Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Review - The Summer I Turned Pretty / Jenny Han

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. Goodreads

Review - Han's novel received a lot of complimentary reviews with its debut a year ago and it is well deserved. Yearning to belong is always a strong facet of YA and here it is depicted in a fresh way. Belly's always been on the outside of her brother's and family friend's shenanigans, the summers spent with them are the backbone to her life, as is her adoration of Conrad and his mother, Susannah. The boys are the shining star in her sky and this year might be time when they allow her to be their equal.

Belly's an interesting character, her motivations are quite simple and her reasoning is easy to follow. She's not the most active protagonist, largely following the lead of everyone else and at time this can be frustrating when she appears deliberately obtuse. Belly's very relatable in her authenticity and you willingly support her in seeing her wants come to fruition. She is the most malleable of all the characters, becoming almost fluid in each supporting character's presence.

The structure is an interesting one as it jumps from the present summer to past summers to underline characterisation, highlight relationships and sometimes just to reiterate the pure amount of history that runs between these two families. The relationship between the mothers is involving and emotional despite the scant attention they receive, the dialogue between them expertly establishes their connection, history and loyalty to each other.

Sibling relationships aren't always the most important relationship depicted in YA stories. Yet in Han's work we see two sibling relationships that are characterised strongly and uniquely. Conrad and Jeremiah are polar opposites, and sometimes combatants, united by their loyalty to one another and their love for their mother. Steven and Belly are highly volatile in a way that only a sister and brother can be and yet their is a strong sense of protectiveness and adoration on both sides. It is these connections that really sell the magic of the summer at the beach - the love these kids have for one another.

The plot meanders at times but isn't that just like the perfect summer. A great, character rich tale of first love, growing up and being strong.

Published: 2009
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: purchased
Origin: USA


~The Book Pixie said...

I have heard a lot about his book and have really been wanting to read it. I'm glad to hear this book incorporates sibling relationships because this factor is rarley made important in YA novels these days. Thanks for the great review. :D


Robby said...

I have heard so much about this book, and it's coming sequel. I hope to read it soon! I'm a sucker for siblings. :]

Michelle said...

Oh how I love this book. I just started reading the sequel and it is fantastic. It's sad though and my heart breaks just thinking about it. :(

Heather Ozee said...

Belly is my youngest daughter's nick name! I enjoyed your interview.

prophecygirl said...

I loved this book so much. 'It's Not Summer Without You' is just as good too :)

Carla said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed this book, because it's one of my favourites. Belly is such an infuriating character, because sometimes she is so dense and her actions are so silly, but I still connected to her as a character, because I think she's one of the most teen-like characters I have read in a long time. I loved this book, and the sequel as Jenny says, is just as compelling

Nomes said...

I saw this one at my local bookshop today and nearly picked it up (resisted as I'm trying to reign in my book budget). I like this cover better than the one here in Australia though (which isn't particularly enticing, IMO).