If you can ignore the show’s clumsy premise, there is plenty to enjoy from this teen drama—a promising start, welcoming you to this world of picturesque beach life and teenage romance.
This recap of Amazon’s The Summer I Turned Pretty season 1, episode 1, “Summer House,” contains spoilers.
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After the runaway success of Netflix’s teenage rom-com, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (and its two sequels), streaming competitors Amazon Prime Video have decided to get in on that action too, adapting another Jenny Han trilogy of novels – The Summer I Turned Pretty. This coming-of-age drama focuses on Belly, a free-spirited fifteen-year-old girl, who spends her summers at Cousins Beach, and this year she’s looking for love. The premiere introduces us to the main players in this picturesque beach community and Belly’s customary teenage woes.
The Summer I Turned Pretty season 1, episode 1 recap
The series opens with a grand establishing shot of the scenic Cousins Beach from above, which our narrating protagonist, Belly, confirms is the perfect summer getaway. She spends the year fantasizing about escaping to this utopia, filled with its perfect sandy beaches, striking swimming pools and of course, dreamy boys. As she says her final goodbyes to best friend Taylor, before heading to this magical haven, they discuss boys and Belly’s one summer wish. The teen’s goal is to make out with Conrad, her first major crush. Taylor explains how Belly’s grown up a lot since last summer and Conrad will definitely notice her this time around.
Episode one, “Summer House”, spends a great deal of time and effort hammering home this idea. Unfortunately, it has to, what with it being the show’s title and entire premise. Since last summer Belly has matured a lot, growing into a beautiful, young woman (so everyone keeps saying). The teen is starting to get noticed by the boys and everyone can’t help but mention how much she’s changed. It feels quite forced and mishandled at times, but the filmmakers are desperate to get this point across. First Taylor makes the observation, then at a gas station, just out of town, a teen shopkeeper flirts with Belly and invites her to tonight’s Bonfire Party. Throughout the episode she is paid plenty more compliments on her appearance. It’s shallow, but I’m guessing there are lessons to be learnt over this season’s seven episode run.
Conrad’s mother, Susannah (Peep Show’s Rachel Blanchard) is their host, and best friends with Belly’s mom. She greets Belly, her mother Laurel and her brother Steven. Then, cue the Taylor Swift pop ballad, as Belly is reunited with the love of her life, the moody Conrad. The teens all hug and quip (again) how Belly’s grown, before chucking her into the pool. As the Conklin family make themselves at home in the summer house, there’s just time to dig a little deeper into the cast members and introduce some of the show’s main plot points. We’re informed that Laurel is now divorced, but Belly’s father will be coming up for the Fourth of July celebrations. Laurel is a competent writer, yet her latest novel is underperforming, so Susannah is throwing her a party to help promote the book.
At the local bookstore, Laurel makes a fool of herself when she bad mouths rival writer Cleveland, who happens to be eavesdropping on their conversation. Then Susannah drops in at the snooty country club to get Belly an invitation to sign up for the debutante ball. Over a meal, it is revealed that Conrad has quit college football and the other teens, Jeremiah and Steven have summer jobs. The boys all head off to the bonfire party, leaving poor Belly alone with the moms to watch soppy classic movies all night. One phone call with Taylor later and she finds herself in a revealing dress, sneaking out to the party.
It’s an eventful soiree, with underage drinking, fights and the eventual arrival of the cops. Belly spots Conrad kissing a girl named Nicole and in a jealous rage argues with the pot-smoker, calling him a hypocrite. She tussles with her brother, is inadvertently punched in the face by a stranger and then flirts with Cam. The two kiss, to Belly’s delight, however the police are swiftly on hand to spoil their moment, crashing the party. Back at home, Laurel shouts at the rebellious teens and sends them all off to bed. Belly messages Taylor the good news and in the morning, she ditches Conrad to go and see her new fling, Cam.
Overall, the opening episode does a great job of introducing the cast and setting up the overarching premise. It may be a little clumsy with its handling of Belly’s new appearance, but the show clearly has potential to make it worth sticking with. An acceptable teen drama that looks set to build upon this premiere and hopefully deliver some sage advice on adolescence.
What did you think of the Amazon original series The Summer I Turned Pretty season 1, episode 1? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Amazon Prime.