The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

publication date: 2009
pages (ebook): 180
ISBN: 978-1-4169-9917-1

Just in time for winter, here’s a sweet, summer YA novel. The Summer I Turned Pretty follows Belly Conklin as she enjoys her first summer as a girl, an object of lust and love; instead of just one of the guys. Belly (what a name for a character, right!?) spends her sixteenth summer navigating between Conrad, her unrequited crush; Jeremiah, her summertime best friend; and Cam, the new guy and the only normal one of the bunch.

The Summer I Turned Pretty was formulaic, although I’m not dissing the formula. However, there were several things that made the book unique and fun. First of all, Belly is kind of a bitch. I don’t know if the author, Jenny Han, purposefully wrote her that way or if this was just how Han perceived what it was to be a teenage girl. Belly’s mean to basically everyone, from her mom and brother to all three objects of her affection and even to her supposed best friend. Sometimes Belly seemed to understand how terrible her behavior was, although she never apologized for it; but most of the time she was blissfully clueless and wrapped up in her own issues. I’m not saying Belly’s attitude was a problem for me; I thought it was realistic. In fact, it was refreshing to root for someone who was often unlikeable but relatable nonetheless.

The rest of the characters also displayed more than one dimension. Everyone was in-turn mean and loving, selfish and selfless, serious and flippant. I especially loved Belly’s mom, who was portrayed not just as a mother, but also a friend and a wife.

Additionally, Han captured what it was to be a teenage girl in a sea of boys. She described my experience whenever I was aware of a boy, at least. The idea that, if he could just know me for me and all my unique qualities – like how I’m only loud because I’m insecure and how I want to dye my hair red – he would realize I’m his perfect girlfriend! Here’s an example:

I bet that if it weren’t for football, Conrad wouldn’t be some big deal. He would just be quiet, moody Conrad, not a football god. And I liked that. I liked that Conrad preferred to be alone, playing his guitar. Like he was above all the stupid high school stuff. I liked to think that if Conrad went to my school, he wouldn’t play football, he’d be on the lit mag, and he’d notice someone like me.

Isn’t that teenage gold?

As mentioned above, the book was formulaic and generally predictable, notwithstanding Han’s attempt to manufacture suspense with weak plot devices, including inconsistent internal monologues and an implausible divorce. Also, the dialogue was sometimes unsuccessful. For most of the book, however, I was nodding right along.

4/6: worth reading

Ink and Page
Abby the Librarian
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