The Summer I Turned Pretty
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2009. 276 p. Young Adult
Isabel, nicknamed Belly, truly lives for the summer time. Not just like every other fifteen year old kid yearns for summer vacation. All other seasons - fall, winter, spring, are just time to pass until she can return to the beach house, and more importantly, the brothers Jeremiah and Conrad. Every summer Isabel, with her mom and brother Steven, go to the beach house of her Mom’s wealthy best friend Susannah. Susannah is the mother of Jeremiah and Conrad who have been everything to Isabel – annoyances, friends, brothers, and crushes. Belly has long fought to be included in the trio of three older boys on equal footing. Perhaps it is only then, she feels, that Conrad will take her seriously. Since she was small Belly has nursed an obsession with him and longs for a reciprocal relationship. His increasing moodiness however, has turned her attentions away from him and towards fun loving Jeremiah. The instant the brothers notice her this summer Belly knows it will be different, because this is the summer she has turned pretty.
Author Jenny Han has her master’s degree in Creative Writing for children. As a result the writing is above average and capably describes a coming-of-age summer. The teenagers in this novel must decipher the adults around them while trying to sort out their changing relationships with each other. Belly must learn how to discriminate between feelings of love, lust, infatuation and friendship as she copes with the attention she now attracts from boys. Although there are many books with similar themes Han’s writing approaches them with a realism and subtlety similar to Sarah Dessen.