The Summer I Turned Pretty

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A Reading Group Guide to

The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy

by Jenny HanABOUT THE BOOKS

For Belly, summertime means all her favorite things: swimming, the beach, and the Fisher boys, Conrad and Jeremiah. She has spent summers with the Fisher family at Cousins Beach for as long as she can remember. Belly has always been in love with Conrad, and finally, one fateful summer, it seems like he might have feelings for her, too. But it turns out, so does Jeremiah.

Belly soon realizes she has to choose between the two brothers who love her, and in doing so, will have to break one of their hearts.

Against the backdrop of growing up, changing family dynamics, laughter and loss comes a poignant and relatable trilogy about a girl learning what it means to love.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

1. The Summer I Turned Pretty begins with a short scene prior to the first chapter. How did you interpret it? Why do you think Jenny Han introduces the book this way?

2. We get a great feel for the house at Cousins Beach in the very first chapter. How does Jenny Han use all five senses to describe the novel’s setting? Describe similar examples of writing craft throughout the book.

3. What does “pretty” mean, with respect to the title of the book? How would Belly define “pretty”? How do you define “pretty”? Is there a difference between “pretty” and “beautiful”?

· “She shook her head like she was in awe of me. ‘You’re so pretty, so pretty. You’re going to have an amazing, amazing summer. It’ll be a summer you’ll never forget.”

· “It was the summer I turned pretty.”

· “This was Cam, a real guy who had noticed me even before I was pretty.”

· “‘No.’ Cam ran his hand through his hair. He wouldn’t look at me. ‘It’s because I thought you were really pretty. Like, maybe the prettiest girl I’d ever seen.’”

· “Cam looked perplexed. ‘Why? Your nose is cute. It’s the imperfections that make things beautiful.”

· “He was the first boy to tell me I was beautiful.”

4. The Summer I Turned Pretty is told in the first person from Belly’s perspective, apparently in retrospect. When is the “now” from which she’s narrating? How do you know? How might the story have been different if Jenny Han had written the novel in third person?

5. Chapters alternate between past and present—between significant memories from earlier summers and current experiences. What purpose do these flashbacks serve?

6. In what ways does each person in the house (Jeremiah, Conrad, Susannah, and Laurel) play a particular “role”—in the story, overall, and in Belly’s life? How does the dynamic change when Steven leaves? How might the atmosphere have been different if Mr. Fisher had visited, or even Belly and Steven’s father?

7. “I was getting older too. Things couldn’t stay the same forever.” What do you think Jenny Han is suggesting here? Recall a time in your life when you realized you were growing up, and how that felt.

8. Belly and the boys love playing “Would You Rather.” Borrowing Jeremiah’s example, “Would you rather live one perfect day over and over or live your life with no perfect days but just decent ones?” What do you think? How do these competing scenarios relate to the issues Belly faces? If asked again at the very end of the summer, do you think Belly would stick with her original answer (for just decent days)?

9. What is the turning point in Belly and Conrad’s relationship? Were you surprised by the direction it took?

10. When did you start to think there might be something seriously wrong with Susannah, and/or the family’s situation? What were the signs?

11. Explain Belly’s feelings for Cam over the course of the novel. Did she ever really like him? What stopped her, ultimately, from falling in love with him?

Consider these examples of Belly’s observations about Cam:

· “But there was something about him that seemed safe and comfortable.”

· “He’d probably meet some random homeless guy and become best friends with him, and then he’d tell me the man’s life story the next day. Not that there were any homeless guys on our end of the beach. Not that I’d ever seen a homeless person in Cousins, for that matter. But if there was, Cam would find him.”

· “I ran up to the front door, and I didn’t have to turn around to know that Cam would wait until I was inside before he drove away.”

· “Here I had this really great guy who actually liked me.”

12. What’s the point of including Belly’s childhood friend, Taylor, in The Summer I Turned Pretty? How did Jenny Han use Taylor to help the reader get to know Belly better?

13. “The old pull, the tide drawing me back in. I kept getting caught in this current—first love, I mean. First love kept making me come back to this, to him. He still took my breath away, just being near him. I had been lying to myself the night before, thinking I was free, thinking I had let him go. It didn’t matter what he said or did, I’d never let him go.” Do you identify with Jenny Han’s powerful description of first love? Discuss the difference between crushes and love. How might Belly differentiate the two?

14. Susannah jokes about her cancer. What was the effect of this comedic moment on the characters in the novel? How did it affect you, as a reader?

15. Which of Belly’s three love interests in The Summer I Turned Pretty did you like best—Conrad, Jeremiah, or Cam? Compare and contrast, then come up with a list of qualities for an ideal summer romance!

16. Discuss the ending. What’s happened? What do you think will happen from here?

It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

1. It’s Not Summer Without You opens on a sad note. We learn that Belly and Conrad are not together, and that Susannah has passed away. How were you affected by this beginning? In what way did Jenny Han continue Belly’s story from The Summer I Turned Pretty, and in what way did she introduce a whole new story in the sequel?

2. We see much more of Taylor in It’s Not Summer Without You. How would you characterize Belly’s friendship with Taylor? What role does Taylor play in Belly’s life? Where do you see their friendship going from here—do you imagine them staying friends like Laurel and Susannah or have they already outgrown each other?

· “But for better or worse, Taylor Jewel was a part of me, and I was a part of her.”

· “I knew that Taylor meant well. She thought she was doing me a favor. Giving up her platform sandals for the night was altruistic, for Taylor. But I was still mad.”

· “Taylor was a crappy friend, not me. She was the selfish one. I was so angry, my hand shook when I put on my eyeliner, and I had to rub it off and start all over again. I wore Taylor’s blouse and her shoes and I pulled my hair all to one side too. I did it because I knew it would piss her off.”

· “But those things she said, they hurt. Maybe they were true. But I didn’t know if I could forgive her for saying them.”

3. Unlike in The Summer I Turned Pretty, we’re presented with a point of view other than just Belly’s—several chapters are written from Jeremiah’s perspective. How does this change your experience as a reader? Do you look at characters or situations any differently, hearing Jeremiah’s side? Why do you think Jenny Han chose to show us Jeremiah’s point of view, and not Conrad’s?

4. How do Belly’s experiences in The Summer I Turned Pretty and in It’s Not Summer Without You represent her coming of age? Is Belly a child, or an adult? Can she be both at one time? At what point does she grow up? What factors have accelerated or delayed her entry into adulthood?

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