I’ve read Jenny Han’s Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy twice now and I STILL crave more of Isabel “Belly” Conklin’s story with her childhood-friends-turned-crushes, brothers Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. The books may be shelved in the “young adult” section at the library, but Belly’s relatable teenage experiences have a universal appeal, much like Lara Jean Covey’s appeal in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. And like her fellow Han heroine, Belly’s about to step into the Hollywood lights, with a TV adaptation of The Summer I Turned Pretty set to debut on Amazon Prime this June.
With the author onboard as a co-showrunner and writer, I’m confident many of the standout moments from the books will make their way into the show. (In fact, Han has promised they will!) For me, that means Belly and Conrad’s sweetest, most romantic moments. Because as tortured and angsty as the two of them could get at the height of their love triangle woes, they sure know how to bring the swoon as well. Here are just a few of Belly and Conrad’s greatest hits that play over and over in my head, and that I’m hoping to see come to life on TV soon.
[Note: This list contains spoilers for all three novels! Read at your own risk…]
The Summer I Turned Pretty
One of the first things we learn about Belly Conklin is that she’s been in love with Conrad Fisher forever. She may have shared her first kiss with his younger brother, Jeremiah, but it’s Conrad who owns her 15-year-old heart. The question throughout the first book is: Does Conrad feel anywhere even close to the same, or is Belly bound to be disappointed? He’s a couple years older, after all, and a moody teenage boy. Sure, he seems to be checking her out when her family arrives in Cousins this summer, and then there’s that moment of “weird stillness” in the pool, not to mention signs of jealousy when she’s anywhere near Cam. You could almost chalk those things up to Belly projecting, though. Almost. Because then some pretty major moments happen, like…
Conrad plays with Belly’s hair
Conrad’s first overtly romantic gesture with Belly is when he reaches out to idly play with her hair. He plays with her hair, guys!!!! Before this scene, I remember wondering: Is Belly simply reading too much into Conrad’s behavior? Maybe he only sees her as a sister and she has a case of hero worship that will fade with time. With this unconscious move, however, all of Conrad’s cool-guy posture falls away, revealing an undeniable truth: Belly isn’t alone in her crush. You could even go so far as to say the boy has it bad for her.
Conrad “forgets” Belly’s birthday present
Okay, I’m sure you’re questioning my sanity right now, or at least my taste. Conrad pretending he forgot to get Belly a birthday gift? How was that a sweet moment for them? Well, because it further exposes the depth of Conrad’s devotion to Belly. While it takes time to learn the full story, we readers know right away that something is off, because according to Belly, Conrad has never before forgotten her birthday. And come to find out, the guy in fact put SO much thought into her 16th birthday gift, got her something so lovey-dovey, that he was embarrassed to give it to her in front of their families. He simply wasn’t prepared to be that vulnerable and open about his feelings yet. That’s about as sweet as a teenage boy can get, even if it (understandably) takes Belly some time to realize it
Belly confesses her feelings to Conrad
After pages and pages spent in Belly’s head, we’re very aware that she’s been all but planning her wedding to Conrad Fisher since childhood. It’s only a matter of time before the words burst out of her, and boy do they! You simply must root for Belly when she confesses:
“I’ve loved you since I was ten years old. … You’re the only boy I’ve ever thought about. My whole life, it’s always been you. You taught me to dance, you came out and got me the time I swam out too far. Do you remember that? You stayed with me and you pushed me back to shore, and the whole time, you kept saying, ‘We’re almost there, and I believed it. I believed it because you were the one who was saying it, and I believed everything you ever said. Compared to you, everything else is saltines, even Cam. And I hate saltines. You know that. You know everything about me, even this, which is that I really love you.”
I mean…wow. If Conrad doesn’t know how lucky he is after that scene, he’s hopeless.
Belly kisses Conrad..and he kisses her back(!!!)
The timing couldn’t be worse for their first kiss. Poor Belly has only just discovered what pretty much everyone else knew all summer: Susannah’s cancer is back, and she’s fading fast. Conrad’s moodiness for the past couple months suddenly makes perfect sense, and he’s quit even trying to pretend he’s holding it together. Suffice to say, neither of them is in the right headspace for the epic kiss that Belly surely imagined. Instead, their first kiss comes when Belly, driven by an instinctual need to comfort Conrad and to seek solace from him in return, pulls him close and kisses him.
It’s Not Summer Without You
The second book in the Summer series has its fair share of sadness, but joy is present and accounted for as well. Belly’s growing up, and her love for Conrad is growing more complex as well.
Conrad calls and visits Belly
If three-and-a-half-hour drives visit you doesn’t show a teenage boy’s commitment to you, I don’t know what does! While Belly and Conrad didn’t become an official couple in the time between the end of The Summer I Turned Pretty and the start of It’s Not Summer Without You, they did tacitly acknowledge being more than friends. “We became something,” Belly notes early in the book. “Something that was never clearly defined, but it was something. It was really something.” She recalls the times Conrad took mini road trips to come visit her and how one time he had to stay the night because her mom insisted it was too late for him to drive back to school. He also called her enough to catch the attention of her dense older brother, Steven, who finally asked: “Why does Conrad keep calling you?” To which she responded: “Why do you think? He likes me. We like each other.” Awww. Belly is mostly recapping this period of time for us, so we don’t get to experience these calls and visits as they’re happening to her, but I’ve made the executive decision to lump them together as one of Conrad’s sweetest gestures in the trilogy.
Belly finds the birthday Conrad bought for her–a pendant necklace
Finally we get confirmation that Conrad didn’t forget Belly’s birthday present in The Summer I Turned Pretty–not even close. He bought her the sappiest sweet 16 gift of all but couldn’t work up the nerve to give it to her in front of their families. When Belly finds a beautiful infinity necklace in a robin’s-egg blue (read: Tiffany’s) box in Conrad’s desk, she immediately knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he had picked it out for her. Later in the book, he confirms it, telling her: “You know what [the necklace] means.” What it means is that his love for her is as vast and unending as her love for him.
Belly tells a sleeping Conrad “There’s only you”
Devastated by his mother’s passing, Conrad’s a hot mess for much of It’s Not Summer Without You. He wallows in his pain and lashes out at the people who love him, including Belly. No matter how hard he tries to push her away, though, Belly won’t let him, not totally. Her devotion to him in the face of his self-destructive behavior, and the way she whispers “There’s only you” to him at the hotel after he falls asleep, proves her love for him is true and much more than a little girl’s hero worship, whether he’s ready to accept that love yet or not. (And he’s decidedly not.)
We’ll Always Have Summer
The third and final book in the series, We’ll Always Have Summer, is a game-changer in a few ways, and one is that Conrad finally gets to tell his side of the story. To be specific, a good chunk of this book is Conrad not-so-secretly pining for Belly in a way we could have only guessed at before we were invited into his head.
Conrad and Belly become housemates
If there’s one plotline I desperately need to make it into the Summer I Turned Pretty TV series, it’s Belly and Conrad living together as temporary roommates in the summer house. I ADORE roommates-to-lovers storylines, and this one does a wonderful job of showing how well matched Belly and Conrad are when it’s just the two of them. Try as they might to keep their distance at first, they end up falling into a natural groove, cooking and quietly taking care of each other like supportive partners. Even though it almost kills him, Conrad goes so far as to help her plan her wedding to Jeremiah, because he simply cannot let her struggle with things by herself.
Conrad returns the necklace to Belly and apologizes
Why did I pick this scene over Conrad confessing to a friend that he loved Belly a 10/10, or him pleading with Belly not to marry his brother, or even him telling Jere that she may be the only girl he could ever be with? I chose it because Conrad returning the infinity necklace to Belly is only about them, Belly and Conrad, no one else. Because it’s one thing to tell someone you love them or to ask them to choose you. It’s a whole other thing to demonstrate your love in small, private ways, and to show that you are willing to sacrifice your own happiness for the person you care about most. By returning her necklace, Conrad is offering Belly an apology—and closure, if she wants it. She can accept the necklace as a token of their past relationship, a reminder that what they felt for each other was real, even if it’s over. “I need you to know that no matter what happens, it was worth it to me,” he tells her. “Being with you, loving you. It was all worth it.” As self-sacrificing speeches go, it’s heart-achingly perfect.
Belly receives letters from Conrad while in Spain
How very far we’ve come from the first book. Conrad is no longer the sullen teenager unable to properly express his wants and needs. After a lot of soul-searching, not to mention time in the intervening years to grow up, he’s a man prepared to patiently woo the woman he loves. Belly senses it too: Conrad’s monthly letters to her while she’s studying in Spain are a fresh start for them. They’re a chance for the two of them to get to know each other as adults, separate from their families and from their own drama-filled history. Hand-written letters are wonderfully intimate, and the act of writing and then posting them shows intentionality that goes far beyond shooting off a quick text message. It doesn’t even matter what he said in the letters, not really; Conrad sending them (and continuing to send them even when she didn’t reply at first) is his grandest gesture in the whole series. I hope we get to see him write them and Belly open them in the TV show.
What did I miss? Which other sweet moments would you add to this list of Belly and Conrad’s greatest hits?
*Full disclosure: In my day job, I work for the publisher of Jenny Han’s books. I am writing this article purely as a fan, however. My love for these YA romances predates the job by several years.
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