The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Han, author of Shug, a perfection of a tween novel, returns with a beauty of a summer read. Belly has always summered at the beach house with her brother, her mother, her mother’s best friend, Susannah and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. She has also always had a crush on Conrad who is years older than she is. Belly is the lone girl in the group, and the youngest, often left behind while the three boys head out to swim, go to parties, and ignore her in general. But this summer the boys are reacting differently to Belly. This is her summer, the summer where she can be the center of things, where they will notice her, and where she can feel she is really part of their group. But things don’t always work out as planned, there are huge things happening in the family, that may just change things forever.
Han’s writing is so effortless that it is easy to read this book in a single sitting. She captures the lightness of a summer read, but never loses depth and realism. Her characterization is complex and often revealing far more than the characters would want. It is a delicious read in this way. There is also the sweetness of young love, the drama of a crush, and the sudden realization of how brief summers are. All of this is done without losing pacing and interwoven into the very activities that make summers so special.
I grew up in a resort area where I was one of the few kids who lived there year round. As someone who has deeply experienced the seasonal community, this book captures it down to its very core. Belly’s realization that the family she stays with are wealthier than her own family was also one that struck me at about that age when I realized that the families who summered there were living in their second homes. Seems obvious, but it really isn’t to children who have grown up with that as the norm. The fact that Han used that little realization made this read so real.
The perfect beach read of the summer, take this one, dip your toes in the water and enjoy! Appropriate for ages 13-17.