Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty
By: Jenny Han
Narrated By: Jessica Almasy
Published By: Recorded Books
Publication Date: January 2009
Length: 6 hours, 56 minutes
Audience: YA - Contemporary Fiction
On the Story & Writing:
I have been wanting to read this series for awhile, but just couldn't seem to find the time to work it into my reading schedule. I opted to pick up the first book on audio to see if this was a series I was worth pursuing. I was expecting a light and fluffy summer romance, but instead I got something that was a lot deeper than fluff. Belly's story is one that will throw you back into the tumultuous choices of adolescence and make your heart ache.
Belly has always been the little sister in the summer house, but as she grows older she bristles when Conrad and Jeremiah keep treating her like the baby. The two boys are the son of Belly's mother's best friend and they grow up each summer as one big happy family. However, as they all age and change, feelings start to shift and tension will seep into the air. Belly has loved Conrad for as long as she can remember and now that she's gotten "pretty" she can't help but hope for his eyes to linger in her direction. Belly discovers that this summer will be different in more ways than one and once its over she may never be able to return to her childhood innocence.
The writing in this one is solid and flows so well. Belly's voice rings strong and true throughout the book. I wish more coming of age books like this one had existed during my teen years. Belly had some moments that annoyed me and were a bit on the whiny side, but once I reminded myself that she was barely sixteen that helped put things in perspective. I know I was an emotional roller coaster at that age so I can't fault characters that are in that stage of life; the angst rings true of the experience of being sixteen and being in love with someone who doesn't seem to return your affection. Furthermore, Han's characters are some of the best written and most intriguing that I have seen in YA literature.
I hated how the ending was done. The reader is dumped into a situation and then it just ends. I'm sure the next book will resolve all my questions, but it was highly frustrating knowing that I would have to wait to get the audio of the next book or try to squeeze this into my reading schedule. I suppose I should just be thankful that all the books are out and I am not having to anxiously await release dates. I think I may try finishing this series in a traditional format instead of continuing with the audio versions.
On the Audio:
I didn't like Jessica's narration at first, but once I felt like she was speaking as Belly then I started to enjoy it more. Her voice isn't bad by any means - it just took me a little longer to get used to the cadence.
There are a ton of flashbacks in this book and I found those hard to follow at times on the audio. The time of the flashback was always announced in the reading, but there was never any cue when the narration was shifting back into the present time. It was confusing at times and required quit a few rewinds. I am sure this wouldn't have been a huge problem in the hard copy.
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 terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.