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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ season two: Bringing baggage to Cousins Beach

Trey Paine | The Observer
Trey Paine | The Observer

Sixteen-year-old Isabel “Belly” Conklin has been taking some serious losses. 

Her grades are slipping. She is no longer the captain of her high school volleyball team. Her best friend Jeremiah isn’t speaking to her. Her boyfriend Conrad dumped her at prom. Worst of all, her mom’s best friend Susannah — a woman she considers to be like her own mother — has tragically died of cancer and Belly accidentally made a scene at the funeral.

Season two of Amazon Prime Video’s popular teenage romantic drama TV series “The Summer I Turned Pretty” starts with baggage — and lots of it. So, when my cousins convinced me to watch it, without seeing the first season or reading the books it was based on, I had apparently missed a lot. 

To catch you up to speed: Belly and her family have been vacationing at Susannah’s house at Cousins Beach for her entire life. She’s grown up with Susannah’s sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. She’s been in love with brooding older brother Conrad since she was ten. She’s been best friends with happy-go-lucky younger brother Jeremiah for even longer. After she hits puberty and (get this) turns pretty, both brothers are suddenly romantically interested in her. Belly, only sixteen and shocked by all the attention, doesn’t know what to do with herself. You can imagine the rest. 

This season, after learning that Susannah’s beloved beach house is up for sale, Belly decides to band together with Conrad and Jeremiah to save the summer and all the memories of the summers that came before. In the process, hopefully, she will earn their forgiveness and bury all the baggage from this difficult year. 

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is not a masterpiece by any means. 

None of the main characters are super likable, given they are bratty teenagers. They are not only incredibly blind to the privilege of their problems but treat them like life-or-death situations. Seriously, Conrad, it totally sucks that your dad won’t let you use your trust fund to buy your mom’s summer house, but you drive a Range Rover and go to Brown. Like, count your blessings, son. 

The acting is stilted and forced. Lola Tung (Belly), Christopher Briney (Conrad) and Gavin Casalegno (Jeremiah) give the audience nothing: underwhelming performances, forcing melodramatic tears and anger. Conrad sings at his mother’s funeral — and breaks down — in episode 3 “Love Sick” and it’s laughably bad, not emotional. 

Some of the show is a flat-out complete waste of time, especially episode 4 “Love Game,” which is just footage of the cast playing boardwalk games. Skip!

Even the soundtrack’s stacked playlist which includes Tyler, the Creator, Blink-182, The Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers, Fleetwood Mac and more, isn’t enough to save it from periodically jarring and thoughtless needle-drops throughout the series. 

Despite the underwhelming performances, the obnoxious wardrobe exclusively from American Eagle and Urban Outfitters, the overuse (sorry!) of Taylor Swift in the soundtrack and the unnecessarily manufactured drama in the plot, I ate this show up. 

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” was a phenomenon over the summer because, at the heart of it, is a teenage girl — a teenage girl who cries to Olivia Rodrigo in the car (who hasn’t?), who sleeps with a silly stuffed polar bear, who doesn’t yet know how to navigate life with grace, who just wants to hang out at the boardwalk with her favorite people in the whole wide world and suddenly can’t anymore. 

Belly is a just teenage girl grappling with what it means to grow up. She’s haunted by her mistakes. But even with all of this baggage, she finds out that the people who love her are still determined to stay in her life. And maybe it doesn’t really feel like forgiveness, but it does feel a bit like redemption.


Title: “The Summer I Turned Pretty” season two

Starring: Lola Tung, Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalegno

Best Episode: “Love Affair”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

If you like: “The Kissing Booth”

Shamrocks: 2.5 out of 5