105 Ways to Give a Book

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned PrettyI’m a sucker for summer stories. I love being in the middle of summer and reading about someone else’s summer. It’s like having two for the price of one. I guess I kind of collect summer books, at least in my mind. Off the top of my head, some of my favorites are: The Liberation of Gabriel King, The Penderwicks, Monsoon Summer , An Abundance of Katherines, Cicada Summer, Lowji Discovers America, and Cassie Was Here.

Anyway, while Jenny Han had me interested in her book the moment I knew that she was writing one — huge Shug fan here — I was especially excited when seeing the title for the first time: The Summer I Turned Pretty.

I felt a particular connection to the story, having spent my childhood years at the New Jersey shore for weeks at a time. I looked forward to those days of digging in the sand, swimming in the ocean, and watching the sunrise. As I turned to teenager, it became less about playing with the shovels and more about walking along the ocean in my bikini.

In Han’s book, Belly measures her life by summers when she stays in a beach house with a family friend. While Belly’s mom and her friend Susannah spend time together, Belly tags along behind her brother and Susannah’s boys. She takes on the role of younger sister to Jeremiah and Conrad, and sometimes it chafes her like the sand in her swimsuit. But this summer is different, because Belly has finally come into her own. She’s grown up now and things are changing.

Going back and forth between the present time and Belly’s previous summers, the book gives a full sense of Belly’s relationships and her growth. The shore setting gives us crab dinners, boardwalk outings, beach parties, and midnight swims. You can practically smell the salt air. Simply a wonderful summer book.

If you’re in the DC area, Jenny Han will be signing books in Northern Virginia. On Saturday, June 13th, she’ll be at Aladdin’s Lamp in Arlington at 2:00 p.m., and on Sunday, June 14th, it’s Hooray for Books in Alexandria, also at 2:00 p.m. I plan to be at the Sunday signing with my daughter and some of her Girl Scout friends.

I mentioned some of my favorite summer books. What other wonderful Young Adult and Middle Grade titles should I add to my collection? (Not to disrespect picture books, which I know have plenty of stories. But I’m looking for the books where you can escape for hours into someone else’s summer days.)


Jennifer said...

Some of my favorite summer books are Jean Little's Look Through My Window, Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Family quartet, and Keith Robertson's Henry Reed series.

Jen Robinson said...

OK, now I'm really going to have to read this one. Thanks for the review.

For summer books, in addition to the ones you've already mentioned, I'd have to add: Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire by Brenda Ferber, Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright, Free Baseball by Sue Corbett, and All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn.

Charlotte said...

Many of Arthur Ransom's Swallows and Amazons books are summer. Many Edward Eagers are summer. A new summer book I like a lot is Any which Wall, by Laurel Snyder.

I'm glad Aladdin's Lamp is still in business--I worry about it, and make a point of going there to buy something every time I'm in Arlington to see my parents...it is so very invisible, storefront-wise (unless they've put up more signs since Christmas...)

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation for the Gone-Away books! I loved them as a wee bookworm--I think it was the idea of discovering a hidden place all to yourself.

Also, in YA territory, Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, Before Wings by Beth Goobie (fatalism, summer camp, and ghosts!), Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer (road trip!), and Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville.

I've had Shift by Jennifer Bradbury recommended to me, and with a pitch like "Two friends go on a cross-country bike trip... but only one comes back!" I think I'm definitely going to have to read it.

Patty Palmer said...

I love summer books too. I'll be sure to pick this one up!

Eli said...

The title of this one really caught my attention. I saw it a few times in the book store and I always thought that it might be good. Thanks for the review--!

jenny han said...

MR, you rock!!! Thanks for such a lovely, lovely review, Pam. I can't wait to see you and your girls on Sunday!!

Saints and Spinners said...

I thought immediately of Elizabeth Enright's Thimble Summer and Then There Were Five-- Enright is making a good showing here! Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge is also a favorite, as is Virginia Hamilton's Justice and Her Brothers. The sequels (Dustland and The Gathering) may also take place in summer as well, but my memory is hazy on that matter.

Tina's Blog said...

These are more adult, or older YA, but I loved Judy Blume's Summer Sisters and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Blau

Cathy said...

One I loved last year is Summerhouse Time by Eileen Spinelli. It's a middle-grade novel in verse and it is so *summer* - I highly recommend it!

Suzanne Casamento said...

I grew up enjoying summers at the Jersey shore too! Loved it.

Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon is a fave of mine and I just read Anne Brashares' The Last Summer of You and Me on a plane. I cried the whole flight. : )

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I'll repeat the recommendations for Gone-Away Lake, Swallows and Amazons (and its sequels, especially Swallowdale), Any Which Wall, and Edward Eager's books.

The Invisible Island, by Dean Marshall, and its first sequel, Dig for a Treasure.

Several of the Trixie Belden books are set in the summer.