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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han

Belly (Isabel) and her mom have been going to her mother's friend Susannah's beach house every summer since Belly was just a beach ball in her mama's tummy, and this summer, when Belly is 15, is no different. But at the same time things feel a lot different this summer. For one thing, Susannah's always tired. For another, Susannah's boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, who've never seen Belly as an actual girl seem to finally notice she IS one. One thing that's not different is that Belly still feels left out a lot of the time when the other boys, including her own brother, plan things that don't include her, and even sometimes purposely exclude her. The story is told in a mixture of present tense and flashback.

Belly finds acceptance through a summer romance with a really nice guy, Cam, but no matter how sweet he is, he can't seem to give her what she really wants. Jeremiah wants to be the one she wants, but it is Conrad who has always had her heart. Whether he wants to or even can handle a romance alongside other weighty issues facing him provides serious tension at the end of the story.

There are many issues wound together in this novel - divorce, coming-of-age, serious illness, and romance. Balancing all these and getting them to work together could not have been an easy writing task, but Jenny Han has done it quite successfully in this novel, which I read is the first in a planned trilogy. I will look forward to reading more about Belly and the rest of these important people in her life.

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