We know that this review is all over the place, but just know we’re doing individual reviews for every episode. Erin can normally handle her fangirl shit, but this – well she’s never had a show where she hasn’t had to throw shade and tell people what sucks about it. Now, she’s like yaaasss queens, do your shit. The Summer I Turned Pretty series is her favorite series ever. We apologize that she is having a happy word vomit, but just know that the serotonin that this show brought her, the word vomit is worth it. She won’t shut up about this show and its greatness.
Everyone has that summer. The summer where you have big dreams, where you want the world to take you seriously, where you want to be seen for who you are, and where you want to fall in love. When you’re a 15 year old girl, that summer is the most important summer.
It’s the summer that you turn pretty.
Now this summer can happen at any age, but for Belly, she’s a teenager heading to spend the summer in Cousins, like she has every summer since she was born. Her Moms best friend, Susana, has a house there and every summer she heads there with her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly, her Mom (Laurel), and her brother head to join them.
I’ve been sitting here staring at this screen for over 2 hours, starting and restarting this review quite a few times. Why? Maybe I should preface this review by telling you that The Summer I Turned Pretty series has been my favorite book series for over a decade. I have multiple copies that I annotate with the feelings that the book brings out of me at stages in my life. I love the book series, so the fear of what the adaptation would bring had left me anxious, but seeing everything come to life and the way that it did – well, I will never have the words to do this series justice.
Over time, we’ve seen so many book adaptations and a lot of them have been absolutely horrendous. Once the heart and the soul of the book are gone, what you’re left with is a story that, as a fan you don’t recognize.
But that’s not the case with this adaptation. Han’s book comes to life with not only the heart and soul of the book, but an extra layer added in that only makes you fall more in love with the story. You sit there watching the screen and you know why it is that we’ve been left waiting for this adaptation. We needed to wait.
We needed to wait because this cast was born to play these roles. From the moment that Lola Tung walks onto the screen, you see a young girl WHO IS EVERYTHING BELLY IS SUPPOSED TO BE! She’s the perfect mixture of strength and vulnerability that Belly is. For someone in her first big role, you coulda have fooled me, because I have never, ever seen an actress that it doesn’t take a word for you to believe that she is the character. It just takes her presence.
The official synopsis reads, “Every summer, Belly and her family head to the Fishers’ beach house in Cousins. Every summer is the same… until Belly turns sixteen. Relationships will be tested, painful truths will be revealed, and Belly will be forever changed. It’s a summer of first love, first heartbreak and growing up — it’s the summer she turns pretty.”
Laurel, Stephen and Belly head to Cousins to spend the summer. From the moment that the family pulls up and she sees the Fisher boys, you know that she’s changed in their eyes. She’s no longer the awkward kid that they teased, but she’s the young girl that they need to protect.
Conrad has been Belly’s crush for what feels like forever. Now we can understand why. From the brooding looks, to the 90’s haircut (that you just want to run to run your hands through), and the whole bad boy person, Conrad Fisher is a young girls dream. And that my friends, is brought to life so perfectly thanks to newcomer Christopher Briney.
Briney brings Conrad to life in a way that you sit and go, yes, yes, that’s the Conrad I imagined from the books. He’s magnetic on the screen and if it was the 90’s he’d be in Teen Beat and definitely a poster on some girls walls. He’s a talented actor who makes you glad that his presence makes you think about the boyfriend from your teenage years. Conrad Fisher is a reminder of your first love and Briney brings him to life in a way that brings a smile to your face.
And then there is Jeremiah, who is the one who holds everything together, even when the world seems like it’s falling apart. Nothing ever bothers him (and if it does, he doesn’t show it), but letting down walls is not something that he does easily. From the first episode, you know that Belly is his safe space, and Gavin Casalegno makes the viewer know that Jeremiah can be a safe space.
Normally, I would tell you that a love triangle is my favorite troupe (because it is), but seeing the looks, hearing the words, and feeling all of the emotions that these three bring to their characters, you know that this is just pain. It’s pain on a silver platter. You don’t know when it’s coming and if they’ll get through it, but you’re hoping.
Because through everything, we can see that these three are just the way that they are meant to be. Growing and finding their way.
While the book was centered more around these three, the show balances around all of the characters. Laurel, Belly and Stephens mom is played by Jackie Chung, is the most seasoned actor of the show. In the books she had a lesser role, but I have to love that Han expanded her role in the series.
What is part of the biggest joy of the series is Laurel and Susannah. The two have the friendship that you hope that you can have in your life. As you watch Laurel try to balance her best friends secrets, raising her children, navigating her divorce, and her new career, you can’t help but be in awe. Chung’s, Laurel, is a woman going through her own awakening. There can always be more than one summer that you step out of your shell and you become pretty in a different way.
While adapting a book to the screen, you definitely have changes. And when a book is over 13 years old, there will definitely be layers added. While Han took that and the way that times have changed into consideration, she also was able to add storylines that felt as though they could be parts of the story that we just didn’t know about.
One of those additions is the debutant storyline, which adds complexity and also another catalyst for not only Belly to grow, but the rest of the characters. What we do see is a different world that allows Jeremiah, Steven, and Conrad all to grow into young men who deal with things in a mature way. Because most of the season, though played perfectly, they are little monsters.
From the first scene to the last, The Summer I Love Pretty is a roller coaster ride of tears, laughter and pain, that you can’t look away from. You’ll be left with an impression on your heart and soul.
And if you’re a fan of the books, like me, and you’ve waited to see this adaptation don’t you worry – they did us all good. The series is one of the best book to series adaptations I’ve ever seen.
I once was asked by an author friend of mine what I thought of her book. I told her that it was great but she’s no Jenny Han. She laughed but knew I was serious. Now when I talk about adaptations, I will tell them all to measure up to The Summer I Turned Pretty.
It made me believe in the magic of adaptations again.
- I can’t even talk about Susanah’s storyline cause I will cry.
- The way that Rachel Blanchard and Jackie Chung are in every scene together is 100
- The 4th of July has new meaning for me.
- Minnie Mills is a gem. Hope to see her in more things.
- The last episode will destroy you – Trust.
- Stephen is a great character, but I sometimes got lost away from his story, because Belly captivates. That being said, Stephen and Shayla’s scenes are so sweet. The way he grows throughout the series, I applaud.
- Cam Cameron 4ever.
- I kinda wanna go on a whaling boat now.