Imagine your idyllic summer. Perhaps it’s spent in a bustling city, or by the lake or beach. For Belly (Lola Tung) in The Summer I Turned Pretty, it’s Susannah’s beautiful beach house in Cousins Beach, New England. The Summer I Turned Pretty is adapted from the hit YA book series by Jenny Han (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before), with season two drawing from the second book, It’s Not Summer Without You. Season one brought the series back into the mainstream and became essential summer viewing due to the beachy setting and ability to evoke nostalgia.
While the first few episodes of The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 weren’t as lighthearted and fun as season one, it still transports us back into Belly’s world and the calm setting of Cousins Beach. The stakes are higher in season two, and it delivers in terms of emotion and believable love stories, while beautifully tackling themes of grief and regret.
The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 review: A story of heartbreak and redefining yourself
Season one introduces us to our protagonist, Isabel “Belly” Conklin, preparing to turn 16 and spend the summer doing what she does every year: stay at the beach house in Cousins. She always spends the summer with her mom Laurel (Jackie Chung), brother Steven (Sean Kaufman), her mom’s best friend Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard), and her sons Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). Season two doesn’t provide as much of a typical Cousins summer, unfortunately, but where it lacks in beachy fun, it makes up for in deeper exploration into the relationships between the Conklins and the Fishers.
While season one evokes a more lighthearted feel with some bittersweet moments, season two takes us on a full, poignant journey for each character. Season two undergoes a seamless structural shift which ultimately works well, transitioning between Belly’s current feelings and the events that caused them. She has a full character arc, and it is a joy to watch her grow and redefine herself.
What makes The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 special is the ability to make audiences root for almost every character, despite their flaws. Season two provides a deeper look into some characters, particularly Conrad. Although he is one of the main protagonists in season one, he isn’t given much depth. Season two shows a more caring and expressive side of him, which makes Belly falling in love with him more believable
Additionally, while this season’s overall tone is more emotional, it provides moments of pure joy as Belly is attempting to bring the magic back to Cousins. I cried a lot while watching these episodes, but I also had a giant smile on my face watching Belly, Steven, Conrad, and Jeremiah go back to their roots. Season two expands on their relationships as best friends, whereas season one only alludes to it.
The cast tackles heavy themes with stunning performances
Aside from the journeys of friendship and love, The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 works well as an exploration into heartbreak, regret, and how everyone deals with these emotions in their own way.
This season, the characters deal with the fallout of Susannah’s cancer returning. It gives us a first person look at Belly doing her best to handle it on top of facing the consequences of kissing both Conrad and Jeremiah the previous summer.
Lola Tung gives a masterclass performance, which is shocking given that The Summer I Turned Pretty season one is her first acting role. She portrays Belly’s ups and downs with grace and care.
Jackie Chung also gives a surprisingly standout performance, showcasing Laurel’s different sides that will either force you to hate her, or empathize with her depending on the scene. As Susannah’s best friend, Laurel struggles with the return of Susannah’s cancer, understandably so. As it does with Belly, Steven, and the Fisher boys, Season two dives deeper into Laurel and Susannah’s friendship that Is heartwarming to watch.
The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 is an all-time YA great
At the core of The Summer I Turned Pretty is Belly’s struggle between which of the Fisher boys she wants to be with. She’s always loved Conrad, but Conrad has hurt her, and she realizes Jeremiah is more reliable and safe. The love triangle is much more captivating in season two than it was in season one, as it jumps right into it. This season goes much deeper into the conflict between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah, whereas season one merely skims the surface.
There are moments throughout the season when I am staunchly #TeamJeremiah, and times when I am #TeamConrad—but ultimately, I am #TeamBelly. Belly’s growth this season is satisfying, and exactly what I hope to see for a protagonist in a YA series.
This season takes you on a rollercoaster journey of teen angst and heartbreak, with some beachy fun along the way. It also includes the perfect soundtrack, featuring artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo. Along with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and xo, Kitty, The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 proves why Jenny Han is the queen of YA romance and coming-of-age stories.
- Transported back to the beautiful Cousins Beach
- The soundtrack is perfection
- Deeper exploration into the characters' relationships
- Emotional as hell
- 8 episodes isn't enough!