The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1)
Puffin, 2010 (2009)
Every year Isabel spends a perfect summer at her family friends' house.
There's the swimming pool at night, the private stretch of beach - and the two boys.
Conrad: unavailable, aloof - who she's been in love with forever.
Jeremiah: friendly, relaxed - the only one who's ever really paid her any attention.
But this year something is different. They seem to have noticed her for the first time. It's going to be an amazing summer... and one she'll never forget.
From the moment everyone seems to suddenly "notice" Belly because *gasp!* she got contacts, I had a horrible feeling this was going to be one of those Sweet Dreams-style makeover affairs, where the girl takes off her glasses and her scruffy trainers and the boys all realised she's the girl of their dreams. Fortunately, that did not actually happen here.
I read this book in the space of two or three hours. The fifteen year old that secretly lives inside me wished this book had existed when the outside me was also fifteen, and could read endless books about ordinary girls who just need a bit of confidence in themselves. Twenty six year old me (who still has yet to swap the glasses for contacts) felt more melancholy, particularly as the book approaches its end. The book is about new beginnings, but more than that it seemed to me to be about endings - the end of summer, the end of being a kid, and the fact that some of that stuff can't be taken back.
For the most part, though, it's a lighthearted and fun book. Belly is at the beach for the summer with her brother, her mum, her mum's best friend Susannah and Susannah's two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly is desperate for Conrad to notice her, but there are other boys noticing Belly, and plenty of mixed signals and whatnot floating around. I will own up now to being disappointed by the coupling at the end, though!
Belly is a little bit whiny and a little bit self-centred, and while that's kind of annoying, it also seemed to be a pretty accurate depiction of a fifteen year old, particularly one who feels so left out of the boys' games. The relationships she had with her brother and her mother were also well-drawn - not horrible, not perfect, but somewhere in between. There is nothing earth-shattering about the plot of TSITP; rather, it's a gentle and realistic coming of age tale that made for an enjoyable afternoon read.
Overall rating: 7/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.
I have to say, I much prefer the US (?) cover of the book to this one, which is the UK paperback edition.