Why Isn’t Everyone Talking About How Weird ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Is?

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Amazon Studios
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Amazon Studios

Say what you will about the Prime Video adaptation of The Summer I Turned Pretty (the soundtrack is incredible; the soundtrack is too much; the love stories are incredible; the love stories are too much, etc.), but you can’t say the show’s plot is anything but berserk. A teenage girl falls in love with two brothers at the same time. Has anyone ever taken a step back to realize that, woah, that’s a little weird?

I sound like a bit of a hypocrite, seeing as I read the entire series of books in the span of one week during the summer before I started high school. Jenny Han’s (she wrote the books and created the series) trilogy changed me as a person. I felt like, because I had just had my braces removed and swapped my bulky glasses for contacts, I was just like the sweet, coming-of-age Belly (Lola Tung). And although I didn’t have romantic prospects of my own (shocking!), I lived vicariously through Belly’s summer flings with her best friends, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) Fisher, two brothers with a family beach house.

When Prime Video finally announced the show’s premiere date last summer, I relished gushing to my friends all about the book series. It would be just like To All the Boys I Loved Before, I explained, but set in a cozy beach town over the course of three fateful summers. Belly’s love interests would be as charming as Noah Centineo, the scrunchy-wearer and snack-buyer from TATBILB, but there was a twist: They’re brothers. This is usually where my friends would stop me and say something along the lines of, “Wait. Brothers?”

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Yes, in The Summer I Turned Pretty, two brothers fight over the same girl. As an only child with no perception of the relationships siblings share, I didn’t fully grasp how bizarre the concept was when I first read the series. Now, as I see more posts reacting to the second season’s intensified love triangle and chat with more friends about the series, I’ve come to realize that there’s something a little dark and twisted about that premise.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for both seasons of The Summer I Turned Pretty, including the Season 2 finale.)

Belly spends the entire first season winning over Conrad, the brooding older brother that she’s always had the hots for. He gives her an infinity necklace—swoon!—and any lingering feelings for little brother Jeremiah (who seems more like a back-up plan than a second love interest) wash away with the ocean, as Belly and the Fishers leave Cousins Beach. Case closed. Belly + Conrad = love forever.

A photo of Gavin Casalegno and Lola Tung.

Gavin Casalegno and Lola Tung.

Erika Doss/Amazon Studios

By Season 2, the case has reopened—Conrad and Belly have a falling-out at Conrad’s mother’s funeral. Um, Belly, did you realize that this was possibly the worst place to stage a fight with your boyfriend? She’s mad about prom, he’s mad that she’s starting the fight here, and things don’t end well. Conrad and Belly are over. Worst of all, their days at Cousins Beach, both a vacation location and a peaceful memory for all three teens, might be over as Conrad and Jeremiah’s aunt tries to sell the house.

Since Belly cares about the Fisher family beach house, she joins Conrad and Jeremiah in taking a stand against their aunt. This leads Belly to strike up a connection with Jeremiah, who, without a minute to think about what could happen if he dates his brother’s ex-girlfriend, falls head over heels for her.

A photo of Lola Tung, Christopher Briney, and Gavin Casalegno

Lola Tung, Christopher Briney, and Gavin Casalegno.

Erika Doss/Amazon Studios

What’s the masculine version of spit sisters? I can’t think of anything clever right now, but if I could, I’d apply it to Conrad and Jeremiah, who both end up in relationships with Belly at different times. The second season ends as Belly and Jeremiah opt to begin a full-blown long-distance relationship against Conrad’s wishes, while they’re both still in high school. Not only has Conrad lost his friendship with Belly, but he’s also now lost his brother.

On the internet, anyone curious about relationship taboos can easily Google search “Guy Code” and “Girl Code” (or just “Dating Codes”) to determine what is and isn’t fair game. Dating your brother’s ex—or dating your ex’s brother—should be totally off-limits. They’re so off-limits that I don’t even know if they’ve made it onto any of the aforementioned lists of unbreakable rules. It’s just that obvious: Don’t spring from family member to family member!

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But the end of Season 2 seems to be teeing up something bigger than just Belly jumping from Fisher brother to Fisher brother. After selecting Jeremiah as her significant other and kissing him in front of Conrad—I have no words—it doesn’t seem like either boy is willing to go down without a fight. Jeremiah is the winner of Season 2, but the end of this most recent chapter suggests that Conrad is ready to fight his brother to win Belly back. The series has already been renewed, and if the third season is anything like the third book—the rest of the series has followed pretty closely to the books so far—they’re about to throw down over the love of Belly.

Is she worth all the family drama? The brotherly relationship between Conrad and Jeremiah will be irreparably altered after this love triangle. They would be wise to both settle on letting Belly go for good. Belly, on the other hand, would be smart to move on and find a new romantic partner at her own school. But these are teenagers, who lead with their heart and perhaps are not always wise when it comes to romantic decisions.

It appears that The Summer I Turned Pretty has garnered a fanbase that actually enjoys the show’s bonkers premise and melodramatic scenes, not all that unlike the folks who rally around Emily in Paris. (Emily, in her late twenties, slept with the teenage brother of her best friend, which feels reminiscent of this show.) In other words, the series with one of the wildest romantic entanglements has found its perfect audience. Are you team Mr. Fisher or team Mr. Fisher?

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