The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
You know it’s a beach read when the title even has summer in it! This is a summer read that you won’t want to miss.
For her whole life, Belly has spent the summer at the beach. But this year, she’s turning 16 and she’s desperate to be seen as something other than a pesky little sister. Two of the boys at the beach house aren’t actually her brothers, they’re the sons of her mom’s best friend, but since they’ve all grown up together they’ve always treated her like a kid sister. Belly’s ready to be seen as a girl, and when a cute boy at an bonfire pays her the right kind of attention she’s thrilled. She just can’t help wishing she inspired those feelings in someone else. Filled with summery moments, like playing Marco Polo in the pool, wishing you could go skinny dipping, going to the boardwalk, watching old movies, having special routines and beach tunes, this will make you yearn for summer. And possibly youth, but that’s your business.
The only thing I found tricky about this was that it flips back and forth between the present and past summers. Chapters about the past are labeled with Belly’s age, so stay alert. Also, she often tells you about something in the present and then it will later be explained in the past segments. It was fine once I got used to it, but at first I was feeling like I’d missed something and kept flipping back to reread.
Great for: What to pack to take to the beach house, shore house or lake house, whatever your (or your teen’s) summer haven may be.
Age Recommendation: Grades 7+
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Belly’s mother says it’s okay for her to settle down (you know, once she’s grown up) as long as she’s had a few “lovers” first. Taylor tells Stephen to “go back to jacking off.” Much relaying of sexual experience comes in the traditional baseball format, so we know that Conrad went to second with a girl and Stephen got to third. I refuse to translate for anyone unfamiliar. There is kissing a few places in the book. Also there’s a brief discussion about if two girls kissed.
Profanity– “pain in my ass,” “screw you,” “dipwad,” “asshole,” “shit,” “butthead,” use of the middle finger. “retarded” which I really hate as an insult, “dick,” “gay” used as an insult, but another character immediately says that it is unacceptable to say that. “go to hell”
Death, Violence and Gore – A parent of one of the characters has cancer, this is a major story line. When they were younger the boys told Belly that there was a child killer on the loose. Belly’s brother threatens to kill her in that way that older brothers do.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – The moms drink margaritas and smoke cigarettes. Mr. Fisher drinks Maker’s Mark. Belly gets asked by her mother if Conrad is using drugs. The mothers smoke pot (one as treatment for cancer, the other for camaraderie). When Belly wants to go to a party, the boys say they think the guy throwing it deals crystal meth. Belly does not drink but the boys do, sometimes to the point of being drunk.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.