May 19, 2012

Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty

By: Jenny Han
Published: May 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 276 pages
First Reviewed: October 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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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.

Rating: 4/5

This has been one of those books I saw a thousand times over on bookstore trips, but I never wanted to pick it up. It just didn't seem like something I'd like, but when I saw all the great reviews my cyber friends were giving it, I had to give it a chance. I'm so glad I did!

Once I got into this book, I loved the writing. It was simple, easy-to-read, and gave just the right amount of description, detail, and emotion. But in the beginning, I just couldn't connect. Methinks it was hugely because of the short chapters. Those drove me insane and made the transitions and writing in general feel a bit choppy.

But overall, I felt Han gave a fantastic voice to Belly and I loved how she threw us into the story and didn't bother too much with backstory and whatnot. There was just enough there. I felt her dialogue was also very realistic and balanced well with the prose.

I will admit, though, that I think I would have liked to get more inside Belly's head besides her romantic interests. When Han dove in there, it was great, but I wanted more. But I really liked Han's writing and can't wait to see it grow in the next book.

I had one major problem with the characters. More specifically, with Belly: I couldn't quite relate to her. I did on some of the obvious levels, but I found myself getting a tad bit annoyed with her. I wanted more to her than just the feelings about the boys around her. Sometimes she'd have that, but then it'd go away and she'd become a pouty child, like she was claiming she wasn't. I'm not sure if that was Han's intention, as it may have been--there are two more books--but I found it a little annoying.

Other than that, I loved the characterization. The mothers were utterly fantastic, to be frank. I absolutely loved Susannah the most; she was my favorite character in this entire book. The boys were also great, methinks. Conrad and Jeremiah were different, each with troubles and secrets and issues. And Cam was an interesting addition. Not sure I liked him a lot, but I did like him.

As for Belly, besides my issue with her, I did feel she was a strong lead. If I had disliked her completely, the story would have crashed and burned, easy. Han really dealt some great characterization with this.

Only nitpick with the plot: Sometimes I felt it went to fast, mainly in the beginning. But other than that, I really loved the plot of this. After I got into it--once I was connected--I couldn't put it down. What I loved most about it was that there wasn't much of it. That sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. Nothing really happens, but everything happens.

Han kept the focus on the overall picture, in my opinion. The feelings and inner issues of not just Belly but those around her. I found myself not caring too much about what was going to happen with Belly's summer, but rather what was going on with all the characters inside and what secrets were clearly being hidden. Re-reading this paragraph, I make no sense, but...I don't know how else to explain myself. Moving on...

Overall, it was enjoyable and dealt with more than just the romance, which was something I didn't expect. To me, it really sets up for a fantastic sequel. Oh, I do have to say I didn't like the last chapter. I think it should have been thrown out. However, it still makes me really excited--though, not so much at the same time (I will not explain to avoid spoilers)--continue Belly's story.

Other: WHY IN THE WORLD WERE THESE CHAPTERS SO SHORT?! Okay, not all of them, but a majority of them. Seriously, they would be, like, a scene, and then poof! new chapter! It drove me insane until we got to the average-sized chapters. Oh, and before I read this, I hated Belly's name. I have a different opinion now, but just thought I'd mention that.

I'm really glad I finally got my hands on this. It was a quick, fun yet heart-wrenching read that I wouldn't mind re-reading someday. As of yet, I don't think it's a must-read, but I can say I can't wait to read the next two books. Belly may have grated on my nerves a bit and I would have liked to have seen the last chapter scrapped, the chapters lengthened, and some deeper thoughts and feelings from Belly, but I still think Han created a great story that can only get better.

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