The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

“We’d been driving for about seven thousand years. Or at least that’s how it felt. My brother, Steven, drove slower than our Granna. I sat next to him in the passenger seat with my feet up on the dashboard. Meanwhile, my mother was passed out in the backseat. Even when she slept, she look alert, like at any second she could wake up and direct traffic.”
Belly’s summers are always the same, they are always spent at the summer house, Beck’s summer house. With her mum, her brother, Beck – her mum’s best friend – and becks two boys, Jeremiah and Conrad. Years ago her father came too, and sometimes Beck’s husband, but usually it was just the six of them. This summer will be different though, Belly is determined to make it different, she’s not a kid anymore and the lifelong crush she’s had on Conrad may not be so bad, now that he seems to have noticed her. However this is the summer she’s turned pretty, and Conrad is not the only one to have noticed her. 

***
Hmm. I wasn’t so sure about this book, I was interested but when I read that it was a full on love triangle book I was put off. I don’t like love triangles. However I was convinced by the lovely lady at Penguin that I should give it a go. So I have, and I wasn’t severely disappointed, but I can’t say I was blown away by it either. 
Let’s not start with the negatives; The least I can do is try and sell this book for what it is and what it does best. The Summer I Turned Pretty is a fantastic story, its a brilliant coming-of-age style summer romance and for those out there looking for that, it’s a prefect book. Theres love, laughter, crushes and pain in the ass brothers. There’s a strong realistic feeling to this book, I can see a lot of what happens happening to someone for their summer, especially in America where I believe its not uncommon for people to have a holiday home to escape to for their crazily long summers (we only get 6 weeks in the UK but I believe its a lot longer in the US) Anyway, I’m diverging. What I mean to say is that the story is not unbelievable. Its lovely and real and Belly could easily be someone you got to school with and Conrad could easily be that boy you swoon over in Math class. It’s a great summer tale and I would recommend it to someone looking for something like that. 
There are strong elements of something more serious going on and to be perfectly honest, I know right from the start what the twist in the story was… however I like the way it was handled and how the characters actions made sense because of it. I really liked one or two of the characters, Susannah and Belly’s mum were amazing characters, even if Belly couldn’t see it about her mum. I really liked Jeremiah and Cam was really sweet too. Even Steven was nice in an annoying big brother way. 
However Belly and Conrad… not so much. Belly was way worse for me than Conrad was because at least he had a reason to be moody and annoyingly distant. However I kinda wish more of the flashbacks were about him being nicer, he was nice but it didn’t seem like that much of a shift in his personality from then to now. Belly though, she was annoying and bratty and spoilt and ergh. She was jealous of everyone who went near the boys (except Steven) and I thought she was really harsh on Cam. 
The final thing that I’m going to go into is something which bugged me cos of my personality. I’m very equal rights driven, try and tell me that a woman belongs in the kitchen and I will blow up in your face, try to use the word gay in a derogative way and I will scald you for it. I also don’t like it when characters in books are so obviously conforming to stereotypes and things like that. So all those mentions about the boys going off fishing and leaving Belly with the mums? That wound me up. Them leaving her out of things and being mean to her cause she was the only girl? Not good. Also the title and the concept that Belly had to turn physically “pretty” for the boys to notice her… uhuh, big no from me. I especially didn’t like it because of how equal-rights driven Belly’s mum was, it didn’t make sense. I honestly don’t think they would have left Belly out as much as they appeared to, I grew up around boys. I was the only girl in my friendship group the whole way through primary school and they ALWAYS found a way to include me in everything and the boys would have found a way of including Belly, I’m positive they would have, or her mum would have made them! 
Anyway. Sorry about the negatives. It’s a shame really because I did want to love this book and I do think it was a really nice quick and easy read. If the sexism and steretyping wasn’t so prominent for me then I think I would have adored it, even with the love triangle… or was it more of a square – as it included Cam. I would recommend it to some people but only to people I know won’t pick up on the aspects I didn’t like as much as I did. 
The Summer I turned Pretty was published in June 2010 by Penguin. My copy was sent in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. 
  • This book is amazing.

  • Thanks for the honest review, Raimy! I read this about a year ago and I enjoyed it as a light, summer read. Thinking back, Belly was a really annoying, whiny character. She seemed a bit immature for her age and her pining for the two brothers was kind of irritating too and yeah, she was really harsh on Cam. But I haven’t been put off reading the next two in the trilogy, so hopefully she’s ‘grown up’ in those books!

  • I’m reading this at the moment and came to see what you thought of it because I’m finding Belly just SO whiny. She seems really young too. Her behaviour at age 16 doesn’t seem any different from her behaviour in the flashbacks when she’s supposed to be 9 or 11. It’s odd.