The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1) by Jenny Han
Released: June 3rd 2010 (first published May 5th 2009 by Simon & Schuster Children's)
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Some summers are just destined to be pretty.
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. (from Goodreads)
The Summer I Turned Pretty begins with Belly's arrival at Cousins. Belly lives for the summers. Every year she longs for summertime, longs to return to the beach house, to see Susannah and her sons Conrad and Jeremiah again. And now she's back, she's there, but everything is different. Conrad is still her crush and Jeremiah is still her best friend, but the boys are acting differently. Something has changed between them, and Belly knows that this year will be the summer she will never forget.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is exactly what it appears to be; a great summer read. But it's also so much more. It was so engaging that I couldn't put it down, and I felt as if I were part of this book, as if I knew the characters exactly as Belly did. The book is broken into chapters of past and present, and I have to say I loved the flashbacks. I thought they really helped build up the characters and helped explain why Belly loved the summers so much - we could really see into her mind and understand her thoughts and feelings.
As for the characters themselves, I have never been so torn before. Usually when there's a love triangle (or square in this case), I know from almost the beginning the person I favour and the person I want the main character to end up with. Not the case with this book. I liked all the characters, every single one, but it was so difficult to choose which boy I liked best. I found myself being pulled into whatever direction Belly was going at the time; I felt what she felt and I experienced her confusion and hurt about each of the boys. Conrad is the dark and mysterious one; he's quiet and moody, but we know from Belly's flashbacks that he can be nice and caring too. Jeremiah is the cute and funny one, always trying to make Belly laugh and always the kindest to her; he's the only one who's ever really paid her any attention. Even Cam; he's the new guy and Belly hasn't known him very long, but he's sweet and understanding, and I grew really attached to him too. I felt bad for the way Belly treated him, actually, towards the end, but I guess I could understand why.
My favourite character of all was probably Susannah. She was ill, but tried to be strong and happy for the sake of her family, and I thought it took a lot of courage and personal strength for her to do that. I liked the way she seemed to understand what Belly was going through, and I also loved the friendship between her and Belly's mum. I felt Belly sometimes treated her mum unfairly, and so I liked it when Belly discovered something surprising about her during a discussion with Susannah, and I hope that the relationship between Belly and her mother is something is explored more in the sequel.
In conclusion, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a great summer read full of love, laughter and sadness, and I enjoyed every part of it. The ending was left open so I look forward to the reading the next book in the series – I can’t wait to see what happens between Belly and the boys and Susannah. I'd recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen or Sara Manning, or to anyone looking for a quick and thoughtful read.