Liana’s Literary Commentary – The Summer I Turned Pretty by: Jenny Han

Liana Teixeira

Isabel (Belly) Conklin is ready for summer.  Since she and her brother Steven were little, they would travel with their mother to Cousins Beach, where they reunited with long-time family friend Susannah Fisher and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah.  For years, these four have shares lazy summer evenings together, but this year everything has changed.  Belly has always harbored a secret crush for Conrad, who is two years her senior.  But now, Conrad seems to be reciprocating some of this interest, while Jeremiah also pines for Belly’s attention.  Jeremiah is Belly’s best friend (and her first kiss), but dark, brooding Conrad has always been able to catch Belly’s heart.  This year, Belly is no longer the “little kid” at the Cousins beach house.  She has grown up…and both brothers realize this.  Belly is unsure about her feelings toward the brothers, so she begins dating a local boy to find out what she wants out of a relationship.  Meanwhile, Jeremiah and Conrad hold family secrets of their own, one of which will impact everyone staying at the beach house.

This book is a shimmery beach novel, perfect for reading on a warm summer day.  The writing structure has Belly flashbacking between her summers at nine-years-old to present day.  Each flashback builds upon one distinct characteristic of Belly, Conrad, or Jeremiah, making it uncertain as to which person Belly will choose in the end.  Jeremiah is sweet and attentive to Belly, making him the obvious choice for her happiness.  Conrad is moody and keeps most of his feelings to himself.  However, as the novel progresses, he tends to reveal more of himself to Belly than originally intended.

The book also deals with important family issues, including divorce and cancer.  Both families at the beach house, although unrelated, are faced with these obstacles and must learn how to deal with them together.  Jenny Han’s use of real-life situations and blooming summer romances makes The Summer I Turned Pretty a great coming-of-age novel to read.  The sequels (It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer), continue Belly’s story and her relationships with the Fisher brothers.