The British weather may not be bellowing SUMMER from its sky but I am having such a great break. More on that another time....
So this week I read The Summer I Turned Pretty.
Author: Jenny Han
Release date: 3rd June 2010 UK
Target audience: 12+
The Summer I Turned Pretty is a whole bunch of summer memories interweaved with the story of the most important summer for Belly. This is the summer when everything changes. She has blossomed into a young woman and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Belly spends every summer at the Beach House with her mum and her brother Stephen and their mum’s best friend Susannah and her sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Conrad is the eldest. He is two years older than Belly and she has always had a crush on him. He is the secret love of her life and she lives for every summer when she can live the dream of him. To Conrad, Belly has always been Stephen’s younger sister. It hurts her to be constantly left out of the three boys’ games and their summer adventures. She was always the annoying tag-along, the butt of their jokes and the one who had to work to be a part of the fun.
But this summer so many things are different. Stephen is not staying for the whole summer. He is going with their dad to look at colleges. Conrad is volatile, absorbed by his own thoughts. Jeremiah, well, he is still Jeremiah. But Belly? She meets the intriguing Cam and finally has a summer to share with someone who wants her there.
The Summer I Turned Pretty was completing absorbing and I admired Belly’s honest narrative. She knows that growing up she was a pain to her brother and his friends by whiny, telling-tales and cramping his style. But I loved her and actually being a younger sibling I could totally sympathise. I’m sure my sister would tell you that I was the most annoying sibling in the whole entire world when we were growing up. She would probably be right. I do have a younger brother but there’s a ten year gap between us so for a long time I was the baby. Jenny Han captured what it feels like to be the youngest, the one who still has so much to learn and the one who is waiting to be different, older, wiser, prettier. For me she also got to the heart of teenage angst about body image and the lack of control you have over your body changing.
So Summer in this novel felt like it was two conflicting experiences. On the one hand you have Belly living for these summers where she gets to idolise Conrad and have her imaginary romance. This is the side of the coin where she wants everything to stay the same. And on the other hand there is the knowledge that this final summer will be different, she has changed and everyone sees it so will she finally get the summer of her fantasies. The landscape of the beach is not as present in the novel as you’d expect. What is there is beautifully described but Belly almost avoids the traditional experience this summer as she explores her connection with Cam.
Although this novel is about summer romance, it is actually not a romantic story or at least it wasn’t for me. It was more about self-discovery about who you were, who you are and who you will be. Of all the summer love stories I’ve read so far, this one is the most realistic because it is the journey of Belly getting to this point and not just a moment that won’t be lived again. I really loved this one. I found it honest.
Thank you to Penguin Razorbill for sending me the book to review.
For today's little extra, I have a question for you: Do you have a favourite summer memory? One that will stay with you a lifetime?
I have been racking my brains trying to answer this one myself. I can't think of a single summer that transformed changed me into the person I am although I do have special memories from a whole host of summers.
There was the summer when I left school and went on holiday with my mum, my brother and my friend Alexandra. We stayed in a caravan. We got shockingly sun burnt (only time I've ever been that stupid) and had to stay wrapped up in cotton sheets for two days.
There was the summer I went to Minorca with my step-sister and had an amazing time. I was nursing a broken heart LOL so my dad sent us off on a holiday. I think I became a stronger person that summer. I decided I would be more independent. I would write more. I would just be me.
Probably my favourite summer was when I was much younger and my family (minus my dad) and my grandparents went to a holiday camp. I think it was Butlins but I'd have to check with mum to be sure. My grandad (who meant the whole world to me) won me this yellow monkey on a grabber machine thingy. Oh I love that monkey and I still have it. I spent most of the holiday in the pool with my sister who really is a mermaid. Actually my big sis is coming back home in the next two weeks for good. It is so exciting. Soon I will be able to just hop in the car and drive and be able to see her any time I want. Yay!
Share with me a summer memory in the comments (if you're not too shy).