The Summer I Turned Pretty series by Jenny Han
Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series is her first trilogy she published solo, and it is certainly the YA summer beach read you have been looking for: a love triangle, tender lifelong friendships, and family drama—all that will have you laughing and crying on cue.
Belly Conklin has spent every summer in a beach house at Cousins with her mother and brother, Steven, as well as her mom’s bestie, Susannah, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has also always loved Conrad. It has always been him. However, he doesn’t take note of her in a romantic way until much later, when he is away at college and their relationship is distant, like his personality, and their relationship falls away.
Months later, Conrad is missing. Jeremiah reaches out to Belly for help, though she has no idea where to find Conrad. They go to the one place they both know best. When the beach house is threatened, Conrad wants to save it. It’s the only thing he feels he has left. At least, Jeremiah and Belly have each other, and soon, they’re the ones in love.
Every step of the way, the kids have always had the support of their mothers, but with Susannah out of the picture, the fathers in the picture, and Belly’s mom not on her side, everything is complicated and way too overwhelming. Everything had always seemed like too much before, but together, the Conklin’s and the Fisher’s have always powered through. Now that the families are torn apart and relationships are at stake, all seems hopeless.
Jenny Han’s trilogy is cute and beachy and great for relaxation in the summertime. For me, I’ve been piling on the heavy-duty reads, so this has been a breath of fresh air. It was nice to not have too much emotional turmoil but still have an investment in each of the characters by the end of the first book. However, I do wish there was more between Belly and her best friend from home, Taylor, since there are scenes with Taylor and Belly does go back home and spends time away from Cousins. I’m still not sure why they’re even friends. The central characters are so well-developed and likable while still being flawed, which pushes the story forward and makes you focus on the two families in this coming-of-age series.
While each book can stand alone, the series as a whole covers the entirety of the love triangle and the family’s dramatic twists and turns, especially the relationships between Belly and her mother, which is really relatable. The plot in each book is different. The first focuses on the two families and one summer in particular. It shows the dynamic between these families and how they have grown up together, so there’s that tropey romance of “that boy you’ve known since you were in diapers, but now you’re both all grown up”. The second book is the twist. NO SPOILERS! Well, minimal spoilers: there’s a love triangle, and here is where the plot begins to shift more toward romance and away from the other aspects the first book also had. In the third book, those other aspects come back in regards to Belly’s romance, as does the love triangle in full force. While the characters themselves and the plot itself wasn’t very YA, the emotions definitely were, and the book still very much read like YA. Teens can still relate to Belly and the other characters just as much as they did in the first two books.
Overall, I thought this was a nice step outside my usual reads. It was a comfort and fast flip, and frankly, it was kind of nice to not feel so strongly for fictional characters for once. So if you are a fan of Jenny Han or a fan of sentimental or easy yet substantial and meaningful reads, I highly recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty series and also check out Jenny Han’s other trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Find The Summer I Turned Pretty series here.