3.5 Stars. (Young Adult)
So I waffled back and forth with this review. I'd heard so many great things about it and knew it had the premise I love in a book. I wanted to love it. But I couldn't give my heart away completely.
I started this book at 9:30pm and finished at 1 am the same night. It is definitely a book that you can just sink into and the pages fly by without effort or notice. The storyline was compelling and heartfelt, but through out there were moments that bothered me and I did wish for just a little more depth in the characters.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm the type of girl to fall for the anti-social, cold, seemingly bad boy but actually vulnerable type. All the traits that encompass Conrad's character in Jenny Han's "The Summer I Turned Pretty".
I won't go into plot summaries, because there are many reviews which do this so I won't repeat them. I enjoyed (for the most part) Belly's character, although in the moments when I found her frustrating I had to remind myself that she's only fifteen and is still young. Her constant obsession with being 1) the only girl and 2) the youngest of the bunch was irritating at times and I did find myself wanting to tell her to get over it and wake up. She'd obviously adored by her family and by both the Fisher boys - Conrad (18) and Jeremiah (16). She seemed oblivious to the attention she got from others and I found it odd that she could grow up with these people and still not realize her affect on them. Conrad, granted is cagey and secretive, but she does admit towards the end of the book that she'd seen the way he looked at her over the summer - even though prior to this she kept denying that she had any affect on him at all. I wanted Belly to be a bit more self-confident and forthright but at the same time I understood her personality and insecurities. She came off as self-centered and petulant at times and it was funny that it irked her so much that the boys always called her a baby or reminded her of the fact that she was a child in their eyes when that's exactly how she came off most times. This was supposed to be the summer she changed, grew up, came to her senses and yet I felt all that was missed. She didn't seem to change or grow up that much except that maybe everyone started noticing her looks?? But it seemed as though she'd always been a cute kid. She was noticed before, she just never noticed she was noticed...does that make sense? Ultimately Belly didn't seem to understand herself all that well.
I got annoyed with her behaviour and hoped for a stronger lead, especially since she is the narrator of the story.
Jeremiah was easygoing, sweet tempered, vulnerable and kind and I really loved the balance between his character and his perpetually brooding older brother (who of course I adored...). I knew going into this book which boy I would be rooting for but was surprised by how much I enjoyed Jeremiah's character by the end of the story. What I did find odd though was his sudden deceleration of feelings for Belly. They seemed to spring from nowhere and I wondered how he'd suddenly come to care for her so much when they'd not spent and overabundance of time together and during the moments when they were together he didn't seem overly enamored. This fault could have been due to the fact that the book was narrated from Belly's perspective, so seeing as how she was oblivious to a lot of things, Jeremiah's feelings for her could have been another. But, while readers understood immediately from Conrad's actions and the things other people noticed about his behaviour that he had feelings for Belly, this same understanding of Jeremiah's feelings weren't properly revealed.
When I mentioned earlier that I wanted more depth from the characters I feel this came out of the ease with which this novel is written and read. Like I mentioned, it flows by so quickly and without notice that you start the book and suddenly you're done. But because the language is so simple and free-flowing I think key moments that could have been expanded or explained more deeply to bring out traits in the main characters were missed. Opportunities to make this good story a great one were missed. I wanted more feeling from everyone in the book. More explanation as to Conrad's cagey behaviour, I wanted Belly to be more assertive, I wanted more moments of interaction between Belly and the boys. I think too much time was spend expanding Belly's relationship with Cam - not a central character.
I also found some of the boy's behaviour and Belly's acceptance of it somewhat sexist. I know that may seem harsh but when Belly threw out things like, she didn't expect to win anything because she was a girl, and losing was expected of her because of her sex- it was annoying and grated on my nerves. Little moments like this were subtle in the book but brought up enough times to irritate me.
Overall though, by the end of the story I really felt the heart ache of the characters. I had tears in my eyes at the end and loved the last moments between Belly and Jeremiah and Belly and Conrad.
I will be reading the next two books in the series, because after turning the last page, no matter the little irritations or how much I wished there was just a little bit more depth of feeling, "The Summer I Turned Pretty" was a sweet coming of age read about a young girl discovering herself for the first time. It's not an easy time in life for a girl and Belly doesn't have an easy time of it. She goes through a chasm of emotions and somehow comes out the other end. You get invested in the characters through out the story - no matter if you love them or hate them. And I'm invested. I want to know what happens. I'm a believer in true love as well as finding that perfect someone and I know who I want Belly to end up with.
Conrad and Belly, with all their emotions and flaws just seem to fit, but I am interested to see how her relationship will evolve in the next books with both Fisher boys.