Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Razorbill, Penguin
Released: June 03, 2010
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Contemporary fiction and I are hardly well acquainted, so it is always a much welcomed surprise when a book in this genre manages to grab my attention. Admittedly, any sort of story with a love triangle at its core is destined to frustrate me to some extent, and that much proved true for The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I was strangely content with the story overall. I have my favourite boy, and I have declared myself Team so-and-so (and things better end up the way I want them to), but trivial points aside, this book proved to be a whole lot more touching and meaningful than I might have expected. I even felt a little teary at times.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is the tale of one girl and two boys, surrounded by the magic of summer. It is the story of Belly Conklin and her feelings for the Fisher brothers, Jeremiah and Conrad. And yet…it is so much more than that. This book does not take place in two bubbles, with Belly and Jeremiah in one, and Conrad and Belly in another. It is bigger than that, with several other characters and several other, and more important, issues coming into play. Instead of being about a love-struck teen who can’t ‘pick’, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a book, essentially, about family.
The characters are so important in a book like this, where there isn’t a complex and riddle-filled plot to distract the reader away. I’m glad to say that Jenny Han managed to create a wonderful handful of core characters that were impossible not to appreciate. From Belly’s brother Steven (who I hope has more of a presence in the next book) to Jeremiah and Conrad’s mother Susannah, I enjoyed reading about them all and felt each one left a little impression on me. I will warn that Belly takes some getting used to (I thought so, anyway) as she isn’t the perfect main character and does have a tendency to come across as immature several times throughout the book. However, I found myself too lost in the story to really be bothered by her irritating traits.
Conrad and Jeremiah are both very different characters and likeable for different reasons. Where Conrad is protective and distant, Jeremiah is more relatable and vocal. Admittedly, Conrad’s dejected attitude steered me towards Jeremiah for most of the book, but once the reasons for his behaviour were revealed, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for him. In the end, I think I preferred Jeremiah overall, but both boys proved to be admirable characters. Their love for their mother, Susannah, was one my favourite things about them.
Jenny Han took me on a roller coaster of an emotional ride with her story. Perhaps it was the fact I wasn’t expecting cancer to play a role in this book (I tend to avoid books about cancer) and it caught me a little off guard. I was rooting for these characters, who in any other book I probably wouldn’t have appreciated so greatly, and I was praying to see a happy ending. I’m still hoping for a happy follow-up in the next book, but I think the worst is inevitable. Regardless, I will prepare myself for what is to come (or what I think is to come) as I am eager to visit these characters again.
Rating: 4 stars