Here’s Why We (And The Rest of The Internet) Are Loving “The Summer I Turned Pretty”

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is the latest addition to the rom-com renaissance, and it’s everything you could possibly want in a summer show.

By Meghan Dillon4 min read
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Amazon Prime/The Summer I Turned Pretty (2023)

Amazon Prime Video’s The Summer I Turned Pretty was a massive hit last summer, so it only makes sense that the second season of the show is generating just as much buzz. It’s so much more than a rom-com, as the show features more than a love triangle – it also depicts a nuanced look at friendship, adolescence, and grief. 

Based on the young adult book series by bestselling author Jenny Han, The Summer I Turned Pretty tells the story of a teenage girl in a love triangle with two brothers. Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung) spends every summer at a family friend’s beach house in Massachusetts alongside her mom Laurel (Jackie Chung), her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman), her mom’s best friend Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), and her mom’s best friend’s sons, Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) and Conrad (Christopher Briney). Jeremiah and Conrad have always viewed Belly as a younger sister, but that all changes the summer that she turns 16.

Major spoilers for the first season and minor spoilers for the second season are ahead.

Summing Up Both Seasons of The Summer I Turned Pretty

In the first season of The Summer I Turned Pretty (TSITP), Belly arrives at the beach house to discover that both boys see her differently now that she’s growing up. She’s always had a crush on the brooding and mysterious Conrad, but the friendly and outgoing Jeremiah is more open about his interest in Belly. It’s clear that Conrad cares for her, but it’s also clear that something is bothering him, which dampers his mood throughout the summer. 

Jeremiah and Belly kiss before he offers to be her escort to the debutante ball, but he disappears when the first dance is about to start, and Conrad comes in to save the day. It’s revealed that Jeremiah missed the first dance because he found out that his mother, Susannah, has been secretly battling cancer all summer. The two brothers break out into a fight when Conrad admits that he’d known their mother was sick for months, but they reconcile when they realize that the only way to get through it is together. The season ends with Belly and Conrad sharing a kiss on the beach.

At the start of the second season, it’s revealed that Susannah has passed away from cancer, and neither Belly nor Steven has been in contact with Conrad or Jeremiah since. Through flashbacks, we learn that Jeremiah was heartbroken when he realized that Belly and Conrad not only kissed but want to pursue a relationship. Belly and Conrad decide to hold off on starting a relationship initially, but start dating in the fall. We watch their relationship progress, only for it to strain when Susannah’s illness gets progressively worse, ending with the two breaking up at prom. Susannah dies a few weeks later, and Belly makes a scene when she sees Conrad being comforted by his ex-girlfriend. Their fight at the funeral is the catalyst for communication to stop, but Jeremiah reaches out to Belly a few weeks later to tell her that Conrad is missing.

Belly and Jeremiah are relieved to discover that Conrad is at the beach house but devastated to learn that their aunt wants to sell it. Steven and Belly’s best friend, Taylor (Rain Spencer), then arrive at the beach house, and the five team up to find a way to stop the sale. As everyone gets close, the love triangle between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah reignites, threatening to destroy their relationships all over again.

Summertime, Teen Love, and Drama

TSITP has been all over social media, and fans are loving it. If you search the hashtags #thesummeriturnedpretty, #teamconrad, or #teamjeremiah on TikTok, you’ll find endless hours of content, from commentary to fan edits. You might think it’s just another silly show about teenagers, but it’s so much more than that. Although admittedly cringe-worthy at times, it will make you laugh, cry, and reminisce about your first love, first heartbreak, and teenage years. 

While the book series came out in the early 2010s, the show takes place in the 2020s. Despite being a modern show, there’s something nostalgic about TSITP. Teenage audiences may not feel this way, but older Gen Z and millennial audiences love it for capturing the freedom and adventure that came along with high school summers. As adults, summer is just another season that happens to be warmer, but it’s still our favorite due to how much we loved it as kids. There was nothing like trying to fit in as much as possible in the three summer months to celebrate your freedom away from school. That sense of fun and freedom is present in TSITP, alongside romance and the complexities of adolescence, which brings out classic rom-com tropes. 

The love triangle at the center of TSITP is not only the heart of the show but is the perfect reminder of why audiences love the trope. It creates drama that allows viewers to choose a team to root for as the plot unravels. Similar to the Twilight franchise, fans are picking sides by choosing Team Conrad or Team Jeremiah. Ironically, the show also echoes another love triangle trope from the teen vampire hit, The Vampire Diaries (TVD), by showing a love triangle between two brothers and one girl. Some TikTok users have pointed out the similarities in the characters from TSITP and TVD, mainly that Jeremiah is similar to Stefan and Conrad is similar to Damon. If you’re not a big rom-com fan but loved Twilight and TVD, then you’re going to love TSITP.

The Summer I Turned Pretty Highlights the Lifelong Importance of Female Friendships

While the popular reasons to love TSITP should be enough for you to want to binge it ASAP, there are plenty of aspects of the show that social media doesn’t cover as much as it should – one of which is the importance of female friendships. We see plenty of this with Belly and Taylor’s friendship, but this theme is explored on a deeper level with Belly’s mom, Laurel, and her best friend, Susannah.

Laurel and Susanah have been best friends since college and have stayed close throughout adulthood. It was Susannah’s idea for Laurel and her kids to spend each summer at her beach house with her kids. While we don’t get to see how their friendship developed, we learn how they met through the stories they tell and discover that Laurel was there for Susannah when she had her first bout of cancer, and Susannah was there for Laurel during her divorce. Throughout all of their struggles in life, their friendship has been a constant, and they provide love, support, and stability in each other’s lives. When Susannah finds out she’s sick for the second time, she leans on Laurel to look out for her sons, not only as her cancer progresses but also when she passes away.

When Susannah passes away at the beginning of the second season, Laurel struggles with her grief while she’s busy making sure that everyone around her is okay. She and Susannah have been through so much together that not only can she not imagine life without her, but she doesn’t know who she is without her. This displays both the complexities of grief and the importance of female friendship by illustrating how difficult it is to lose your best friend. Both women were there for each other for over two decades of friendship and pushed each other to be their best selves. Their friendship shows that love comes in many forms, and it’s always tragic when you lose someone you love deeply. The show not only does a beautiful job of portraying female friendships but will make you appreciate yours even more once you realize that tomorrow is never promised.

Closing Thoughts

The Summer I Turned Pretty explores the complexities of first love, friendship, adolescence, and grief through the compelling story of a teenage love triangle. At surface level, it appears to be a standard cheesy rom-com, but once you dive a little bit deeper, you'll find that it has plenty of heart.

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