WARNING: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own discretion.
Teal ocean waves crash against the sand. Cornflower blue hydrangeas blossom as summer begins. The smell of lobster rolls and barbecue floods every corner of the neighborhood.
This picturesque imagery from the fictional Cousins Beach returns in the second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” which took viewers on an emotional rollercoaster throughout its eight episodes.
An Amazon Prime Video original, the series is based on author Jenny Han’s bestselling young adult trilogy of the same name. It follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung) as she visits Cousins Beach each summer with her mother Laurel (Jackie Chung) and older brother Steven (Sean Kaufman). They stay at the summer home of Laurel’s best friend Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) and her two boys, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah Fisher (Gavin Casalegno).
Throughout the first season, fans decide whether they are Team Jeremiah, Team Conrad or Team Belly Needs To Be Single — also known as the Belly Hate Club, because Belly’s indecisiveness messes with a lot of boys’ hearts.
Although season two has a killer soundtrack and juicy love triangle plot, it lacks the joyful summer vibes of season one. However, the sadder undertones make sense given the death of Susannah, who passed away from cancer.
The first few episodes show both flashbacks and the present events, which gets confusing for viewers trying to follow the timeline. We learn more about Belly and Conrad’s relationship, which lasts for several months and ends after Belly’s prom night ends with Conrad running off and Belly sobbing into Steven’s arms.
The main storyline of the season is the Conklin and Fisher siblings’ attempt to save the Cousins Beach home from being sold, a storyline that plays out differently from the books.
New characters like Susannah’s sister Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) and her teenager Skye (Elsie Fisher) are unnecessary additions to the plot. Viewers especially dislike Skye for their cringe-worthy dialogue and odd wardrobe.
Meanwhile, Belly continues toying with the Fisher brothers’ hearts, ultimately ending the second season with Jeremiah instead of Conrad.
The real highlight of season two was the budding relationship between Belly’s best friend Taylor (Rain Spencer) and Steven. Following a messy situation between them in season one, Steven finally likes Taylor back, but she’s already found a boyfriend. After Steven confesses his feelings to Taylor and nearly fights her current boyfriend, Steven and Taylor finally get together. Many fans were more excited about this relationship than any of Belly’s previous relationships, of which there are many.
Another highlight of this season was the phenomenal soundtrack. “The Summer I Turned Pretty” must have a hefty budget, as season two featured songs by Taylor Swift, One Direction, Frank Ocean, Lana del Rey, Beyonce, Olivia Rodrigo, Fleetwood Mac and more.
The placement of “exile” by Taylor Swift and “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac was absolute perfection. When Belly sees Susannah for the first time, this emotional scene features “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” by Taylor Swift, the perfect track to say goodbye to Susannah.
My one complaint is that “Snow On The Beach” by Taylor Swift and Lana del Rey should have played during the scene where Belly and Conrad pranced around the beach as it snowed.
As a member of #TeamJeremiah myself, I was thrilled with this season. Having read the books, however, I am terrified of what season three will bring. Perhaps Jenny Han will slightly alter the storyline to soften the blow, or she will leave it as is.