The Summer I Turned Pretty was written by Jenny Han as a trilogy which was released from 2009–2011, and it is safe to say that the title hasn’t aged well, considering the protagonist is a 15-16-year-old girl. However, we promise that the problematic nature of the name lasts only a second in the first season. We are not fond of the fact that how something or someone looks can end up affecting their entire story. Similarly, Belly’s story started when her braces and glasses came off, and finally, her childhood crush and a few other potential romantic interests noticed her. But that was just the start. What made the story was everything that followed, from romance to friendships to family and the complications of them being intertwined.
In our opinion, this was never a “coming of age” story. Instead, it was a story about life wrapped around grief. Sure, the first season had a debutante ball and the realization of a long-held crush, yet it was all shaped by the preparation for the grief that was about to come. Season 2 of the series picks up right from there, and the love and heartbreak are generously sprinkled in the story, but again, it is all shaped by the grief brought by the loss of a loved one. When we watched Season 1 a year ago, we were left craving a summer like Belly’s, without the negatives. But watching Season 2 and getting a better understanding of the characters makes us glad that this story is not ours. Sure, it is heartbreaking and, to be honest, entirely believable, yet we don’t want to be in Belly’s shoes because we abhor her choice in boys.
First things first, we had expected Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty to give us a better understanding of Conrad’s character. In Season 1, he was just an elusive crush, and we had to guess a lot about his personality. On the other hand, we had absolutely fallen in love with Jeremiah and the sweetness he brought into people’s lives. It is really sad that he had more chemistry with Belly than she did with Conrad himself, something that makes no sense in the context of the story. Additionally, we were not fond that the love triangle was still active in Season 2. Why was that not a matter of the past?
Despite these questions, it would be wrong to say that anything about this season was silly or inconsequential, and we don’t mean that just because of Susannah’s loss. The complications are very thoughtfully written, and even though you find yourself annoyed at the characters’ behaviors, you understand where they are coming from. It is a case of some very good writing, and that is the fundamental requirement of what makes anything good, which The Summer I Turned Pretty has gotten down perfectly. This is really a far superior season, and even if you haven’t watched Season 1, we would recommend that you just watch Season 2. It works well as a standalone, and you should simply not miss it.
When one talks about someone “coming of age,” they usually mean the time when they get their first taste of adulthood, of the world that exists when they take off their rosy lens. But when you understand that growing up is a lifelong process, you start seeing these very stories differently. The protagonists don’t come of age anymore; they simply learn one of the many lessons in life, and that is what The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 is about.
As for the characters, they are all well-written and wonderfully executed, but it is frustrating how terrible Conrad remains. The lack of chemistry between him and Belly apart, he is your typical, emotionally unavailable bad boy except that he is “sensitive,” so the protagonist must be in love with him. He will annoy you like nothing else can, and we just don’t understand the point of him and Belly not being together in Season 2 after all the grief of Season 1. Why not let the couple be so that the audience finally understands the point of Season 1’s summer? The love triangle can still be active from Jeremiah’s end, with him figuring out how to get over Belly. Additionally, we are not sure how we feel about the boys liking Belly because of how she reminded them of Susannah. It is also weird that Belly was made out to be the villain in a case where Conrad was just as equally bad. This particular piece of the narrative could have been spiced up to make better sense of Belly’s guilt throughout the entire series. It will always remain a thorn in our side that the emotionally well-adjusted boy was not Belly’s first choice.
This love triangle will certainly carry on to the third book’s narrative as well, but we particularly enjoyed watching Steven and Taylor’s story in Season 2. They give us some Bonnie and Jeremy vibes (Vampire Diaries), and we like them. We are aware that we have cribbed about Conrad a lot, but when we think about one of the other characters, Aunt Julia, we remember that this series was never a love story but is about different people’s memories, the perfect and imperfect ones, attached to the beach house in Cousins. It would be a lie if we said that we did not feel bad for Julia, and the lack of understanding she experienced from the person closest to her in her family is especially heart-wrenching. Susannah was a beautiful person who fought hard to stay positive even in her final days, and that is what made her such a memorable person for everyone. However, that very quality is what let down her sister and made her want to leave it all behind.
The second season of Amazon series is based on the second book of Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy, “It’s Not Summer Without You.” We haven’t read the books, but the series has been spectacular. At the end of the day, we are just surprised that there isn’t more hype around it. Regardless, it is a beautiful series, and you shouldn’t miss it at all.