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The Summer I Turned Pretty review: This coming-of-age story is good in parts

The series is based on the eponymous novel by Jenny Han, who is also the author of To All the Boys I've Loved Before

  • Arya Harikumar

Last Updated: 08.32 AM, Jun 17, 2022

The Summer I Turned Pretty review: This coming-of-age story is good in parts

Story: Belly has had a crush on Conrad Fisher, the older son of her mother’s best friend since she was 10. She spends every summer at their beach house in Cousins Beach. However, this year, things are different as Conrad begins to take notice of Belly. Moreover, his brother, Jeremiah, also expresses his feelings for Belly, leaving her in a fix.

Review: Back in 2018, when Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky graced our screens for the first time, their love story struck a chord with millions of people, young and old, across the globe. The film To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which is based on the eponymous novel by Jenny Han, became an overnight sensation. Two sequels and four years later, another of Han’s novels have been adapted into a series. The expectations were high, but The Summer I Turned Pretty is only partly successful in fulfilling them.

At the centre of this coming-of-age story is Isabel “Belly” Conklin, a teenager who believes all things good happen during the summer months. Summer is also when she visits her mother Laurel’s friend Susannah and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher, at their beach house in Cousins Beach. She has been going there every year since she was a baby. But this time, it feels different. Belly is no longer the little kid with braces and glasses. At 16, she is a smart and pretty lady, who draws the attention of young boys around her, including the Fisher brothers. Now, it is upon her to decide whom she wants to start a relationship with.

The Summer I Turned Pretty, though primarily revolves around first love, heartbreaks, and a love triangle also focuses on female friendships. Laurel and Susannah are best friends and soulmates. It’s an absolute delight to watch these two middle-aged women spend time together, hit the bar, dance their hearts out, and have fun, maybe a little more than their teenage children. In one of the scenes, Laurel says to Belly that guys would come and go but a best friend is for life. This is very true in Laurel and Susannah’s case as they have stuck with each other through thick and thin.

The series’ strength lies in its well-rounded supporting characters, with thoroughly fleshed-out character arcs, be it Susannah or Belly’s brother Steven. All these subplots are weaved together intelligently.

Newcomer Lola Tung brings charm and innocence to the character of Belly. Christopher Briney delivers a convincing performance as the older Fisher brother, Conrad, who keeps his emotions to himself and rarely expresses his true feelings. Gavin Casalegno is apt as the friendly, flirty, and fun-loving Jeremiah. However, on the downside, there is a severe lack of chemistry between the lead actors. Usually, in love triangles, we find ourselves drawn to the characters and rooting for either one of them. It hardly happens in this case.

A few cliched and cringeworthy dialogues further hinder the series from reaching its full potential. Yes, this is a romantic teen drama, and we should be anticipating such dialogues when we sign up to watch it. But lines like “You’re in bloom” cannot be accepted in this day and age. Additionally, Han, who also serves as the creator of the show along with Gabrielle Stanton, has made some modifications to the original story while adapting it into the series. For instance, she has introduced a debutante ball in the narrative, which again is an anachronistic concept. These shortcomings make the series less engaging and unenjoyable.

The Summer I Turned Pretty features an impressive soundtrack, including Taylor Swift’s This Love (Taylor's Version). Apart from Tung, Briney, and Casalegno, the series stars Sean Kaufman (Steven), Rachel Blanchard (Susannah), Jackie Chung (Laurel), Minnie Mills (Shaya), Alfredo Narciso (Cleveland), David Iacono (Cam), and Rain Spencer (Taylor).

Verdict: The Summer I Turned Pretty is not without flaws. If you watch the series expecting a love story and chemistry similar to that of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky, you are in for a major disappointment. But Susannah and Laurel's friendship is worth giving it a watch!