“The Summer I Turned Pretty” stays true to its course in its second season, delivering a heartfelt teen romance series with a keen understanding of its core audience. Author Jenny Han, already known for her successful contemporary romances, proves to be a skillful showrunner, bringing her novels and characters to life with a deft touch.
The show revolves around Isabel “Belly” Conklin, who has spent every summer in picturesque Cousins Beach, Va., with a family friend and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. In the first season, Belly chose one of the brothers, leading to a rift in the family dynamics. Now, with their mother’s passing, the family is further challenged, and the serene Cousins Beach faces a new reality.
Jenny Han’s expertise in the romance genre is evident in the series, tailored to young women with a touch of melancholy and aesthetic beauty. The cinematography and beachcore settings sometimes verge on parody but add a unique charm to the show. Han’s use of voiceover, although occasionally intrusive, maintains a connection to her novels’ narrative style.
The series artfully navigates between past and present, allowing us to witness Belly’s struggles at school and her emotional turmoil after Susannah’s death. The wistful nostalgia of summers past contrasts with the harshness of modern-day life, creating a relatable and engaging storyline. The focus on Belly’s emotional strife resonates with viewers, particularly young women, as they experience the challenges of growing up in a complex world.
The young and talented cast brings suitable chemistry to the romantic elements, but the love triangle trope, while understandable, feels predictable and drawn-out. The show’s lengthy episodes may have benefitted from shorter runtimes to maintain a tighter and more focused narrative.
When “The Summer I Turned Pretty” embraces its quiet, serious-minded teen drama identity, it excels as a prime example of the genre. Jenny Han portrays adolescent turmoil with care, avoiding excessive sentimentality. The show appeals to both adults and teenagers, offering a refreshing blend of nostalgic fantasy and real-life struggles.
In conclusion, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” continues to captivate its audience with earnest storytelling, evoking a sense of nostalgia and genuine emotions. Despite some predictable elements, the show’s sincerity and dedication to portraying teenage experiences make it a standout in its genre.