This has been the week of the beach novel, and it all started with Jenny Han.
There is so much about The Summer I Turned Pretty that’s absolutely perfect summer reading. If you’re in love with the ocean, as I am, Han’s descriptions will evoke the warmth, freedom, and elation of being on vacation at the beach so flawlessly, you’ll find yourself transported. If I hadn’t been reading a library book, I’d have been tempted to bust out a highlighter, which I NEVER do, but oh, I was so enamored of these descriptions!
…I loved this drive, this moment. Seeing the town again, Jimmy’s Crab Shack, the Putt Putt, all the surf shops. It was like coming home after you’d been gone a long, long time. It held a million promises of summer and of what just might be. As we got closer and closer to the house, I could feel that familiar flutter in my chest. We were almost there.
I rolled down the window and took it all in. The air tasted just the same, smelled just the same. The wind making my hair feel sticky, the salty sea breeze, all of it felt just right. Like it had been waiting for me to get there.
If you’re the kind of person who goes back to the same place for vacation every year, these passages ring true. There’s something so stirring and marvelous about knowing that a place you love and have anticipated seeing all year long has been waiting, patiently, for you to return. In that way, it can seem even more like home than the place you live the rest of the year through.
So clearly, I loved the setting. The Fishers’ vacation home is full of life and love and playfulness, and it absolutely screams summer fun. What’s not to love about that?
Han’s characters are just as rich and colorful as her setting: Susannah makes for a warm and involved archetype of a mother–the kind we’d all like to be, when our children are teenagers. Belly’s mother is more difficult to pin down: less emotional, overly logical, and sometimes harsh. Belly (or Isabel) is a girl on the cusp of …something, and she seems to need her mother’s influence. Instead, she has Susannah.
Luckily, they’re all spending the summer together in one house, with Susannah’s boys, Jeremiah and Connor. Everyone seems to be looking at Belly differently, and I liked that she wasn’t quite certain what to make of any of it: her lifelong crush on Conrad seems to be turning into something more than just a schoolgirl fantasy, but her friendship with his brother, Jeremiah, is changing, too, and meanwhile, all the adults’ relationships seem to be off, somehow. Everything is more complicated, and there’s something bigger at the bottom of it all.
I really enjoyed the complexity of the greater plot, and I enjoyed the characters and their arcs…for the most part. The only person I struggled to understand was Belly. Her thought processes weren’t always clear to me, and I struggled to understand why she made the choice she did in the end. Without spoiling anything, I wanted her to go the other direction, and I couldn’t quite figure out what the real draw was, I guess? After all was said and done, it made more sense to me to choose otherwise, and I wanted more explanation if that was how things were going to end up, because I couldn’t quite justify her choice, even after thinking about it for a while. That probably makes no sense if you haven’t read it yet, but, see, now you SHOULD, so we can talk about it! Because maybe I’m completely nuts, and you’ll disagree!
Even with those feelings, I really enjoyed the writing, and I’m absolutely looking forward to reading more by Jenny Han.
3.5 stars, only because I was kind of ambivalent about the ending (not the epilogue, because I liked that). Mild language, some underage drinking.
I don’t know that [Mr. Fisher] was as good-looking as Susannah was beautiful, but that might’ve just been because I loved Susannah more than almost anyone, and who could ever measure up to a person like that? Sometimes it’s like people are a million times more beautiful to you in your mind. It’s like you see them through a special lens–but maybe if it’s how you see them, that’s how they really are.