In 2018, Netflix released To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han, a sweet teen rom com that spawned a million more inferior films. Three years later, they closed out the series with the third film, Always and Forever Lara Jean. But not to worry: Prime Video has taken on the mantle and adapted another Jenny Han property: The Summer I Turned Pretty, a wholesome, fluffy romance perfect for summer binging.
Belly Conklin (Lola Tung) has always measured her life in summers. Every year, her family spends the season with her mom’s best friend, Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard), and her two sons, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo), at their beach house in Cousins. Everything exciting happens during summer: movie nights, late-night swims, 4th of July BBQs … and best of all, she gets to be near Conrad, who she’s had a crush on for her entire life, though he’s never really noticed her.
But this summer will be different. This summer, Belly has ditched the braces and huge glasses, and suddenly, boys are starting to notice her. Might her luck with Conrad finally start to change?
While the book focuses on Belly’s point of view, the show expands to follow six different characters and their stories. The show’s finest moments revolved around the two mothers and their friendship. Nothing is purer than watching two women support each other, especially over decades. Belly’s mom (Jackie Chung), who’s recently divorced, struggles to put herself back out there, despite Susannah’s unwavering support. And over the course of the episodes, you start to see that something is seriously wrong with Susannah. Book readers already know—but all will be revealed in the end. It’s rare that a teen show focuses on the adults, but it rounds out the series, making it more complete.
Belly’s brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) also struggles in this adaptation. While he’s largely absent in the book and spends most of his page time torturing Belly, in this version, he has his own love story. But it’s far from perfect—unlike the Fishers and all the other families at Cousins, Belly’s family isn’t rich. When his girlfriend asks him to escort her to the debutante ball, he’s afraid that he can’t afford a tux to match her dress. Instead of being reduced to the jerky older brother, Steven has sweet moments and flaws.
You might have noticed that I have not yet talked about Belly and her infamous love triangle with the two Fisher boys, Jeremiah and Conrad. You are absolutely right! That’s because it is the worst part of the show. Not because of the acting—all three actors feel like real teenagers struggling with their own issues. I fell head over heels for Jeremiah, who is basically a golden retriever. But love triangles are not for me, particularly ones written by Jenny Han. I’m sorry, but all literary geniuses must have a fatal flaw. Two years later, I am still salty that Lara Jean chose Peter in P.S. I Still Love You.
Honestly, I don’t think Conrad is the right choice for Belly, and I am getting tired of teen rom-coms glorifying toxic relationships. He is a grumpy, mopey boy with an alcohol problem, and while I understand that he has his own trauma, it just doesn’t make him good boyfriend material. After the first six promising episodes, I hoped the show would end with a bang, but instead, it ended with a whimper.
Despite that negative ending, I still urge all rom-com lovers to check this show out. It is the perfect vibe to start off your summer right. The gorgeous beach shots will make you want to hop in your car and take a road trip. While the romance might be lacking, the abundance of strong female friendships is guaranteed to warm your heart.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is now streaming on Prime Video. Watch the trailer here.