I loved Jenny Han's first book, SHUG, so I approached THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY with some preconceptions. This would be a quiet book about a girl blossoming into a young woman with some obstacles hurtling in her path along the way. Summer has always been about rhythms: the rhythms of the waves at the beach house, the rhythm of the two families who share these summers, and the internal rhythms that drive Belly and Jeremiah and Conrad. Summers mean changes, too, and for Belly the biggest change is how she is perceived by Jeremiah and Conrad, the sons of their hostess, Susannah. Belly learns some tough lessons, ones that most teens will certainly recognize as familiar territory. The book is quiet and understated: no big confrontations or screaming scenes, just a lovely pastiche of everyday episodes that are pieced together more with the passing of time and the gaining of experience.
The resident of the back bedroom and her sisters will appreciate Andrea Cheng's BRUSHING MOM'S HAIR, a novel in verse about a teen whose mother is undergoing chemo following a double mastectomy. So much of it rings true even for me as an adult who dealt with my daughter's breast cancer. The short poems reveal the tiny stings and surprises that make you catch your breath and remember what it is like to live with the fear of losing someone you love, to live holding your breath sometimes. The word QUIET seems to connect these two books. This undercurrent of calm and quiet is deceiving given the themes and subjects of these books. However, in the capable hands of Cheng and Han that is exactly what is accomplished.