Rating: 4.5 out of 5
For 15-year-old Belly, summer has always meant the beach house with her mother, her older brother, Steven, and family friends Susannah and her sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Although Belly is only younger by a couple of years, the boys have always made her feel left out in a way. This summer, though, Belly’s suddenly grown into her body, and she’s eager to believe that she might finally be accepted as an equal. Perhaps Conrad, the brooding brother whom she’s loved for almost half her life, will finally see her as more than a younger sister type.
What Belly doesn’t realize is that the summer just might be more than about the boys. It could be about family, friendship, growing up… and love.
The synopsis may make Belly seem shallow and the story flighty, but it is not. At all. With her sophomore novel, Jenny Han has done it again, writing a character-driven story that’s so poignant, you’ll wonder if she got her inspiration from either real events or a Lifetime movie.
Jenny Han makes writing seem effortless. She has a natural yet phenomenal way of making characters come to life through subtle but effective exchanges, musings, and flashbacks. Her talent for writing three-dimensional characters makes sure that the story does not fall into a predictable rut. Belly is a darling protagonist: full of spunk, bite, and an appropriate level of girliness and immaturity. All of the guys in Belly’s life are legitimately likeable, and the ending is both bittersweet and doubly touching as a result. There are no character clichés here.
Belly’s narration switches constantly from flashbacks to present-day, which at times can get confusing, but is more useful in helping us understand the characters. With this format, we are given a slow-paced and thoughtful story—which could've gotten boring, but never was, thanks to the wonderful characters. I even found myself tearing up at the end, so deeply I had been unknowingly drawn into Belly’s enchanting summer world.
THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY is an underrated book, and Jenny Han is an author who is all too often overlooked. But she has me convinced in her second book; I am now in awe of her character-writing abilities, and cannot wait to read more of her writing.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Simon & Schuster / May 2009