The last time we saw Belly Conklin (Lola Tung), she and Conrad Fisher (Christopher Briney), her longtime crush, were finally taking a leap out of the friend zone and into a full-on romance. And as season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty begins, we jump right into that honeymoon phase with them. It’s a pretty picture: Conrad is playfully shaking his hair onto Belly as she lies out in the sun, his mother Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) looks on lovingly, his brother Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) laughs along with them. It’s a beautiful summer day. Tyler, the Creator is playing. But it’s just a dream.
Belly snaps back to reality in the middle of class a year after the events of season 1, where a lot has happened since she and Conrad finally got together. For one, they’re not together anymore. And much worse, Susannah is gone. After promising her boys that she would do a medical trial to treat her cancer, she passes away shortly before the events of season 2. The emotional weight of her loss will be felt throughout the season, by her sons as well as Belly, her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman), and their mother Laurel (Jackie Chung), Susannah’s best friend.
In many ways, this summer is not the same as the last. The show depicts that through frequent flashbacks, juxtaposing similar scenes to show how much has changed—and lot has. Let’s dive in.
It’s the start of summer, but Belly isn’t celebrating. She isn’t handling Susannah’s death well and she’s falling behind in class. (In fact, her grades have been subpar all year, and she lost her spot as volleyball captain).
Cue a flashback to sunnier times, when she and Conrad finally got together in the season 1 finale. Belly tells him that Jeremiah revealed his feelings for her and that they kissed a few times. Conrad is concerned but surprisingly cool with it. But when Belly tells Jeremiah that she and Conrad kissed, he takes the news worse than expected. He warns Belly that Conrad is going to break her heart. Back with Conrad on the beach, Belly is riddled with guilt. Maybe they should hit pause on their budding romance. She doesn’t want to drive the brothers apart, especially when they need to support each other through their mother’s illness. Conrad gives her an infinity necklace as a parting gift.
In the current timeline, Steven is graduating as valedictorian and heading to Princeton. While Jeremiah and Conrad aren’t going to the graduation, Steven receives a gift from Susannah, which she must have scheduled before her passing. At the ceremony, he gives an inspirational commencement speech—in which he hints that his season 1 girlfriend Shayla (Minnie Mills) dumped him last summer—and leaves his fellow students some words of wisdom: “It may feel like the world is happening to you, but remember that you are also happening to the world.” He ends up going viral on TikTok.
Belly is still not feeling her best but decides to try socializing and attend her brother’s big graduation party as designated driver. There, she reunites with her former volleyball team and voices her plans to return to volleyball camp this summer. She endures some awful covers by Taylor’s (Rain Spencer) new boyfriend, Milo, and his band. She awkwardly flirts with a cute guy from French class and even leans in for a kiss, only to find out that he’s interested in her friend.
She’s having more fun in the flashbacks. Glimpses of the past year reveal how Conrad and Belly kept the spark alive even after they parted ways. He first called her out of the blue to catch up as friends, but the phone calls got more frequent and more intimate. They discussed their respective lives at school, with him now in his first year at college, and gossiped about petty drama. On a more serious note, Conrad revealed that his father once cheated on Susannah and had an affair. Belly talked about her parents’ divorce and lingering concern for Jeremiah. Things turned romantic again when she hit Conrad with an astronomical fun fact. Did you know Venus is an evening star for 263 days, then disappears from view before returning as a morning star for another 263 days? She told him she wished they were looking at the night sky together.
Steven, on a high from his graduation day and in an effort to impress Taylor, decides to crowd surf but falls right on Belly, knocking her over. She is pissed, but she really loses it when Steven tries to shotgun a beer and it explodes all over her super cute outfit. She wants to go home, despite her DD duties. She and Steven get into a fight that escalates from her blaming him for not grieving Susannah enough to him blaming her for making things “messy” between Jeremiah and Conrad. He accuses her of sabotaging his friendship with them just because she “had to have Conrad.” But she was crazy in love! What was she supposed to do?
Belly tearfully drives home as Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” plays, in what looks like her own version of the music video. When she gets home, she encounters another memory: Conrad showing up on her doorstep before Halloween. At the time, he told her that he talked to Jeremiah, who’d recovered from the rejection. Conrad added that his feelings for Belly are still strong and he’s happy whenever he talks to her. Then, they finally kissed.
Inside, post-grad party, Laurel is waiting for Belly with a lecture. The chic mom and author has been grieving Susannah’s loss in her own way. She wrote a book about losing her best friend but doesn’t want to promote it in fear of exploiting her loss for sales. Tonight, though, she’s disappointed in her daughter for letting her grades slip and for losing her volleyball captaincy. Belly has some words for Laurel too: that she was barely around in the past year while she was taking care of Susannah and supporting the boys. She can’t point fingers at Belly for shirking responsibility when she herself refuses to discuss her book. After Belly storms into her room, Laurel reads the graduation card Susannah wrote for Steven and realizes that a line from his speech was inspired by her message. She agrees to meet with publishers about her book after all.
Later that night, Belly can’t sleep. She picks up the phone again, but this time she calls Jeremiah. It’s their first one-on-one conversation in forever, and he has some bad news: Conrad is missing. She decides to help find him.
A few months ago, around Christmastime, Conrad was home from college, picking Belly up for a secret trip to the beach. Now, Belly’s on a bus headed to Brown to help Jeremiah find him. (She told her mom she was at Taylor’s helping her get over a breakup.)
Things are awkward when she and Jeremiah finally reunite on the Brown campus, where they check Conrad’s dorm for clues. His roommate says he saw him yelling at someone on the phone. Another friend helps them realize the obvious: He’s at Cousins Beach. They’ll have to find him quick; he has to be back for his bio final or he’ll fail the class. Belly and Jeremiah pack up some of Conrad’s books, and while rummaging through his things, Belly finds that infinity necklace.
Jeremiah doesn’t really want Belly to come with him to Cousins (though she knows deep down he does), but she joins him for a very tense car ride. By now, it’s only been about a month since his mother died, and even though he says he’s fine, she can tell he’s not coping well. She learns he hasn’t been speaking much to Conrad, either. “We don’t talk about you,” he tells her quite harshly. To make the ride even more stressful, they get a flat tire. On the side of the road, they address the elephant(s) in the room: Jeremiah was mad that Belly dumped him for Conrad, even though he pretended he was over it, and apparently something “fucked” happened between them at the funeral. Belly is sorry for hurting him and not being there for him like she was for Conrad when Susannah was sick, but she really truly did miss him. They cry and hug it out.
Meanwhile, Laurel makes up for some lost mother-child bonding over breakfast with Steven (and he pays!). He encourages her to go to the booksellers’ meet and greet in New York, but first, she’ll need an outfit. She needs to dress up if she’ll be mingling with a bunch of “famous” New York writers. At the store, a sales associate turns out to be a fan of her previous book, giving Laurel a reassuring ego boost. Laurel teases her next work to her new fan: It’s Not Summer Without You, a memoir about her best friend. (Coincidentally, this is the title of the second book of Jenny Han’s Summer series, on which this season is based.) But revisiting the memory of Susannah is hard, and Laurel cries in the dressing room. Steven, on the other hand, is onto Belly’s lie. When he confronts Taylor, she reveals his sister’s real whereabouts, but he agrees to keep the secret, even though he has a little FOMO.
On the drive to Cousins, Belly and Jeremiah stop at their favorite pie place. The ice is broken, their banter is back, and so is their ESP, or so they call their freakish ability to read each others’ minds (because that’s what best friends can do!). But Belly keeps thinking back to her and Conrad’s last trip to the beach. In the car, he gave her his sweater to keep warm. He told her he’s switching his major to pre-med, inspired by his mother’s sickness. When they finally got to the empty beach house, she made hot cocoa and he started a fire. They frolicked on the beach in falling snow. (Which was a perfect time to play Taylor Swift’s “Snow on the Beach,” but “Invisible String” will do.) When they got back inside, they dried off by the fire (Conrad wore the exact T-shirt she still had in her closet in the previous episode), started kissing, and slept together for the first time. Afterward, Belly whispers to him while he’s sleeping: “There’s only ever been you.”
In the present day, Jeremiah and Belly arrive at the beach house and find Conrad at last. Belly is shocked when he reveals that the beach house has been put up for sale, but Conrad is even more shocked to see her standing there, asking, “What is she doing here?” Ouch.
So, why is the house for sale? Apparently the decision was made by Susannah’s half-sister Julia, who co-owns the house but had a frosty relationship with her. Legally, the house is now hers, and Conrad and Jeremiah’s father can’t afford to buy it from her on top of paying Brown tuition and medical bills. But maybe the boys can use their trust fund money (of course they have trust funds) to buy it back.
They can’t stand to lose their mother’s house, the thing she loved the most. To Conrad, it will be like losing her all over again. What hurt more was that he found out from a friend, who spotted a for sale sign in the yard. Hence why he dropped everything and came to Cousins. Still trying to play protective big brother, he kept the news from Jeremiah to avoid worrying him. But Jeremiah is done being babied; he wants to help too.
There’s no time to waste—Aunt Julia is already in town and ready to show the house to potential buyers. Jeremiah and Belly meet her to try to talk her out of it. It’s been years since he last saw her—notably, she was not at Susannah’s funeral, which doesn’t sit well with the kids. But Julia (enter Kyra Sedgwick!) cannot be easily convinced with small talk and a bouquet of hydrangeas. She’s dead-set on selling and already has an open house planned for tomorrow. She insists her reasons aren’t personal. In fact, they might be simply financial. Julia is not as wealthy as Susannah and her family—she could barely get off work to be here—maybe that’s why she needs to sell the place. Her teenage kid, Sky (Elsie Fisher), is also in town with her.
Things are still weird between Belly and Conrad. Up until now, the details of their fallout are still a mystery, but the flashbacks slowly fill us in. When they were still together, he was already losing focus, preoccupied with his mother’s illness. He almost forgot to order a tux for her prom because he was concerned about Susannah’s new medication. On the night of prom, he forgot Belly’s corsage. He barely danced with her at the venue. When they did dance, he told her he’s going back to school instead of the after-prom party. He’s worried he’ll ruin the rest of the night. She’s worried she did something wrong.
Things escalated when they took it outside. Belly asked him not to shut her out; he feared he’d keep disappointing her. In a dramatic confrontation between running sprinklers, Conrad decided to leave. Belly assumed that this meant that they’re over, and she made it official by giving him back her infinity necklace. Steven comforted her while Conrad drove away.
Back at home, as Laurel heads to her NYC bookseller event, Steven decides to join his sister and the Fishers at Cousins uninvited, and Taylor tags along. Their impromptu road trip is filled with goofy banter, subtle shade (maybe some flirtation?), and a heart-to-heart about grief. Taylor serves him with some advice from her therapist: happiness and grief can co-exist, and that’s completely fine. Jeremiah and Belly have their own bonding moment in transit: She reveals the reason why she lost her volleyball captaincy is that she was distracted by Susannah’s death, so he encourages her to start playing again.
Jeremiah and Conrad’s father won’t give them access to their trust. That money is for their future, he says, not to buy a beach house. While the boys try to negotiate with their dad, Belly remembers Susannah’s funeral. It was a heartbreaking service. Conrad sang “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam, the song his mother always made him sing. On top of their grief, Belly and Conrad were also working through their lingering feelings for each other. At the reception, Conrad went MIA, so Belly searched around the house for him. (As “Silver Spring” starts playing in the background, you know something is about to go down.) Alas, she found him upstairs, lying in the arms of another girl. Belly was so hurt—why would Conrad accept this girl’s help but not hers? They ended up causing a scene in front of all the guests.
“I knew it was a bad idea starting something with you,” Conrad said. “It was a huge mistake.”
“I hate you,” Belly replied. “And I never want to see you again.” As she tried getting away from him, she tripped and fell in front of everyone. Laurel looked at her disapprovingly.
Back in the present, the Fishers realize their dad has known since the funeral that the house would be sold but didn’t tell them. With the worst timing possible, Steven and Taylor drop in unannounced.
The brothers have a moment together on the dock. Jeremiah feels like everyone is slipping away and the house is the only thing tying them together. Conrad promises they’ll figure something out together. (They’ll start with sabotaging the open house the next day.) But first, a movie night. As It Happened One Night starts to play on the TV, Steven clocks Conrad checking his phone and heading out for the beach. He’s having a panic attack.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.