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What ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Taught Us About Turning From Your Teens to a YA

Here are five lessons that the new Amazon Prime Video web series imparts about growing up, through the story of a girl who starts flowering into a woman over the course of the season

Rolling Stone India Jun 29, 2022

A pivotal scene from 'The Summer I Turned Pretty'. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

There are no friends like old friends

When Belly, the lead character, goes through a moment of emotional crisis, she doesn’t call any of the new friends she’s made at Cousins, the place where her family in the US spends every summer vacation. Instead, she calls Taylor, her oldest friend, even though they were going through friction at that point. That one phone call dissolved all their fleeting animosity and helped Belly get out of her slump. The conversation reinforced the deep bond they share for each other, which gets even deeper as the series progresses. The scene showed how people who know us the longest, more often than not, are also the ones who know us the best.

Family is a complicated concept

The Fisher kids, Jeremiah and Conrad, clearly grew up in a happy family going by the flashback scenes in the show. But then their parents, Adam and Susannah, separated, leaving the boys to grow up with their mom. Conrad resents what his father did, and even when Adam tries to patch things up when he arrives unexpectedly on the day of a party, Conrad won’t allow his dad to break the brick wall that he’s already built around himself. The message here is that our relationships with the ones we are closest to, like all other relationships, evolve over time. Though we might not see them as children, there are cracks that start appearing when we turn into young adults from our teens. It’s then up to us to mend those cracks if we want to, or build a wall around ourselves like Conrad did.

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You learn to understand the opposite gender

Steven is Belly’s brother, and there is a scene where she inadvertently blurts out the truth about one of his indiscretions to Shayla, Steven’s girlfriend. When she later talks to him about it, Shayla acts all cool, telling Steven that it’s fine, and asking him that they didn’t have anything “exclusive” anyway, right? Steven answers that they didn’t, and that’s where he made a mistake. Shayla had actually been hoping that he’d answer, “Yes, of course we are exclusive,” since she was secretly looking for a sense of stability from him. Steven didn’t understand that, feeling like a fool – and rightfully so – when he eventually realized his gaffe. The entire exchange displayed how boys and girls really start the process of understanding each other only when they are mature enough to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

Love is not an easy game to play

The plot hinges on the feelings that Belly has secretly harbored for Conrad ever since she was a kid. All her life, she has dreamt of being in a relationship with him, as teenagers are wont to do about the crushes they have. But there are circumstances in Conrad’s life that have made him reserved as a person over the years, and Belly is unable to see beyond that brick wall he’s built. Her feelings for him become conflicted, which comes through in a scene where she asks herself, “I wonder if this is the way all crushes die – with a whimper, slowly, and just like that, gone.” But do our crushes ever really disappear completely? That’s the question that confronts Belly over the course of the series, as she turns into a girl of 16 who starts understanding how complicated love really is.

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It’s good to have a mentor

Conrad has his own reasons for being reserved – he feels as if life has served him lemons, and that he is responsible for the cracks in his family. But he also feels as if he has no one to talk to, bottling up his emotions and flaring up sometimes without warning. It’s thus almost therapeutic for him to work for Cleveland, an author researching his latest book. Cleveland becomes an outlet for Conrad to share his deepest thoughts, giving him the clarity he seeks. The older man helps the young boy process his feelings, even giving him precise tips on how to handle panic attacks, which Conrad is prone to. The two share a bond in which the young adult is able to see the world through more mature eyes, at a time when his life seemed topsy-turvy.

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