Monday, June 17, 2013

Fiction | Sun, Surf, and Summer Boys

Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first YA book I've read since the great Fall of YA 2012, and oh, I thought it was great. This was the perfect book for me to celebrate my end of semester and kick off summertime.

What I loved about it is how Han really tries hard to capture everything that makes summer so great—at least for those of us who love it. Most integral to the story, she taps deep into the details that make summer so memorable and so defining for Belly, the story's main character.

Fifteen-year-old Belly has spent every summer of her life in the beach town of Cousins. She's described as measuring her life in summers; all year she looks forward to the day she, her mom, and her brother pull into the beach house owned by her mom's best friend Susanna and begin unpacking the car. To Belly, the summer in Cousins isn't vacation; this is the life she lives for. And alongside Belly's family is Susanna's—her two boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, that have always, for the most part, treated Belly as their little sister.

But as happens when kids grow up and teenager hormones are running rampant, things just aren't that simple anymore. For the first time in Belly's life, she feels eyes on her in a different way. Boys are starting to take notice, and it's causing a shift in the household dynamic with three testosterone-driven boys that Belly isn't sure how to handle.

Belly's dramas are the same ones everyone suffered in adolescence that just feel so darn Earth-shattering. As you get older, you look back and realize that a lot of it was rather silly and melodramatic, but that doesn't make it any less important. It's part of growing up—feeling confusion and angst and just so much emotion about everything. For me now, at 27, I remember those feelings, but it's like I've matured and the rollercoaster has leveled out beyond the ups and downs.

Once you're in Belly's shoes, nothing she's living feels melodramatic the way you may expect being a YA romance drama. She's a strong character that experiences a lot of contrasting elements in her life; she's just trying to figure it all out, just like any other teenager. Her nostalgic levels rival my own as she relishes sweet memories, specific moods, and little details that have defined her summers so far. It's enjoyable to follow her experiences as she navigates first crushes, changing relationships, and figuring out her place. All I wanted after this is sun, surf, and cute floppy-haired boys. At least there's two more in the series!

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