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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Why ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Season 2 Is Better Than Season 1

The Big Picture

  • The absence of parents in Season 2 of
    The Summer I Turned Pretty
    has created a more somber tone as the kids grapple with loss and change.
  • The group of teens present a united front, seeking out opportunities to live their last summer in Cousins to the fullest and demonstrating emotional intelligence.
  • Despite their efforts to avoid unpleasantness, Belly realizes she can’t carry everyone’s problems and relationships on her shoulders, leading to a breaking point and the need for help.

There’s a reason why The Summer I Turned Pretty is such a smashing success among young audiences; it encapsulates all the wonderment and fear of growing up and superimposes it onto a sparking seaside backdrop. Season 1 of the series beautifully captures the rollercoaster ride of falling in love for the first time, and balances fantastical expectations with reality. While Belly (Lola Tung), Conrad (Christopher Briney), and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) are figuring out all of these things for the first time, their moms are not only there to guide them and pick up the pieces of their broken hearts, but are continuing to chase feelings of love and lust on their own.

During the first season, having Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) and Laurel (Jackie Chung) along for the ride helped to level out the antics of their kids and make the series feel more grounded. However, the absence of parents gives The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 an entirely different tone. As the teens grapple with extreme loss and change, the lack of that strong, supportive, loving presence is palpable. Early in Season 2, this gave way to a lot of opportunities for the kids to be fun and mischievous, but as the season went on, it became clear that no amount of frivolous distractions could keep their problems at bay.

The Summer I Turned Pretty Poster

The Summer I Turned Pretty

A love triangle between one girl and two brothers. A story about first love, first heartbreak, and the magic of that one perfect summer.

Release Date
July 17, 2022

Lola Tung , Christopher Briney , Jackie Chung , Rachel Blanchard


Jenny Han

Belly’s Worlds Collide in Season 2 of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’

In Season 1 of The Summer I Turned Pretty, as Belly packed up and headed out the door for Cousins Beach, she couldn’t wait to leave everyone and everything behind, so she could focus on her vacation lifestyle without having the baggage of life back home weighing her down. Though she was sad to leave her best friend Taylor (Rain Spencer), she was more than happy to use that time and space to make new friends or spend quality time with her family and the Fishers. When Taylor came up to visit for one brief weekend, she brought a lot of tension and drama when she hooked up with Belly’s brother, Steven, (Sean Kaufman), and it seemed like Belly wasn’t all too keen to mix her worlds after that. Cousins Beach was an impenetrable fantasy land, and she wouldn’t let anything through that would burst her happy little bubble.

The following year in Season 2, after the tragic loss of Susannah, that bubble is nonexistent. Not only has the weight of Susannah’s death cast a black cloud over Belly’s relationships with the Fisher brothers, but it has also created a growing distance between Belly and her own mother. Because the grown-ups in their lives seem to be disappearing, Belly, Steven, Taylor, and the Fisher boys arrive at Cousins knowing that they are all looking after one another this year. They have to have each other’s backs, or it seems no one else will. Unlike previous visits to the beach town, a harsh and uncomfortable reality has followed the whole gang to their summer hideaway this year. What makes this season stronger is the lack of separation between Belly’s home and vacation life. As she becomes a young adult, Belly is forming a strong community of her own.

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Season 2 Is a Teen Takeover

David Iacono (Cam), Gavin Casalegno (Jeremiah), Sean Kaufman (Steven), Elsie Fisher (Skye), Rain Spencer (Taylor) at the boardwalk in 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' Season 2.
Image via Prime Video 

In episodes like “Love Game” and “Love Fool,” we see how having the whole group together benefits the energy of The Summer I Turned Pretty. The playfulness that the kids create when they’re together offsets the newer, darker themes of grief. The group collects some new members when the Fishers’ estranged cousin, Skye (Elsie Fisher) appears with their mom, Julia (Kyra Sedgwick), determined to sell the summer house as quickly as possible. An age-old feud between Julia and Susannah is to blame for the pair’s separation from the family, and it seems as though Skye has inherited a sort of jadedness out of loyalty to their mom. When the kids invite Skye into their fold, Skye is put in the difficult position of forming their own relationships and opinions versus following Julia’s lead. Julia’s eagerness to wash her hands of the property, as well as the rest of the family, rubs Jeremiah and Conrad the wrong way. She undercuts them at every turn to make the process as painless as possible for herself without much consideration for the boys’ feelings.

As Conrad considers getting a lawyer involved in a desperate attempt to keep the house in the family, it is a relief that the rest of the Summer I Turned Pretty gang is there to pull him back from the edge. Just as we start to worry that the kids have taken on too much stress, it’s nice to have the focus shift to boardwalk games and impromptu camping trips on a golf course. Sequences such as these remind us why we may have been so drawn to this show in the first place — it allows us to indulge in the weightlessness and impermanence of being 17. Even if some of us are perhaps a tiny bit older than 17, we live vicariously through them!

In Season 2 of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty,’ the Teens Take on Aunt Julia to Save the Summer House

When this group of lovable teens is left to their own devices in Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty, they seek out any and every opportunity to live out their last summer in Cousins to the fullest. While this mostly consists of games of Truth or Dare, it also gives us insight into the kind of people these characters are growing up to be: how they communicate, problem-solve, or learn to stand up for themselves and each other. They took the reins of their independence and used that time away to make some big mistakes and learn a lot about themselves in the process. In the episode “Love Fest,” for example, we learn that the house has been sold, and it seems as though the kids are out of options. There is nothing left to do but accept that the house is no longer theirs to enjoy. When Skye makes an impassioned plea to their mom to reconsider, we see just how much of an effect this group has had on them. They demonstrate compassion and understanding for Julia while also putting their foot down and establishing their own voice.

This sort of emotional intelligence is not often granted to teenage characters, and it’s very refreshing to see in The Summer I Turned Pretty. When they return to the group with bad news, the others still treat Skye as one of their own, reassuring them that no one blames them and they’re still welcome. Together, the group decides that the best way to say goodbye to the house is with a happy memory, so they throw a massive party. They have gone through so much together, that they deserve to reward themselves by celebrating in their own house one last time. Your adult logic is no good here, the kids are running the show! However, it turns out that a party can’t mask all the unsaid resentment that has been stewing under the surface. The party gets out of hand, fights break out, and things take a turn for the worse. Ultimately, Belly realizes she can’t carry everyone’s problems on her shoulders and she breaks down, drunkenly calling her mom for help, and showing that she needs parental support more than ever.

Belly’s Future is Uncertain at the End of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Season 2the-summer-i-turned-pretty-season-2-lola-tung-christopher-briney-2

After a summer of concocting plans, scheming, repairing relationships, and causing new rifts, it’s hard to see Belly land in such a tumultuous place at the end of The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2, feeling as though she’s free-falling with all of her comforts being ripped away. Her optimism and unwavering dedication to her loved ones can only get her so far before she realizes that many aspects of life are far beyond her control. Belly’s confusing feelings for both Conrad and Jeremiah continue to cause conflict, and the fun spirit of their time spent together is just delaying the inevitable. Eventually, she will have to make a choice and someone will end up utterly heartbroken.

With Season 3 of The Summer I Turned Pretty having been delayed by the 2023 WGA and SAG AFTRA strike, it’s going to be a while before we know which Fisher brother (if any) Belly chooses to be her endgame. The Cousins crew may have leaned on each other to avoid the unpleasantness all around them last summer, but next season, they’ll undoubtedly have to face the music.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is available to stream on Prime Video.


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