The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

48° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


“The Summer I Turned Pretty” brings a fresh love triangle for a new generation of fans

The official show poster for “The Summer I Turned Pretty” season two. The second season premiered on July 14. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Contains spoilers for “The Summer I Turned Pretty” season two (2023). 

The second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” on Amazon Prime Video brings yet another cruel summer to Cousins Beach, continuing the teen romance drama with a touch of melancholy.

Premiering on June 27, 2022, the series surged to the No. 1 spot during its premiere weekend. Meanwhile, Jenny Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” book series, published from 2009 to 2011, skyrocketed to the top three spots on the Amazon Best Sellers list, with the second book, “It’s Not Summer Without You,” at No. 1.

Season two premiered its first three episodes on July 14, followed by the remaining five episodes released weekly until Aug. 18, with the series doubling its viewership from the first season’s opening weekend. 

Based on the first book, the show’s first season focused on Isabel — better known as “Belly” — played by Lola Tung, who has spent every summer in Cousins Beach with her family. These yearly escapades include her mother’s best friend Susannah, played by Rachel Blanchard, and Susannah’s two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah, played by Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalegno, respectively. The culmination of season one marked a pivotal juncture in Belly’s life. Having shared a kiss with Jeremiah, her emotional ties with the brothers became more complex as she began dating her childhood crush, Conrad. The season’s conclusion not only left Belly at the crossroads of her emotions but also resonated with the audience, echoing the intricacies of youthful emotions.

Season two takes place a year after the first season and yet again, Belly returns to Cousins Beach. But this time, the once lighthearted vacation spirit is now replaced by the sense of grief caused by the death of Susannah. However, the pain doesn’t take away from the allure of romance. Conrad, Jeremiah and Belly’s older brother Steven, played by Sean Kaufman, also grapple with personal heartbreak, navigate transitional periods in their lives and cope with the profound absence of Susannah.

With the book series “The Summer I Turned Pretty” increasing in popularity due to the success of the television adaptation, the subtle but noteworthy changes are palpable to those who read the books. Specifically, Belly, described as white in the books, was re-written as an Asian-American protagonist for the show. As a result, Belly’s mother — who was named Laurel Dunne in the books — became Laurel Park, played by Jackie Chung.

Given that season two unfolds over about a week, the weekly episodes come across as counterintuitive at times due to the weakened plot and rushed climactic moments in the storylines. Nevertheless, a notable component of the series is the incorporation of music, particularly that of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. While the first season featured five Taylor Swift songs, the second season included nine Swift songs, such as “Last Kiss (Taylor’s Version),” “invisible string” and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky.”

“The characters have experienced a lot of growth and a lot of change since we last saw them. That’s a really hard thing for all of them to deal with, and they’re sort of on their own at the beginning,” Tung said in an interview with The New York Times. “Season one was so much about these characters growing together and having each other to lean on. Season two is a lot about individual growth and how to take initiative, especially for Belly.”

Certain scenes stayed faithful to the book, including wintertime in Cousins Beach, the heartbreaking prom, the funeral scene, and the fight between Belly and Conrad on the beach. However, fans are grappling with some major divergences from the book, such as Aunt Julia — Conrad and Jeremiah’s aunt and Susannah’s half-sister—Belly losing her virginity to Conrad and Steven and Taylor’s romantic relationship. 

Although the season diverges from the book, the essence of the iconic plot remains the same. While the introduction of Steven and Taylor’s relationship is well developed throughout the season, Belly losing her virginity to Conrad throws favoritism into her struggle to choose one of the boys. This change is not only an issue for Belly but also influences the boys’ relationship in the future. Conrad and Jeremiah have yet not fully grappled with the loss of Susannah and instead spend much of the season fixating on which of them should be in a relationship with Belly. Due to these changes, Belly and Conrad’s fireplace scene where Belly loses her virginity to Conrad heavily favors him in the “ship war.” In well-executed love triangle romance stories, a ship war emerges and divides the audience into two factions passionately supporting different potential couples. Viewers of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” are split between “team Conrad” and “team Jeremiah.” 

In the show, Belly is less consistent with her feelings for the boys compared to the books. Rather than staying with one brother for long periods of time, she seems to jump between Conrad and Jeremiah several times. After having parted ways with each boy, Belly expects them to continue to express their love for her. Despite experiencing a flood of dark emotions after Susannah’s death, Belly fails to portray the growth and maturity that was supposed to be the basis of her character development this season.

In keeping with the trajectory of the second book, Belly follows Jeremiah to Cousins Beach after Conrad disappears in the hope of saving Susannah’s beach house from being sold. However the person selling the beach house deviated to Aunt Julia from the boys’ father. This change in the storyline has left book readers feeling dissatisfied since it undermines Susannah’s character, as she would have had a well-developed plan to give the house to the boys after her passing. However, the notable romance plot keeps the audience engaged. 

While Belly ultimately ends up with Jeremiah in both the second season and the second book, uncertainty remains over who the endgame couple will be. The underwhelming season finale failed to deliver the expected dramatic tension that the book provides, especially between Belly and Conrad. It’s no secret that Young Adult (YA) audiences have obsessed over love triangles before, and this whirlwind romance is no exception. “The Summer I Turned Pretty” brings a fresh love triangle for a brand new generation of fans.

Amid the 2023 Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strike, the series was renewed for a third season on Amazon Prime Video, with more excitement of first love and first heartbreak to come after concluding strike negotiations. Like so many teen dramas that came before, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is filled with romance, drama and heartbreak that even book fans cannot resist.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *