Jenny Han, known for the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before book series and movies, moves on from Laura Jean’s world to the more mature The Summer I Turned Pretty series. Just like the other series, this page-to-screen adaption is based on three books. They follow Isabel “Belly” Conklin from the summer she turns 16 to when she becomes a young adult. Raised by her mother, Laurel, she lives with her brother. Steven, in suburban Philly.
The real magic in Belly’s life comes each summer, when the three of them travel to Cousins Beach in Massachusetts to spend a few months with Laurel’s friend, the wealthy Susannah Fisher, and her sons, Jeremiah and Conrad. They stay at a summer house and get a taste of another lifestyle. Belly used to just be the little sister, but, as her 16th birthday approaches, she changes. Jeremiah and Conrad do not see her in the same way anymore. She would rather go to parties than stay in with the moms. She ditches her glasses and baggy clothes.Read More »
Why You Should Watch It
- It is nostalgic: If you wish you could go back to lazy summer days of lounging by the pool, having a summer romance and eating the occasional ice cream cone, this show brings you back to that time of feeling youthful and naive.
- The acting is pretty good: With a cast made up of mostly older teens and young adults playing teens, the acting is strong and layered. Many of them attended programs such as Drama at the Professional Performing Arts School or Carnegie Mellon, regarded as the nation’s premiere acting education program.
- Appeals to moms and young adult daughters: Since the series focuses equally on Belly as it does on Laurel and Susannah, the series is appealing to daughters and, quite possibly, their moms.
- It is easy to watch: The pacing makes the show easy to watch. There are not endless bunches of characters to keep track of, plot twists that are difficult to follow or too many heavy story lines to make the series hard to take in.
- Not too long, but not too short, either: With most episodes being about 40 minutes long, they are in-depth enough to take viewers to Belly’s word, but not too long that they cause viewers to fall asleep or lose track of the action.
- Jenny Han serves as a consultant and a producer: Jenny Han knows teens. This show, and her involvement in it, proves that. She makes sure difficult topics are covered with sensitivity and that youthful energy and situations come to life.
Why You Might Want to Look Elsewhere
- It takes a lot of inspiration from TikTok: The clothing and the soundtrack, plus a couple mentions of TikTok dances, has led some viewers to call the series ‘TikTok cringe.’ If you cannot stand to listen to songs that are popular with teens these days (think: A lot of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo), then this might not be a series for you.
- It differs from the books: A lot differs between the series and the books. For starters, plot elements are modernized. Steven has a more prominent role. The love triangle is played out. The teens text and use social media. The moms and teens smoke pot, not cigarettes. It is not a word-for-word adaption.
- Was the debutante story line really needed? One major plot in the Prime series is a debutante ball, a traditional way for girls to enter into society as women. This is not mentioned anywhere in the book, and some viewers are questioning if it was really needed, since these balls are another way for the upper crust of society to show their dominance.
- Representation could be better: In the streaming series, unlike the books, Laurel is Asian, and Belly and Stephen are mixed race. Only one of the boys vying for Belly, ‘Cam Cameron,’ is non-white, and all but two debs are white. On top of that, only one story line touches on race, and it involves Stephen. In 2022, viewers argue, more could be done to make the series feel inclusive of various identities.
- The story line can feel dated: With the debutante ball, the love triangle obsession and the influence on tradition, at times, the series can feel a bit dated. The book came out in 2009, after all. Perhaps all those efforts to modernize the story line were not enough?
- For mature teens and up: While a lot of the story is a young teen growing up, the series portrays teens and adults hooking up, smoking, doing drugs, drinking, sneaking out, lying and more. A couple intense situations involve characters lashing out as well. There are few consequences. For mature teens about 15 or 16 and up, who know what is right and what is wrong, this can be a fun watch, but it is a lot for younger teens and kids. Viewers might feel better that most of the cast is ages 19-24 in real life—not as young as their onscreen counterparts!
Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not to watch The Summer I Turned Pretty, but if you are a mature teen, a young adult or a fan of teen shows, do not sleep on this series! Pretty soon, you will be Team Belly, Team Conrad, Team Jeremiah or Team Cam Cameron. Get ready to experience the magic that only summer can bring.
Know people who love teen dramas? If so, spread the word. Feel free to bookmark or post to your timeline for reference later!
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