‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ wows audiences

TSITP’s second season shares remarkable similarities with the book with many unique, fun twists.


Belly and Jeremiah return to Cousins Beach for another summer filled with romance for the second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” (Erika Doss / Prime Video)

Season two of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” has officially come to an end, with the season finale airing Friday on Amazon Prime Video. This coming-of-age romance series focuses on Belly (Lola Tung) and her summers at Cousins Beach with her family and the Fisher family, including brothers Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). The series is based on Jenny Han’s trilogy, “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” “It’s Not Summer Without You” and “We’ll Always Have Summer,” which came out from 2009 to 2011. 

While season one focuses on the love triangle between Belly and the Fisher brothers, season two becomes more serious. Conrad and Jeremiah’s mom, Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), discovers her cancer is back. Susannah was essentially the anchor for both families, so when she passes, the combined feelings of grief and the kids’ actions from the summer before lead the two families’ close bond to fall apart. 

This season focuses on Belly’s love life while she tries to decide whether she should be with Conrad or Jeremiah, after so many bad moments with each of them during the past year. Considering the book outlines the same major themes discussed in the show, the seriousness the series takes was exceptionally well done. It should also be commended that the show normalizes mental health issues Conrad faces, removing the stigma from mental health and its effects on people without using it as an excuse for various behaviors like his lack of communication and inability to show/share his emotions. 

The series does the books justice in conveying the major concepts Han originally envisioned when she penned them. Still, it does feature a variety of differences. 

A significant one is that Steven (Sean Kaufman), Belly’s brother, and Taylor (Rain Spencer), Belly’s best friend, are severely understated in the books, not taking prominent roles, unlike in the television series, where viewers are privy to the interworking of their love journey; after all, Steven is Taylor’s first love, like Conrad is for Belly. Additionally, neither aunt Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) nor Skye (Elsie Fisher) are characters in the books. In the book series, Adam (Tom Everett Scott), the boys’ father, is the one who puts the beach house for sale, while in the TV show, the boys’ aunt Julia decides to sell the home. 

These differences allow for a more enhanced understanding and depth that readers don’t get just reading the books. Adding two new characters keeps Adam’s character in the same, almost irrelevant spot that Conrad puts him in while keeping the integrity of the story. Viewers also fall in love with Skye’s character, who added various quips that lightened the show and became the new potential love interest of Cam Cameron (David Iacono), who deserves a happy ending.

Book readers also can enjoy details in the series that stayed true to the books, most importantly the iconic infinity necklace that Conrad gifted Belly. Also, the show thankfully includes the memorable scene of Susannah’s handwritten letters that play a massive part in the third book, “We’ll Always Have Summer.”

In the first episode of season two, Conrad says to Belly, “I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t make me feel electric either.” Even though the chilling scene was in the book, seeing it in live action was still incredibly shocking. Their relationship is imperfect, but Conrad had been there the whole time. In season one, when viewers are shown flashbacks of Belly and Conrad when they were younger, they usually consisted of Conrad being patient and kind toward Belly, teaching her how to shag — a dance — and even in the second season, when Conrad and Belly are on the phone, Conrad is teaching her about a math concept. 

Season two has various little moments that highlight the spark being alive between them, which allows the viewer to remember the words echoed by Conrad in season one: “Whatever happens, we will be infinite.” Seeing the little moments outlined throughout the book on a screen made them that much more butterfly-inducing and made it the perfect romance series to binge. An iconic moment pivotal to Belly and Conrad’s  relationship happens in episode six, when they throw their final blowout after the Cousins’ house is sold as a remembrance and ode to Susannah. 

Ultimately, the relationship that Conrad and Belly have worked years to create and fight for is a far more substantial one than the makeshift ruse disguised as a romance Jeremiah and Belly seem to have after five days, while Belly screamed that she was out of her mind in love with Conrad to Steven at the party in episode one. 

Overall, the show is absolutely perfect, with an incredibly impressive soundtrack that can turn anyone into a Taylor Swift fan. Interestingly, in many interviews, Han has said that while writing the series, she listened to Swift’s album “Fearless” and almost dedicated her second book to Swift.  

The cinematography is also spectacular — every scene was carefully created and had a lot of subtle moments found in the books. While the show can certainly be watched without reading the books, the series is certainly sweeter once someone has read the series. 

For the people that have just watched the TV series, stay attached to these relationships — there will always be the following summer at the Cousins.’ Belly and Conrad are endgame, and they will always have summer.

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