The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han is a pretty okay series.
The Summer Trilogy follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin as she spends her summer at Cousins Beach with her mother, brother, and the family of her mother’s best friend. Summer isn’t just for the beach, but reconnecting with the two boys in the other family, Conrad and Jeremiah. However, this summer is different and Belly finds herself caught in a love triangle between Conrad and Jeremiah. Although Belly always loved Conrad, he never really reciprocated her feelings. On the other hand, Jeremiah likes Belly, but she never noticed him due to her longtime crush on Conrad.
I remember this series was incredibly popular when it was first released, but I never read any of the books. After reading Jenny Han’s other young adult contemporary series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and other some of her other works, I was really excited to pick up this series. Even though this series didn’t meet all of my expectations, I enjoyed it as a whole and think it is a great series to read during the summertime.
When I looked at this series as a whole, I would definitely say it gets better as you go along. The first book, while cute and fun, is slightly predictable and I didn’t get to know the characters as much as I would have liked. Fortunately, the series continues until Belly goes to college, so we see each character grow and gain more depth. Without giving away any spoilers, there are definitely major shake-ups in this series which force each character to mature in many different ways.
As for the characters, I have mixed feelings, especially towards the main character. Belly isn’t a very dynamic character, however she is a very authentic teenage character. Since the books are written in a very matter-of-fact way, Belly basically tells us what happens without much feeling, and it’s very difficult to get to know her as a character. The way Belly flops between love interests and how she fails to pick up on extremely obvious clues may irritate some readers, but it is also very true to her age. While Belly isn’t a very dynamic character, I think many teenage readers will identify with her and how she deals with family, friend, and romantic relationships throughout the book.
I also have mixed feelings towards the love interests. Compared to Belly, I think Conrad and Jeremiah are characterized much better and are also given much more depth. I really looked forward to reading chapters from their perspective, even though they mostly centered around their feelings towards Belly, when they popped up in the books later in the series. However, I never found myself completely invested in either love interest in the series. It’s pretty clear who will emerge victorious in the love triangle, but I felt like we never really got to see many great moments between Belly and the winner until the very end of the series.
While I gave each book in this series a different rating (three, four, and five stars), I give the series as a whole around three stars. While I really enjoyed reading these books (I read each book in one sitting), they don’t rank as my favorite contemporary series or my favorite books by Jenny Han. I think I needed some extra emotion in the writing or a greater connection to the characters to rate this story higher. However, I do recommend this series to anyone looking for an easy-to-read summer series.