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The Summer I Turned Pretty (The Show) Initial Thoughts

Episode 1 & 2 (partway)


Isabel Conklin – known to her family and friends as Belly – has been to Cousins every summer, to stay at the house of her mum’s best friend Susannah, spending time with her and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Every year Belly looks forward to it and it’s always as she remembers, until the summer she turns sixteen and things start to change…

I read The Summer I Turned Pretty series a few years ago, and I did enjoy it, but I also couldn’t really take it seriously with all the love triangles and teenage drama. It felt like a guilty pleasure rather than a series I would whole-heartedly recommend. It was a fun read, but maybe I was a bit too old for it or felt like I shouldn’t have enjoyed it that much.

Despite that, I was still excited though to hear that it was going to be turned into a ‘TV’ series and especially when I saw the trailer. If it was my favourite book series I would have been a bit worried that it wouldn’t turn out how I imagined things to be in the book, but because I didn’t feel super strongly about the trilogy, I didn’t feel particularly precious about it being adapted and was less concerned. As I read it a few years back, I also don’t remember the books too clearly, so I’m not constantly comparing to the book, nor do I feel like I know exactly what’s going to happen next.

So far, I would say a good job has been done of translating the trilogy to screen. The series feels updated from the books – the first book was published in 2009. In this adaption, I think there are some very natural interactions between the characters that feels everyday and believable. There are some dramatic moments, such as the beach bonfire scene, which was a bit unexpected, but a little drama is understandably needed. I feel that, maybe because the books (at least the first one) is only from Belly’s perspective, they are very one-sided and more ‘narrow,’ whereas the series is able to explore other topics at the same time.

I would say that the casting is mostly suitable, although not necessarily how I expected the characters to be. Belly is Asian-American (played by Lola Tung), which is interesting because I’ve heard that Jenny Han had to fight to keep Lara-Jean Asian, for the movie adaption of To All The Boys I Loved, even though she was originally, clearly Asian-American in the books. I don’t think Belly was Asian in the book, but it’s nice to see the Asian representation and Lola Tung still fits the role well.

Before I watched, I didn’t think Jackie Chung would suit the role of Laurel, but when I actually watched her in the role, I think she does. I would say that in the series, Laurel feels more typically mum-like and we get to see the more vulnerable side of her, compared to the books. For example, you see her feeling a little concerned about the low sales of the books that she writes. I also feel like she has a better relationship with Belly in the series – or at least there’s the sense that they did but Belly is just growing up and Laurel finds it hard to let go. In the books, on the other hand, Laurel didn’t seem as directly involved in Belly’s life, from what I remember. At the moment, I would say Laurel in the series feels more likeable. I thought it was interesting how the show briefly touches on class and privilege, through the Laurel’s character – can’t remember if this was a thing in the book or not – and I wonder whether it’ll be explored further.

Currently, I would say that the series has my interest and I’m excited to continue watching. I thought it might be cringey, but I would say it’s not, for the most part, except for the character of Conrad maybe. I don’t think it’s the actor (Christopher Briney) that’s making me feel this way, but more that characters can get away with being mysterious and brooding in books, but it’s harder to portray on-screen/they’re not the sort of characters that I like to watch.

In contrast, Jeremiah’s sunshine-y personality is more fun to watch on screen and his relationship with Belly feels more playful and comfortable. I’m not really a fan of the angsty scenes between Conrad and Belly – I was already team Jeremiah when I read the books, and I probably will be even more so later on in the series.

Whilst I found the books a bit silly at times, I think I will feel more attached to the characters seeing them on screen as you can feel the chemistry between them. Also, as I have said, the series has been updated and feels less cliché.

Are you watching The Summer I Turned Pretty? Have you read the trilogy? If so, how do you think they compare? Let me know in the comments 😊


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