I’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.)