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    Monday, August 08, 2022

    Teenage love is life or death in ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’

    Christopher Briney, left, and Lola Trung star in "The Summer I Turned Pretty." (Prime Video/TNS)

    What happens in the summer on Cousins Beach stays there.

    The idyllic setting for Jenny Han’s young adult trilogy, turned into the “The Summer I Turned Pretty” series now streaming on Prime Video, is at once an escape and the keeper of teenage secrets. It’s where four kids — Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Trung) and her older brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) and brothers Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) Fisher — have grown up under the watchful eyes of their mothers, college best friends who won’t let go.

    “At the end of the day, they have an escape from the real world,” Kaufman, who plays graduating senior Steven, faced with the prospect of college and all its costs, said.

    “They can come together and just be together, isolated, and escape whatever troubles them.”

    This summer is different, though. Belly, on the verge of turning 16 — her hair straightened and her body tanned — both looks and feels different with the awkward preteen years behind her.

    “It’s not just about outward appearances, despite the title. It’s about that internal shift and that shift in how Belly is feeling about herself, about people around her, how she’s approaching every different situation and every decision she has to make and that confidence boost and newfound independence,” Trung, 19, said. “All of that is this feeling of ‘prettiness.’”

    Belly is also drawing attention from both Conrad — who she’s had a crush on for as long as she can remember though he’s never given her a second look — and Jeremiah, who’s always been just a second brother to her.

    “It’s not like she’s trying to run around and break people’s hearts. It’s a lot of self-discovery and exploring,” Trung said. “And she really does have feelings for each of these boys and you really got to see these really special, specific relationships between all of them. She likes and loves different things about each one.”

    Casalegno, who described Jeremiah as a “very likable, life-of-the-party, golden retriever happy-go-lucky guy,” stressed the earnestness of the love triangle at the heart of “The Summer I Turned Pretty.”

    “When you’re in high school, you really see everything as being the end of the world. It’s so serious. It’s life or death in your mind. It’s so important to do that justice with the characters and especially with their relationship with Belly. There’s no time for games,” he said.

    “I don’t think there was anything malicious in anyone’s flirting or kissing or whatever happens in the series. It comes straight from the heart.”

    The secrets of the summer aren’t just crushes. The real world gets in the way, too, as their parents squirrel away their own skeletons in the closet. All of it just piles on top of the general unease of being 16 and feeling out of place in your body and the world.

    “At that age, you simultaneously feel invincible but that everything is the end of the world,” Kaufman said.

    Already renewed for a second season, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” doesn’t find the answers — at 16, there are no answers.

    “So much of life is just being emotional and acting on that before you understand what you’re doing and then reconciling with your actions after the fact,” Briney, who plays the sullen Conrad, said.

    “What it’s like to be young and making mistakes. What it’s like to be young and acting on your emotions and not thinking about the consequences.”

    Gavin Casalegno, left, and Lola Trung star in þÄúThe Summer I Turned Pretty.þÄù (Peter Taylor/Prime Video/TNS)

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