24 Jun

YA Cafe Book Club: The Summer I Turned Pretty

Posted in Reading, Teen Lit, YA Cafe

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature. I’m your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.

Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs. We’ve also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned! Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe.

Today we’re kicking off our new summer book club by discussing The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, a book that really captures summer at the beach.  With romance and friendship, this book takes me back to the summers in high school that I spent at the beach in Florida with friends and family.  And boys.  But there’s so much more to this book than just romance at a beach house.  In fact, you don’t have to look very far to realize that this book is not just any summer beach read; all you have to do is look at the title.

The Summer I turned Pretty.  On the surface this seems like a fairly innocuous, almost superficial title.  It’s a story about a girl who wasn’t pretty before and now, during this particular summer she has become pretty and everything changes.  Or so we think.  The title makes us believe that this book is about one particular summer, but really it’s about a family and family can’t just be contained in one season.  Family spans a lifetime.

It’s in seeing flashbacks to previous summers that we grow to understand why this particular summer is different, unique.  When we get to the end of the book, we realize that nothing in Belly’s life will ever be the same again.  If we didn’t have the context of those other summers, we wouldn’t quite be able to understand why this one in particular is so important.

One thing that surprised me is that the title seems to imply that because she has turned pretty during this particular summer, things will be better.  As we discover in the story, things don’t necessarily become better or worse, they just get… complicated.  The title lulls us into thinking that this will be just a fun summer beach read, but really the book more complex than that.

Which leads me to the question: What makes a good title? Titles are just about the hardest part of the book to write.  While on one hand you want the title to hint at the overall story, you don’t want it to give away too much.  Some titles are so obscure and random, it’s almost as if the author is having a private joke with himself and the reader is left on the outside.  On the other hand, some titles are so long and contain so much information that it’s impossible for readers to remember the title in the first place (which, of course, is problematic if you’re trying to recommend the book to a friend).

Of course there are exceptions.  Some titles are long and convoluted for humor’s sake.  Other titles might seem random at first, but as you read the books they begin to make sense.  What makes a good title and what makes The Summer I Turned Pretty so effective as a title?

1) It’s memorable. It’s easy to remember this title.  If I needed to go to a bookstore or library and ask for this book, I would be able to do so easily.

2) It gives us a hint of what the book is about. As I mentioned above, this title implies that something about this particular summer is different, special.  We go into the book having a general idea of what to expect.

3) It doesn’t give it all away. While we do go into the story expecting a summer romance, what we discover is that there’s so much more to this book than just that.  There’s friendship, family dynamics and loss.  The title gives us a hint but it doesn’t reveal all.

You tell me now: Is The Summer I Turned Pretty an effective title?  What do you think makes a title effective or not?  And most importantly: how do you come up with titles for your work?

Fellow barista, Ghenet shares her thoughts about THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY on her blog: All About Them Words.  Check it out, then tell us what you think!


Comments on this post

  1. Ghenet says:

    I agree that it’s an effective title. It’s catchy and fits the summer romance vibe, but like you said, doesn’t give away the fact that the book is about much more. I thought the titles of all the books in this series are great.

    I find it hard to come up with titles, and it usually takes me a while. I definitely strive to have it fit the criteria you’ve listed here!

    1. Satia says:

      The book finally arrived at my library so I’ll be picking it up today.

      I devoured Tangled in one sitting on Saturday.

      And I have Sweethearts in my “to read” pile.

      I’ll pop back here after I’ve read The Summer I Turned Pretty.

      1. Satia says:

        I do think this was/is a great title and definitely establishes much of the content for the novel (although it is more than just the title implies).

        I’m not sure how I come up with titles for my stories although some seem to come more organically than others. I have at least two WIP that have working titles that, to be honest, are not working for me. I haven’t done enough revision to have found the title for these. Other times it’s as though the story and title just come into being together, like identical twins, and I can’t imagine the one without the other.

        Here is my review.

        As you’ll see, I wasn’t blown away.

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