Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 1. Proceed at your own risk!
Apparently, summer is the season of confusing feelings for Isabel “Belly” Conklin.
The Summer I Turned Pretty‘s finale began with Belly declaring to her brother Steven that she’s chosen to be with her easygoing friend Jeremiah. But after his brother Conrad stepped in when Jeremiah went MIA during Belly’s debutante ball dance, it seemed like Belly’s feelings for her broody first love/crush were resurfacing. Jere had a good excuse, though, for his absence: He had just learned that his and Conrad’s mother is dying of cancer. After Jeremiah was able to convince his mom to do a medical trial, even though her chances of survival are very slim, Belly and a relieved Conrad met up on the beach.
“I don’t just need somebody. I need you,” Conrad said. When Belly responded that she doesn’t just want him to need her, but that she wants him to want her, he assured her that he does, and the two kissed. But just a day ago, Belly seemed committed to exploring a relationship with Jeremiah.
“I think a little bit of her heart is with both of them,” star Lola Tung, who plays Belly, tells TVLine. “The story is definitely not over, and she hasn’t made a final decision in any way. I think she really loves both of these boys. In this very moment [in] the last scene, she’s there with Conrad, and that’s what’s happening in the moment, but it’s definitely not the end of the story.” (Indeed, the series received an early Season 2 renewal last week.)
Adds co-showrunner Jenny Han, who wrote the books on which the show is based: “To me, that moment is this is the one thing [Belly] wanted forever, and then like how do you say no to that in that moment? It’s really almost like time stops for a minute and you just have to go with it.”
With both boys still in the mix for Belly’s heart, we asked their portrayers to state their case for why each of them is the right guy for her. “[Conrad] is a protector,” actor Christopher Briney says. “He will fight for you, he will challenge you, and those are all very important qualities in being with someone. A healthy amount of constructive blocks, things that you can build on with each other, I think that’s his strongest element.”
As for Belly’s pal Jeremiah, “he just has such a loving and caring personality,” his portrayer Gavin Casalegno shares. “Obviously, deep down, he lacks confidence and is insecure and doesn’t want to overstep, and I think that just makes him just care so much more about Belly and who she is. And personally in my life, that’s what I would fall for, and just that best friendship that you would have.”
While both the finale and the first book concluded with the sense that something is starting between Belly and Conrad, the novel ended on a more vague scene for the pair, in which Conrad comes to visit Belly at her home in the winter, rather than on a kiss. Han also shuffled around the timeline of the book trilogy, shifting Belly and Jeremiah’s first smooch from the second novel It’s Not Summer Without You to this season’s fifth episode.
In adapting her books for the screen, “there was definitely a feel of wanting to move up the love triangle a bit sooner,” Han explains. “You just never know if you’re going to get more than one season of something, and so I did want it to feel really complete. If we only got the one, then we only got the one, but people would understand what the core of the story was and who the love story was about.”
Han was also excited to translate a particular Belly and Conrad moment from the first book to the first episode. “It was really important to me to get that [scene] right when they’re in the car and he’s touching her hair,” she reveals, noting that “when you’re a teenager, your only privacy sometimes is in a car.”
Tung, too, is a fan of the scene because “it just feels like everything else outside of the car doesn’t matter in that moment, and it’s just them there,” the actress shares. “I really do think that moment was so special… It’s such a simple thing, but it’s such a big moment for these two characters.”
Adds Han: “It’s very vulnerable for both [of them].”
The Summer I Turned Pretty fans, what did you think of the finale? Grade it below, then hit the comments!