Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

It’s no secret that the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han is one of my all-time favorite series ever, so over the summer, I decided to give one of the author’s earlier books a read. ☀️ Needless to say, I am so glad that I read TATBILB first because The Summer I Turned Pretty was such a letdown in comparison. This may have been a book I would’ve enjoyed when it was first released in 2009. However, the superficial dialogue, judgmental characters, and unnecessary girl-on-girl hate made the story difficult to love, and if given the choice, I would 110% recommend the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series over this one.

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han

PUBLISHED BY Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster) on May 5th 2009

GENRES: Contemporary

PAGES: 276

ADD ON GOODREADS // BOOK DEPOSITORY

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. 

Content/Trigger Warnings: terminally ill secondary character (breast cancer), marijuana use, ableist language, casual homophobic language, non-consensual kiss

The Summer I Turned Pretty follows the perspective of Isabel, or Belly, who has spent the past 15 years of her life spending each summer at the Fishers’ beach house in Cousins Beach with her mother, brother, and their close family friends, Conrad and Jeremiah. This summer, Belly has (you guessed it) turned ~pretty~, meaning she is finally worthy of the boys’ attention because she has achieved #hotgirlsummer. 🌼 The rest of the story follows her summer journey for love alongside some family and friendship struggles.  

While I understand that teens in YA novels have every right to act as teens (because they should), I just could not stand Belly as a main character—she was extremely judge-y and superficial with an internal monologue that made me cringe. Every single thought that goes through her mind is centered around “ME! ME! ME!!” I have never read a character who was more delu-lu in her life (except maybe Shane from Again, But Better), 🙄 throwing away close female friendships due to boy drama, disrespecting her parents, and always refocusing the conversation on her.

“Moments, when lost, can’t be found again. They’re just gone.” 

We’re supposed to fall in love with the oh-so-swoony Conrad because he drinks and punches walls and gets into fights…but this dude has as much personality as a brick. 🙃 Conrad was meant to be the brooding bad boy in this story, but he was equally as selfish and immature as Belly. There was nothing swoon-worthy about him!! The “romance” was difficult to support because it was riddled with miscommunication and love triangles. The characters would consistently use one another with ulterior motives, and none of the couples felt like a cohesive partnership.

As much as I love Jenny Han’s writing in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I do have to acknowledge that a lot of the casual dialogue in this book was rather…problematic. It may be because she wants to convey the inner thoughts of a misinformed teen, but I still don’t think it should’ve been included. The casual use of homophobic language and unnecessary girl-on-girl hate contributed to a toxic masculinity and heteronormative culture that was idolized rather than challenged. For example, *spoiler* at one point, Belly asks a guy to go skinny dipping with her, and when he refuses, she asks “Are you gay?” This just left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the story.   

“It was a summer I’d never, ever forget.It was the summer everything began. It was the summer I turned pretty.” 

If you’re looking for a girl-next-door summer romance type of book, I would recommend you go with On the Fence by Kasie West or Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson instead. 💌 While I’m glad to see that Jenny Han as improved as a writer over time, I would still recommend her To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy over this one.

Have you read The Summer I Turned Pretty?

What were your thoughts?

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23 thoughts on “Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

    1. I KNOW THAT”S HOW I FELT!! I really really loved TATBILB but this book was such a letdown in comparison. I think I’ll continue reading the series because I want to see what happens, but it’s nowhere near as good.

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      1. Don’t waste your time. This series is an endless cycle of frustrating stupidity. Belly never grows as a character and the love triangle is pointless and predictable.

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    1. ahh i think it’s super important to keep your expectations not too high especially since TALBILB is soo good in comparison!! thank you for reading my review ❤️

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    2. ahh i think it’s super important to keep your expectations not too high especially since TALBILB is soo good in comparison!!

      thank you for reading my review ❤️

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  1. Yikes, I’m glad I never attempted to read this!! It’s EXACTLY the sort of stuff that pushes my buttons when I read YA contemporaries & I’m honestly so over it (unfortunately there are STILL books being published that subscribe to girl-on-girl hate & WHEN IS IT GOING TO STOP?!) 😡 And I honestly can’t stand self-entered characters so this book just sounds like 276 pages of NOPE to me 😂

    💛 Ngoc

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    1. I KNOW!! I was having such a hard time falling in love with the story because the inner monologue was so ME VS. OTHER GIRLS. Definitely read TATBILB over this one, but I’m glad I at least gave it a shot to realize that it’s not for me. 💖

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  2. I’m sorry to hear this book didn’t live up to your expectation and certain things in this book do seem a big no-no for me as well. I’m glad Jenny Han’s writing has improved over time as she has wrote TATBILB but I don’t thing I will be reading this one.
    Girl on girl hate is not something I liked reading and sometimes can find it a bit tiring. Also I can like the ‘brooding bad boy’ trope at times but more when it is a brooding character who is private and has issues but then learns to open up and see the benefit of talking, not just he’s dark and mysterious because he punches things.
    I think I will me giving this book a miss but I still need to read the TATBILB series!!
    Great review!! ❤

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    1. Yes exactly!! The brooding bad boy trope is one that I’m usually a fan of but it really needs to be developed well to see their character grow and development throughout the story.

      A part of me is glad that Jenny Han wrote this because she needed to conquer this bump to become a better writer and give us TATBILB! At least we have the movie sequel to look forward too 💖

      Thanks for reading my review, Sophie!!

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  3. When you said that Belly achieved hot girl summer, I DIED HAHA 😂😂 I’m so sad that this disappointed you, but you explained why it did so well. Also, the TATBILB gifs were HILARIOUS. My sister actually read this series when I was a child, and I wanted to read it too. Now that I’m more aware of my reading tastes and that I’ve read this review, I’m definitely gonna stay away from it haha!

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    1. LMAO That meme was so prevalent over the summer, and I knew it was just a perfect reference for this review. I was worried this review would be too mean?? since I haven’t written a negative review in a while… 😅

      I definitely think we would’ve enjoyed this series a ton more if we read it when it first was published, but now, I’m like ehhhh not our style anymore…part of me wants you to read it because i wanna hear your thoughts, but i also think we’d have similar opinions too 😂

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  4. I wasn’t a huge fan of this series, and yes I adore TATBILB, but this series was really lacking. I would say it gets better, but it’s only for that for the second book and than I probably lost brain cells in the third book, because it does get worse.

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    1. I’m really glad that you feel the same way Lori. This series was pretty lacking in comparison, and I’m honestly a little curious to see where the story goes…BUT I’ve also heard it also doesn’t really get better either 😭

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  5. I’m really happy that I didn’t read this book now. I read this one ages and ages ago, I think it might have been in 2011 or something and I remember having very fond memories of it at the time and loving all of the summery feels it gave me. I was a small child, please forgive me 😂 😂 Honestly, if I ever gave this series a try again right now, I know I would probably share ALL of your thoughts right here, the miscommunications and very frustrating main character, I probably wouldn’t handle it much more now 😂 I’m sorry you didn’t get to experience this earlier to maybe enjoy it a little more. To all the boys is way better and there are way better contemporaries now than this one, thankfully haha 🙂
    Wonderful review! ❤

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    1. jfklaj Marie I’m like 85% sure that if I read this in 2011 or something I would be SO TRASH for this book 😂😂😂 I definitely understand how you feel and can def relate too. I think just reading it now has given me more perspective. I’m super glad though that we have TATBILB now and can fangirl and fall in love with that series ❤️

      Thanks for reading my (rant) review 😅

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    1. LMAO KEV I think you’d honestly cackle while reading this because it’s so EXTRA 😂 The covers are definitely cute, but the characters and plot were just so frustrating!!

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  6. Yeah summer I turned pretty is not nearly as good as the to all the boys series (although I read summer first, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to) I didn’t like Belly as a character either- she really irritated me. And I wasn’t a fan of the romance either. Fantastic review!

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    1. Have you read TATBILB?? It’s definitely so much better in comparison. Lara Jean > Belly any day. ❤️

      Thanks for reading my review!!

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  7. Oh no, I’m so sorry to see that this was such a disappointment, Tiffany! This one truly does sound awful, and I don’t think I could bring myself to finish a novel with all these problems! It would honestly drive me insane. I’m so glad that you read this one after To All the Boys, so that way you already know how much Jenny improved as a writer! Hopefully your next book is more enjoyable! ❤

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    1. It was SO BAD in comparison to TATBILB, Kelly!! I couldn’t believe that it was even written by the same author 😂 Still, a part of me is glad that it was written so that we could eventually end up to getting one of the best contemporaries trilogies ever! I actually finished TWEET CUTE pretty recently and thought it was amazing so I hope you can pick it up sometime too!!

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