Based on Jenny Han’s best-selling Young Adult novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty follows the story of Belly (Lola Tung), a teenager who has spent her childhood and adolescence going on yearly summer trips with her mother and brother to Cousin’s Beach. Over the years, Belly has grown up with her mother’s best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. But as the years go by, and as the rush of teenage hormones begin to flow, a love triangle soon forms between Belly, Con and Jere that puts a rift between the lifelong friendships they hold dear.
Jenny Han, popular for the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before… book series, serves as the writer of the first episode, adapting her work for the small screen. Fans of her previous work, especially the trilogy of novels this is based on, will be prepared for the glossy, shlock-filled, teen romance that this series has on offer. Like many shows or movies in this genre, the fantasy of young love at a luscious holiday home will be enough to draw its target audience in, and they will be immediately hooked by the melodrama that ensues.
The Summer I Turned Pretty isn’t providing anything new to the teen-rom-com genre, playing closely to the tropes and formula that has made shows like this as successful as they have been.Themes of love, betrayal, acceptance, friendship and family all rear their heads in each episode, but never with enough substance or explanation to be fully emotionally interested in any one theme. There is a side-plot involving Belly and her mother, and how the ever changing dynamic of their relationship now Belly is older changes, but it plays out as just enough to scratch the surface of engaging, even though it’s arguably the most serious the drama in the show gets.
The most apparent criticism to make for this series is that it feels bland and uninspired, with performances and storylines that don’t invigorate or engage. However, as someone who is very far removed from the demographic this show is aiming for, being able to identify the fact that these shows are popular for a reason, and that reason is teenagers and young adults love to watch people in love, and this show does that quite well.
Lola Tung is perfectly fine as Belly, offering a lot of her insight into the way she feels and her reactions to things over narration throughout the series, leaving very little for her character to do outside of that narration. Tung is undeniably charismatic, offering her best through the narration and her interactions with her co-stars.
The Summer I Turned Pretty caters exactly to its fans – those who don’t mind some cheesy, light, and truly bingeable romantic shlock. It’s formulaic tropes don’t offer much exciting or originality however, which will most likely see this series fall by the wayside of the many teen-romance’s that have come before it.
All episodes of The Summer I Turned Pretty are available to stream on Prime Video from June 17.
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