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“The Summer I Turned Pretty”: In Defense of the Fisher Boys

In+the+teen+show+%E2%80%9CThe+Summer+I+Turned+Pretty%2C%E2%80%9D+an+adaption+of+the+popular+Young+Adult+novel%2C+protagonist+Belly+Conklin+navigates+her+love+life+in+a+triangle+between+brothers+Jeremiah+and+Conrad+Fisher.
Gigi Richardson Seifert
In the teen show “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” an adaption of the popular Young Adult novel, protagonist Belly Conklin navigates her love life in a triangle between brothers Jeremiah and Conrad Fisher.

The summer of 2023 was monumental for Hollywood. From “Barbenheimer” to Wes Anderson’s newest movie, “Asteroid City,” it seemed as though the summer brought a new flick for every type of person. A show that generated quite the buzz was none other than season two of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” (TSITP) a book to show adaptation created and produced by Jenny Han that put out episodes weekly. Han’s trilogy is a series of Young Adult (YA) novels that follow Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung), a 15-year-old girl whose summer is marked by her family’s annual trip to the fictional town of Cousins Beach. The summer house, owned by her mother’s best friend Susannah “Beck” Fisher (Rachel Blanchard), is a defining factor in Belly’s life. Susannah’s two sons, Conrad (Chris Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo), have spent countless summers there with Belly, and over the years have grown close despite the trials and tribulations between both families. 

The Amazon Prime show has been watched and loved by millions, many of which are pulled in by the show’s main dispute of which brother is better for Belly: Conrad or Jeremiah. The argument stems from the tumultuous history of Belly’s love life and her tendency to switch between the brothers. The love triangle has sparked conversations on social media time and time again, with each team defending which brother is right for Belly. Belly has proved that she can’t make this decision for herself, so we will.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are purely based on the television series adaptation of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” which holds many plot changes and character differences. With the third season not expecting to be released until 2024, this article has evidence from only the first two seasons. 

Team Conrad:

Conrad is the older brother of Jeremiah and is often considered Belly’s first love. Although his emotions seem to change at the flip of a coin, he is misunderstood by those around him and often left to deal with his feelings alone. Throughout both seasons, Han touches on his troubles with anxiety and communication showing that although he can seem careless, it’s never intentional. 

Conrad, despite what some may say, is far from heartless and obviously the right choice for Belly. Their first scene together had “Lover” by Taylor Swift playing in the background—isn’t this proof that they are meant for each other? Han has made it clear that everything she does is intentional, even her music choice. A song that is clearly about eternal love and marriage being the background of Conrad and Belly seeing each other after a year apart is no coincidence. And before the Jeremiah defenders bring up “Delicate” by Taylor Swift playing during one of their scenes together, it needs to be said that “Delicate” is about the type of love that’s so fragile that even a simple argument could break it apart. 

Conrad has been destined for Belly from the start and Han showcases that in every chance she gets. From flashbacks to present day memories, Conrad’s love for Belly runs deeply. A prime example of this is Junior Mint, a stuffed polar bear sporting sunglasses and scarf. He may seem simple, but he represents much more. The origin of Junior Mint stems from a trip to the Cousins Beach boardwalk. Belly and Conrad are walking along the pier as they play various carnival games. Belly stops to play basketball in an attempt to win a stuffed animal, though she quickly fails. Feeling discouraged, she solemnly walks away, leaving her desired prize behind her. Conrad sees her disappointment and devises a plan to win her a stuffed bear. He spends hours at the game and every dime left in his pocket, simply to see a smile on Belly’s face. Through multiple flashbacks in various episodes, Han ingeniously weaves in Belly’s childhood love and longing for Conrad. Although she overwhelmingly felt that these feelings were never reciprocated, Conrad had his own ways of showing love, and Junior Mint, in particular, proves it.

However, Junior Mint isn’t the only important emblem in Belly and Conrad’s relationship. Infinity is also another symbol that serves as a constant reminder of how their love continues without limits. Throughout their childhood, Conrad, a self-appointed math fanatic, teaches Belly all about infinity—how it’s never ending and how the symbol curves and continues endlessly. Revealing in these fond memories, Belly once again underestimates how much Conrad cares about her, assuming he doesn’t remember their conversations revolving around the mathematical symbol. However, she is once again proved wrong when she discovers a small jewelry box in Conrad’s room following her 16th birthday. Belly, curious as to what this box holds, opens it and discovers a small, silver necklace with an infinity symbol as the featured charm. Despite the conversations having happened so many years ago, Conrad remembers them like yesterday, and this emblem proves his love and care; Belly said it best, “He didn’t give me flowers, or candy; He gave me the moon, the stars, infinity.” Although the events follow a little differently in the books, they both exemplify Conrad’s infinite love for Belly. He isn’t the best at showing his emotions, but he consistently tries to show it through his actions.

Season two of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” not only delivered fans more of their favorite dysfunctional family in Massachusetts, but also provided major flashbacks that gave viewers insight into the beginning of Conrad and Belly’s relationship. Despite Conrad and Belly’s rocky start with having to break the news of their newly formed relationship to Jeremiah, Han delivered fan favorite scenes such as Conrad spending all night driving from his college, Brown University, to visit Belly during Christmas time in Massachusetts and talking on the phone for hours on end, keeping each other company even doing the most mundane tasks. 

Taylor Swift said it best, “All along there was some invisible string.” Conrad and Belly have been destined for each other from the start, and while our opinion may be harsh, there is no doubt that the right one for Belly (and maybe me) is Conrad. 

Team Jeremiah: 

Setting the books’ ending aside, here are the realistic reasons why, out of the two Fisher brothers, Conrad is just not the best choice for Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung) in the television adaption of “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” Following along with what Conrad lacks, this side will be focusing on Jeremiah Fisher, the “sunshine boy” who is reliable, supportive, who lets one be themselves, who one can always have fun with and who is ultimately the right choice for Belly. 

Jeremiah has always been there for Belly, as he is the most reliable out of the two brothers. In a flashback to when they were kids, the series shows Jeremiah staying home with Belly while she was sick, and as a consequence, getting sick himself. This displays how he has always been there for her from the beginning. This sentiment carries on throughout the present day of the characters as seen  when he immediately comes to pick her up when her clothes are taken while skinny dipping, when he dances with her because she doesn’t have a partner when practicing for the debutante ball and when he drives her all the way to volleyball camp. Besides these examples, he has also constantly told her throughout the show that he will always be there for her. 

Due to the fact that both Conrad and Belly started liking each other when they were little, they both have expectations of how the other person should be. This can be very unhealthy for a relationship, as the years of adolescence to a young adult is when one can change the most. Therefore, it is important to continue liking the person for who they are and what they choose to do, as change is completely normal. However, the debutante scene instance is an example of Conrad not being able to let go of how he thinks Belly should be, as if he knows her better than herself. Conrad even tells her later on that he doesn’t think it’s like her, which is vastly different from Jeremiah’s choice of words and actions. Instead of making her feel bad for becoming a debutante, Jeremiah danced with her when she needed a partner at rehearsal, walked her to her first day and even complimented her on her deb ball outfits. Unlike Conrad, Jeremiah was able to let Belly make her own decisions, support them and let Belly be herself. 

This toxicity doesn’t only apply to Conrad, as Belly also idealizes a version of him she once knew in her head. Therefore, when Conrad doesn’t act that specific way, she becomes determined that she can solve all his problems while he becomes a “fixer-upper.” This becomes increasingly unhealthy as the second Conrad starts to give her attention since she gets sucked back in, thinking that he has changed back into his old self. However, in the end they always end up hurting each other.   

Belly keeps getting hurt by Conrad for a number of reasons, some being the fact that he is emotionally immature and has bad communication skills. When finding out that his mom’s cancer came back, instead of letting someone know and talking about it, he shut his feelings away from everyone and turned to drinking. Even while people tried to understand what Conrad was going through, he kept on holding back his feelings. This reoccurs while Belly and him date, as he still won’t be upfront about what he goes through and how he feels. This plays a huge part in the downfall of their relationship, as Belly keeps trying to understand how he feels, yet he never gives in. This realistically doesn’t work in a relationship, as both sides need to be honest and open. Plus, when it comes to the coping mechanism of drinking, especially at an early age, it can become dangerous and stressful to their partner. It eventually becomes ironic that Conrad tells people to “grow up” three separate times in the show, when clearly he is the one who needs maturing. 

While Conrad holds back his feelings from Belly, Jeremiah is more open with her. This leads to a healthier relationship as Belly won’t have to constantly wonder what is going through his head and try to figure out how to make him feel better.

Overall, Jeremiah is the better choice for Belly. Not because of a Taylor Swift song that played during a specific moment, or some sort of other sign in the show that validates Conrad fans’ feelings, but because he is the healthier option for her. While Conrad and Belly’s relationship may be lustful, Belly’s relationship with Jeremiah is stable. This is because what Belly has with Conrad, the constant pining and yearning, is lust—which can burn and crash quicker than one may expect. However, what Belly has with Jeremiah, is not only love, but a best friend, making him ultimately the right choice.  

Conclusion: 

Despite the differences and constant disagreements, there will always be one thing that unites all “The Summer I Turned Pretty” fans: the only thing Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah are destined for is an extensive amount of therapy. Finally, the only couple in the show that should truly exist are Taylor (Belly’s best friend) and Steven (Belly’s brother).

Which team are you on?

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About the Contributors
Camilla Lewis
Camilla Lewis, Assignment Editor
Avid ocean, orange juice and “Napoleon Dynamite” lover.
Ruby Jenkins
Ruby Jenkins, Assignment Editor
"Jeopardy," “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and iced vanilla latte with oat milk enthusiast.
Amber Duhs
Amber Duhs, Writer
Second-year writer, chai latte lover and autumn enthusiast.
Gigi Richardson Seifert
"Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well." - Sylvia Plath
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