The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han is the perfect young adult summer beach read for Sarah Dessen fans. It’s well-written with a strong setting, great concept and some unexpected plot twists, and is the first in The Summer I Turned Pretty series which also includes It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer.
I had heard little whispers about The Summer I Turned Pretty, but none that really made me request the book until I read a review written by two middle school librarians who gushed about it and had me pulling up my library website before I’d finished the last sentence.
And they weren’t wrong – The Summer I Turned Pretty is a pretty perfect summer beach read.
Before I go any further, let’s all be clear on one point. I love Sarah Dessen. You know this. And this book reminded me quite a lot of her books, especially The Truth About Forever, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed every second of this page.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Summary
Belly (I know, horrible name . . . let’s both try to move on) has been going to the beach for the summer every year for her entire life with her mom and her older brother. They always stay with her mom’s closest friend, Susannah, and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. It’s the highlight of her life, of course, goofing around with the boys, playing cards, eating hamburgers, swimming, and just generally having a perfect summer, year after year.
And no surprise – she’s had a crush on Conrad forever. He’s handsome and smart and reserved, but she’s closer friends with Jeremiah, the younger brother who is funny and more accepting of her presence among the boys.
The story does a few chapters in the present – the summer Belly is turning sixteen and of course the reason the book is titled The Summer I Turned Pretty – and then will do a chapter about an earlier summer, filling in the gaps about her relationships with the various friends and family, the events of previous summers, and other details that really flesh the story and characters out.
Why I Loved The Summer I Turned Pretty
Everything about this book felt so real to me. The way Belly has felt left out of most events because she’s the youngest AND the only girl. The sudden change this summer as other boys at the beach start to notice her that summer and how she starts to recognize (and revel) in that power. When she finally gets up the nerve to tell someone how she feels and then suddenly she can’t stop letting it pour out (I have so been there).
I also liked it that, unlike Sarah Dessen’s books, I had no idea who she might end up with. Would it be one of the brothers? One of the guys at the beach? Someone entirely different? No one at all? I honestly was not sure up until the last page. And I liked that.
It was particularly thrilled me to discover that this was the first in The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
Hopefully I’ll have a beach vacation to take it on. Or, I’ll read it as I freeze to death under a blanket in Boston. Frankly, I won’t even care.