Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Puffin Australia
Year Published: 2010
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Realistic
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 Jeremiah, the only one who’s ever really paid her any attention. But this year something is different.
The Summer I Turned Pretty’s main character Isabel (aka Belly) is a young teenager who has always preferred summer over any other season of the year. Because every summer her mum, along with Belly and her brother would visit Susannah’s house (her mother’s best friend). Susannah has two boys – Conrad and Jeremiah, and one of them Belly has been forever in love with (Conrad), the other which has developed a crush on Belly (Jeremiah). In Belly’s opinion, she thinks she has always been perceived by the boys as her younger sister and tagalong. However, this summer she is about to find that everything has changed and it’s her time to grow up.
Hmm, my feelings of this novel is quite ambivalent. I really like a lot of aspects and elements in this book. However, it wasn’t good enough to give me a mind-blown reaction or a book hangover. Maybe I will just do list! 🙂 It always helps me to clarify and organise my thoughts.
Let’s just say you shouldn’t be fooled by the title of the novel and lose interest because of the lameness. Though what might have been lame to me may appear lovey-dovey to you. Who knows? All I know is that at the time I needed a short and sweet read, and this turned out just perfect.
This novel touches on subjects such as divorce, friendships, family bond, brotherhood, terminal illness and its impact on family, and of course love revolving around Belly. I love all those elements because it broadens the idea of love and what a contemporary series should definitely include.
It portrays a realistic summer’s love.
First of all, I need to praise Jenny Han’s writing, because damn she is brilliant at what she is doing! Han successfully portrays Belly’s thoughts. I was not once confused by her actions and motives. Even though her heart (feelings) and her brain (logic) constantly tell her different things, it was easy to follow. Meanwhile, Han did one thing which Amanda Hockings should’ve done while she was writing Wake. Between chapters of telling what’s happening in the present, Han also included chapters of Belly’s past memories of Conrad and Jeremiah. This is brilliant as Belly’s love for the boys will not seem spontaneous, rather it will feel right. If Belly decides to date one of the boys, then their relationship doesn’t feel instant as those past memories have built up. It certainly is a great technique to save the instalove from happening as it’ll feel natural and meant to be. On the other hand, Gemma & Alex’s relationship in Wake turned me off because it feels like instalove, as all Hocking did was just to say they have been best friends since forever. It just doesn’t work like this unfortunately.
When I first read the age of Belly, I panicked. I wasn’t far into the novel, but I was nervous of what could have happened if I continued. The protagonist was 3 years younger than me, in which I feared I wouldn’t be able to relate to as they often appeared as twelvies to me. However, Han has done a brilliant work with the way she writes Belly’s thoughts. I could relate to her! Most of the time when I read, I would forget Belly’s age unless it was mentioned in the novel every once in a blue moon. This is impressive because authors often forget what it was like to be teenagers again. Hence their writing always seem a bit whiny and nagging when the age of the protagonist is so young.
So you rock Jenny Han!
One word: Belly. >.<
Maybe it’s just me who has this suspicious theory, but I feel like she is trying to balance Belly’s perfectionism (e.g. perfect body and tan skin etc.) with an embarrassing name. Thus she is approved by the readers of having a “hot” body because puberty has made all boys turned their heads. This is just my thought, because if I have that name…I think I will dig myself a hole and just hide in it forever.
Oh, and she is also known as Belle as well. Like…what’s with the names right?!
(Yet, here I’m sitting, thinking why puberty hasn’t made me hot? :/)
Secondly, this novel was quite predictable. I don’t know if Conrad’s frustration at a particularly problem (promise no spoiler) was meant to be earth shattering for the readers and made them burst into tears. Well, I can tell you guys that I didn’t burst into tears. But there were obvious clues throughout the book of the bad news so it wasn’t jaw-dropping for me. In fact…
I don’t like Susannah as much as Belly’s mother. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not heartless okay? It’s just…I feel like the author tried hard to make her seems like a goddess. Maybe also the fact that I have no family members who have yet to die from cancers and I certainly hope not! However, I feel like there is too much spotlight on Susannah thus I always shifted my focus to Belly’s mother. I just feel sorry for her the way Belly treats her mother. I mean, the sad truth is I completely get why she doesn’t like her mother over Susannah, as I shamefully is like that too. The guilt I feel right now… Anyhow, when it was revealed that Susannah is getting sick again – I almost didn’t care.
SPOILER OVER; KEEP READING…
I was so happy when the author did Belly’s mum justice. Like, finally she is being acknowledged.
Gahhhh, it’s so sad…. But there is not one boy I could root for throughout this book. Not Steven, not Conrad, not Jeremiah, not Cameron, and certainly not Mr Fisher either. Jeremiah is nice in a realistic way, and I was hoping he could be a bit more hmm…perhaps unrealistically gracious in the book? I was hoping Conrad could be a bit more developed in terms of personality. I get it that he is the cool guy, but he needs to have a cool personality like Fang from Maximum Ride to be labelled as cool. Then there is Steven whom I think is perfectly developed in terms of his role in being Belly’s brother. However, because he is Belly’s brother, his lively personality is not shown as much as Jeremiah or Conrad’s. Then there is Cameron. He is a “straight edge” and I love that about him. He does comes off as having an odd personality. Like he could turned out to be a serial killer or psychopath and you don’t know it. So sayonara to him. And no way was I going to start developing a crush on Mr Fisher as his atrocious action deserves him a punch in the face.
Finally, I thought the ending was quite rushed? I mean, I get that it is a series. But I was hoping for a slightly longer length novel, like even 15 pages more to progress the story slightly. The last chapter happened abruptly, and I didn’t see that coming so it was like…what the hell? It wasn’t a cliffhanger, it just irritated me.
Final Words: I think there are too many good books out there waiting for me to pick up so I don’t think I would read the next book soon unless someone gave it to me as a present or I just needed a quick energy boost to my reading slump.