Thursday, 5 January 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Review of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

For as long as she can remember, Belly and her brother Stephen have holidayed in Cousins Beach with her mother, her mother’s friend Susannah, and Susannah’s two sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly lives for these summers – even if Conrad and Jeremiah only ever seem to see her as the young tag-along. This summer, though, she knows that’s going to change…

I’d read a lot of great reviews of this one, and I think perhaps my expectations were raised a bit too highly before starting it. I wanted to love it – but just couldn’t, really. There’s no question that Jenny Han is a talented author writing some lovely prose at times, but I found Belly to be a rather vapid narrator – immature, bratty, and seemingly willing to trample over other boys’ feelings to get close to the guy she wants. I appreciate that probably makes her a really realistic character for a girl of her age dealing with hormones and growing up – but it didn’t particularly make her someone I liked reading about. Perhaps because of her narration, I also thought the boys she was chasing after weren’t particularly good characters. Neither seemed all that well-rounded.

Having said that, there are some really strong points to the novel. As someone who also used to holiday in the same place every year and meet up with the same people, I thought Han captured the strange relationship you develop with these friends who you only meet once every month very strongly. I also enjoyed the use of flashbacks to previous summers to show how the central quartet had changed as they’d grown up. Finally, there were a couple of sub-plots which added a bit of depth to the novel, and would probably have made it a real tearjerker if I’d been able to feel a bit more invested in the characters.

Overall, this is a mild recommendation to people who enjoy contemporary teen romances, but comes as something of a disappointment to me.

That said, as I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of bloggers out there who absolutely loved it – so if you’re looking for a more positive viewpoint as a second opinion, it’s well worth checking out Fluttering Butterflies or Wondrous Reads.

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