The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty

2022 - United States

“As a coming-of-age story, the importance of characters can’t be overstated”

Review by Jennifer AJ

Romance heads to the beach in this tranquil adaptation of Jenny Han’s trilogy of young adult novels. Set against the backdrop of a serene coastal town, a young girl experiences the blush of first love and all its complications during one fateful summer vacation. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung), an almost 16-year-old girl who just experienced a growth spurt and “turned pretty”, as the title suggests. Every year, she and her family spend summer at the beach home of the Fishers, their family friends. But this year’s vacation feels different: Belly’s parents recently got divorced while Conrad (Christopher Briney) – The Fishers’ eldest child and Belly’s eternal crush – has been acting so distant out of the blue. In that unforgettable summer, Belly’s whole life will never be the same again. 

Coming from the minds behind the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, you can expect a similar kind of sentimental adolescence fantasy that has come to define Han’s brand. Unlike TATBILB’s peppier tone, TSITP feels a little like its more melancholic sister. It’s more contemplative in tone, soundtracked to the poetry of Taylor Swift’s emotional pop beats. As usual, there’s the requisite teenage angst to spice things up. Yes, there is a love triangle – or quadrangle more like – that our intrepid protagonist must deal with. Also, there’s a whole lot of growing pains for these beautiful young people, even as they spend lazy summer days frolicking in pretty sundresses and bathing suits.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The beach settings, with its quaint seaside town and stunning summer houses, give the series a dream-like quality. You can almost feel Cousins Beach’s breeze in your face as every scene unfolds with a hazy, slow-paced idyll thanks to its cinematography and direction. The endless parties – beach parties, house parties, dinner parties, Fourth of July fireworks, debutante ball – frame every episode, portraying a decadent Hampton-esque summer straight out of oil paintings. When it comes to nailing that summery vibe, this one gets it down pat.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

As a coming-of-age story, the importance of characters can’t be overstated. The dynamics at the heart of this series is the close bond between The Conklins and The Fishers, forged by the lifelong friendships between the two’s matriarchs, Laurel and Susannah. The series makes it clear how the two family units totally synergize, generation to generation. Parental storyline in a teen show usually detracts from the main event that everyone tunes in for, but this show actually blends it with the right dose. As for the kids, Tung leads the young cast with just the right amount of warmth and playfulness of a girl navigating a confusing new chapter in her life. As for the two Fisher brothers vying for her attention, one brother impresses more than the other (I shan’t tell which) although they both ably fit their roles: complicated dreamboats with hearts of gold.

The 7-episode first season is an escapist teenage dream full of giddy romance, vacation fantasy, and Pinterest-worthy visuals. Season 2 sets sail in July. You can catch TSITP on Amazon Prime.

Published on June 30th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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