8 of 10: This Sarah Dessen-esqe book was the perfect August weekend read. The Summer I Turned Pretty has nice writing, good story, and some unexpected plot twists.
I had heard little whispers about this book, but none that really made me request the book until I read a review of it at Bookends, the blog for BookList written by two middle school librarians. And their review had me requesting the book immediately. As they said, it really is the perfect beach book.
Before I go any further, let's all be clear on one point. I love Sarah Dessen. You know this. And this book reminded me quite a lot of her books, so it's no suprise that I enjoyed every second of this page.
Belly (I know, horrible name. . .move on) has been going to the beach for the summer every year for her entire life with her mom and her older brother. They always stay with her mom's closest friend, Susannah, and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. It's the highlight of her life, of course, goofing around with the boys, playing cards, eating hamburgers, swimming, and just generally having a perfect summer, year after year.
Of course, she's had a crush on Conrad forever - he's handsome and smart and reserved, but she's closer friends with Jeremiah, the younger brother who is funny and more accepting of her presence among the boys.
The story does a few chapters in the present - the summer Belly is turning sixteen - and then will do a chapter about an earlier summer, filling in the gaps about her relationships with the various friends and family, the events of previous summers, and other details that really flesh the story and characters out.
Everything about this book felt so real to me. The way Belly has felt left out of most events because she's the youngest AND the only girl. The sudden change this summer as other boys at the beach start to notice her that summer and how she starts to recognize (and revel) in that power. When she finally gets up the nerve to tell someone how she feels and then suddenly she can't stop letting it pour out (I have so been there).
I also liked it that, unlike Sarah Dessen's books, I had no idea who she might end up with. Would it be one of the brothers? One of the guys at the beach? Someone entirely different? No one at all? I honestly was not sure up until the last page. And I liked that.
It particularly thrilled me to discover that there is another book about these characters coming ou in the spring. I will be right there waiting for it. Hopefully I'll have a beach vacation to take it on. Or, I'll read it as I freeze to death under a blanket in Boston. Frankly, I won't even care.