The Summer I Turned Pretty Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
Fans of YA author Jenny Han have been chomping at the bit to see more of her novels come to life on-screen after the success of the To All The Boys I Loved Before trilogy on Netflix. They’ll no doubt be pleased with how her latest page-to-screen efforts have panned out, with The Summer I Turned Pretty premiering on Prime Video this week. While it’s not exactly a faithful, word-for-word adaptation of the book, this seven-part TV series is sure to delight Han’s fans as they finally get to see her most popular love triangle play out on-screen.
The Summer I Turned Pretty tells the story of one unforgettable summer in the life of 15-going-on-16-year-old Isabelle “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung). All of her life, she, her mother Laurel Park (Jackie Chung), and older brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) have spent the summer at the beach house of Laurel’s best friend, Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard) — and all of her life, Belly has been in love with Susannah’s oldest son, Conrad (Christopher Briney). Susannah’s other son, Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), has always been the fun one, nearly always smiling and looking to go for a swim or throw Belly in the pool, which he likes to call a “Belly Flop.”
However, during the summer in question, everything has changed. Belly, for one, is perhaps the biggest change. She’s gone through a growth spurt, gotten her braces taken off and traded her glasses for contact lenses. It’s the first time the Fisher brothers have really seen her as a young woman — or, more to the point, a potential love interest. Conrad, who used to spend a lot of time with Belly, is more aloof this summer, turning into the brooding YA love interest the genre is known for, and seemingly would always rather be anywhere else than at the beach house. Jeremiah is still fun and happy-go-lucky, but it becomes clear a few episodes in that he’s taken an interest in Belly, too. And so, the love triangle ensues.
To complicate matters, at a bonfire party soon after Belly and her family arrives, Conrad meets and starts dating Nicole (Summer Madison), a beautiful girl that he seems quite taken with. Belly is upset at first, but then she meets a new love interest of her own, Cameron (David Iacono). When Cam comes over for dinner with Belly, her family, and the Fishers, it becomes clear that both Conrad and Jeremiah are a wee bit jealous, never mind that they both have their own teen exploits — Conrad with Nicole, and Jeremiah with a boy he has a fling with at a party.
One of the big differences from the book is the addition of a debutante ball, which Susannah ever-so-gently nudges Belly to participate in. Susannah clearly thinks of Belly as the daughter she never had, and is living vicariously through her as she prepares for the deb ball, with all the dress-buying, dancing lessons and frivolity that come with it. Through the debutante experience, Belly actually befriends Nicole, as well as a few other debutantes who, it’s safe to say, she never would have hung out with in her life back in Philly. The ball becomes the climax of the series: Who will be Belly’s date? What dress will she wear? What will happen if Nicole finds out Belly has always had a crush on her boyfriend?
There are also a few subplots that give the series more meat, including Steven’s budding relationship with another debutante Shayla (Minnie Mills), who’s clearly a lot wealthier than his family, and mom Laurel getting back into the game with the help of local author Cleveland (Alfredo Narciso). It’s a refreshing change of pace to see an adult romance as part of a decidedly very teenage story, and it works. After all, Laurel deserves some happiness, too, right? There’s also a great sequence where Laurel and Susannah hit the town again and recreate times of their youth, with random hookups, drinks, and dancing. Moms can have fun too, this series shows.
Belly is the star of the show, and Tung sells every moment of it with her luminous performance. The viewer feels drawn to Belly, because yes, this summer she really did turn pretty, but she also has a magnetic screen presence, which you definitely need to tell a story like this one. You’re immediately invested in Belly’s story and want desperately for her to have her happy ending, whatever that may end up looking like. You want to be her friend, and you want her to be with Conrad. Or Cam. Or Jeremiah. The girl’s got plenty of options! She’s also not perfect, either. Like any teenager, she makes plenty of dumb decisions, and sometimes acts more than a smidge selfish. But that’s what Han (who’s also an executive producer and co-wrote the teleplay) always gets right. She knows teenage girls and writes them in such a way that you know them and love them, too. Though at some points, the love triangle — or quadrangle, with Cam included — can feel a bit forced, overall this story works on many levels. You grow to really care about these characters and want to see them happy.
Another thing that works about The Summer I Turned Pretty is the setting, a small beach town called Cousins. In this case, Wrightsville Beach and Fort Fisher, North Carolina, stand in for Cousins, and the show is shot in such a way that you feel like you’re right there on the beach with them, taking in the stunning marsh vista off the back patio of the house, or walking the winding pathway to the Atlantic Ocean. Cousins Beach is a big part of the story, and it would be a disservice to not mention the setting. Although, be warned, you might find yourself craving some Vitamin Sea after watching this series.
Although it’s not specifically mentioned in the novel, there are also glimpses of Laurel’s Korean culture, with a Korean treat on Belly’s sixteenth birthday and a brief bit about how Laurel’s traditional Korean Baptist parents didn’t necessarily approve of Steven being conceived before her marriage to Belly and Steven’s father. A change from the basic straight, white culture is always a good thing when telling any story, teenage or otherwise. It adds a distinctive, refreshing flavor to the story.
Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a fun summertime watch, the TV equivalent of “a beach read.” Though not every moment is light and summery, it is a perfect ode to summer and young love. And, since a second season has already been ordered by Prime Video, don’t worry, because when you’re finished bingeing Season 1, there’s more Belly, Conrad, Jeremiah, Laurel and Susannah to come!