’t come to love any of the male characters in the novel. Belly finds herself flirting with and thinking about three different boys: Conrad, Jeremiah, and Cam. But there wasn’t one I was definitely rooting for, one I wanted Belly to end up with, and I thought that was too bad. The focus is on more than just boys, though: Belly’s friendship with her best friend Taylor, the relationship between Belly and her mother, the difficult situation Susannah finds herself being forced to deal with.. I really liked Belly’s other relationships, with her own mother and with Susannah; I wish this would have been explored more in the book. And, if I am allowed to give one slightly superficial comment... What kind of a name is Belly? I know a name is just a name, but this one managed to slightly irritate me more and more as the book continued. Isabel is a lovely name, why not simply stick to that?

I didn’t end up falling in love with this book, but I didn’t dislike it either. Will I pick up the other parts of the series? I’m not quite sure... Overall, though: a light, quick, summery read, perfect to bring along on a holiday and I am sure lots of people out there will enjoy this!