Now that “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” — a show based off the book series by Jenny Han — is on hiatus, it’s time to debate: which brother is best? The show centers around Isabel “Belly” Conklin and two brothers, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher, between whom she has to choose. It’s great, it’s messy, and it’s endlessly entertaining, but it also garners very, very strong opinions, mostly  concerning which brother is the best for Belly. 

Team Conrad — Isabel

There’s a lot of nonsense when you sift through the mound of “Team Conrad” takes online. Many of the “hot takes” populated over TikTok, Twitter/X, Instagram, and Tumblr are one-dimensional and uncritical. Even as a die-hard member of Team Conrad myself, I want to add the disclaimer right away that Conrad Fischer is not perfect and can very much so do wrong. But while actions and words do matter, intentions do as well. As stupid as these teenagers can be — and they can be so, so stupid — Conrad’s heart has always been in the right place. 

First and foremost, it’s important to state that this boy has made many mistakes over the course of the series. He tends to disappear when things get hard rather than face his problems head-on in the hope that removing himself is in fact the solution, when it never really is. In doing so, he’s not only harming Belly, Steven, and Jeremiah, but himself as well, and he is absolutely still learning his lesson. 

His handling of his relationship with Belly was also riddled with errors and, his communication was practically nonexistent. I completely understand that he would be struggling as his mother was on her deathbed, but that isn’t the issue; he should have communicated this Belly. I agree with that take, but what I do not agree with is the idea that this makes him a bad person, or that it means he does not care for Belly. Nothing, in my view, could be more false. 

Belly is it for Conrad. The concept of “if he wanted to, he would” is solid in theory, but in execution, life is often much more complicated than that, and Conrad is a prime example of this. His failings are never due to a lack of caring. His jealousy does manifest in unfortunate ways, but in my view ,you cannot get into “The Summer I Turned Pretty” and not expect some messy behavior. He supports Belly, respects her decisions, and ultimately wants her to be happy — even if it’s not with him. Him basically breaking up with her at prom — and, yes, maybe she said it was over, but it’s painfully clear that he was going to do the same — was awful, and I won’t defend it, but I will say that he took himself out of the equation with the belief that she would be better off without him. 

Stupid? Absolutely. But, as stated before, it’s not because he didn’t care about her or because he only liked the thrill of the chase. Bad decisions do not equal bad motives, and just because I am Team Conrad does not mean I believe that the first go of their relationship should have been “it.” They have many problems to work out and maturing to do before it’s time, but it will be time in the future, and you do not have to have read the books to figure as much. He loves her so much that he still gets that pain in his chest — and that deep, undying love doesn’t go away that quickly. 

Despite all the problems between Belly and Conrad, there are still so many lovely moments between the two of them that remain significant throughout the entire show. No matter how many times Belly and Jeremiah share a moment, there’s always one with Conrad that follows. 

It’s also important to note how Conrad compares to his brother, and the other end of the love triangle, Jeremiah. Jeremiah is absolutely more vocal than Conrad, but words are not everything, and there comes a point where they’re just that — words. He says things like, “You don’t have to hurt yourself to get my attention” or that if he started kissing Belly, he wouldn’t be able to stop — both of which are infinitely more “Wattpad cringey” than “Wattpad hot.” He talks a lot, but he’s telling rather than showing, breaking one of the most fundamental rules. 

Conrad shows his love for Belly through his actions, while Jeremiah expects his words to do all the heavy lifting. He also constantly yells at Belly, often for things that don’t seem very fair. Sorry, Jere, but it wasn’t her fault you couldn’t change a tire, and Belly didn’t abandon you. You were the one that ignored her calls and cut her out of your life, and it’s ridiculous to assert that that was all on her. Belly did hurt him, and I understand that, but that does not mean I have to support or excusehis behavior. Jeremiah’s inferiority complex when it comes to Conrad also ends up hurting Belly. He uses her as a way to get to Conrad, something which Belly tells him not to do. He cares more about “winning,” something heavily implied in a conversation he had with Conrad at a party in season one. He’s also constantly cruel and unfair to Conrad, despite Conrad trying to do the right thing by getting Jere’s blessing and stepping back when he saw that Belly and Jeremiah were falling for one another. Jeremiah, again, talks a lot about doing so, but when it really matters, he stirs things up rather than leaving them be. Jeremiah argues that Conrad doesn’t deserve Belly because he didn’t like her until that summer and didn’t do anything about it until the end of the summer. But what did Jeremah do? The narrative is also pointing in one clear direction, and that’s Conrad. And this isn’t a simple “well, almost every time they play a Taylor Swift song, it’s for Belly and Conrad” argument. There is a lot of symbolism, particularly at the end of the season, that is hinting strongly towards Conrad being the one for Belly. Not only was Belly wearing Conrad’s sweatshirt as she kissed Jeremiah on Conrad’s car, but when the three of them stayed in the motel, the warm light fell on her and Conrad, while a colder, blue light was on Jeremiah. Belly’s tossing and turning that night represented her confusion and struggle to decide, but she woke up facing Conrad. She’s also still hanging onto the necklace Conrad got her — small things that suggest that there is a right answer, despite the way season two ended. Jeremiah and Belly may be together for the time being, but Belly’s heart belongs to Conrad. This has been true since the beginning and will not change. End of story. 

Team Jeremiah — Lauryn

In the first episode of “The Summer I turned Pretty,” we are introduced to Jeremiah as Belly’s best friend. He waits all day for her to arrive to their summer home so that they can go to the beach. They end up racing down the shore and playfully tackling each other in the water. When I first watched this scene I immediately got butterflies. The familiarity and warmth between them felt like a perfect start to a teen summer romance. Throughout season one, Jeremiah helps Belly navigate new and anxiety — inducing situations — this being most evident in the debutante ball scenes. As Jeremiah watches Belly uncoordinatedly fumble and step on a fellow dancer’s shoes, he swoops in with ease and confidence. He cuts in and takes Belly’s hand in his and begins dancing with her. He then changes the music to an upbeat tempo, causing everyone to break out of their waltz and freestyle. He injects liveliness into every moment he has with Belly, whether it’s teaching her to drive, dancing with the debutantes, or even watching their high moms eat the snacks from the pantry. 

While Belly is in love with Conrad, it feels as though she is completely missing someone who is boyfriend material right in front of her. However, I felt the tides shift for her in season one, episode five. During this episode she confronts Conrad about the drunken kiss they almost shared on the Fourth of July hoping that he would admit how badly he wants to be with her. However, he claims that he doesn’t remember it — which he clearly does — and states that even though he does like her he simply can’t be with her. The song “Lost Cause” by Beck dramatically plays as Belly says, “I’m not waiting for you anymore.” Later in that episode, when Belly and Jeremiah are swimming in the pool, Jeremiah musters up the courage and tells Belly how he has felt about her all along. While Belly is initially surprised, she wholeheartedly embraces his feelings and kisses him. I was screaming at the top of my lungs while watching this! I rejoiced that Belly was finally getting the reciprocated feelings and love she deserves. 

We then are thrusted into their budding summer romance, complete with sneaking around and make-out sessions in the car.  But everything comes to an abrupt, explosive halt in episode eight. As the kids get devastating news about Susanah, the veil of a perfect summer comes crashing down and the characters, especially Belly, are forced to do serious reflection. It’s my belief that while Belly was interested in Jeremiah, she was still holding out hope that Conrad would love her. This is highlighted in the final episode of season one, as Belly and Conrad sit on the beach. She tells him that “I don’t want you to need me. I want you to want me,” and he says, “I do want you.” They then share a passionate kiss and she ends by exclaiming, “If this can happen maybe anything can.” 

At this point, I am BOOING, y’all, tomato, tomato BOOO. Team Conrad will ask: “But why? Belly finally got to be with the man of her dreams! Conrad finally admitted how he felt and he was going through an incredibly turbulent time so it was hard for him.” I hear you, but I could understand more if Conrad wasn’t dating other girls that summer. I could even understand if Conrad explained that he just needed time to process but told Belly how he felt. Conrad had plenty of opportunities to communicate with Belly, but he chose not to until she walked away. No one should have to grovel or plead for someone to tell them how they feel. Love is not something that you have to coax out of anyone. It is upfront, it is stable and it’s honest. This theme of a lack of communication plagues Belly and Conrad in season two and ultimately tanks their relationship. Belly and Conrad start out picture perfect; he visits her from college, they talk about anything and everything, and the fireplace scene takes place — if you know you know.  I was willing to put season one in the past and root for them! That feeling dissipated as soon as I saw the prom scene. During Belly’s prom, Conrad is clearly distraught and out of it due to the fact that his mothers condition has worsened. 

This leads Belly to ask if she’s done something wrong. Conrad explains that he feels as though he is disappointing her and that she deserves better. They then break up in the most heartbreaking way: Belly stands in the rain with tears streaming down her face while Conrad solemnly flees to his car.  For me, this scene pointed out a glaring issue with these two. Belly is insecurely attached to Conrad, anytime he builds his emotional walls, she takes it as a sign of rejection and immediately shuts herself off to avoid getting hurt; and her self esteem plummets. While Conrad is avoidantly attached to Belly, he doesn’t want to fully open up in fear that she will see him as a burden and eventually fall out of love with him. It is clear that these two, while in love, need partners that are able to make them feel secure. Belly and Conrad are amazing when they work but an absolute trainwreck when they don’t. 

Throughout season two as the events of the summer unfold, we see Belly and Jeremiah’s relationship dynamic change. Initially, Jeremiah was upset and cold to Belly, claiming that she forgot about him even though he was hurting. While I believe that he played a part in the lack of communication between them, I see why he might’ve felt that way. To him, Belly was his first real love and the moment he thought they would finally be together, the rug was pulled from underneath him as she laced her fingers in Conrad’s hand. For him, this was a complete and utter betrayal of trust. For months he endured seeing them together and each time it was as though they were stabbing him in the back. So, of course, he ignored every text and phone call, because to him there was no point. Belly would never show up for him in the way he wanted. However, Belly works tirelessly to build the trust between them again, and slowly but surely she does. We see them grow closer together again and Belly quickly realizes that Jeremiah is truly who she wantswhen Belly asks for Jeremiah to forgive her and asks for a second chance. This is when they share a steamy, jaw-dropping, highly anticipated kiss. Later, when Jeremiah demands Conrad to tell Belly how he feels so that she can make a final decision, he doesn’t. In true Conrad fashion, he meekly hides his feelings, which only cements Jeremiah as the only contender for Belly. Even when life is messy and complicated, even when they drift apart, Jeremiah and Belly find their way to each other because their relationship is built around friendship and stability. #TeamJere.

Team Belly

While the two of us disagree over who the best guy for Belly is, we ultimately agree on one thing: Team Belly, first and foremost. 

So much of the discourse surrounding “The Summer I Turned Pretty” bashes Belly Conklin relentlessly. We’ve seen people claiming she’s narcissistic, cruel, and uncaring. People act as though she hurts the boys on purpose, or as though she doesn’t care about them. These opinions are, however, decidedly false. 

Belly is a 16-year-old girl. She has barely any life experience, and she has no road map to follow here. Feelings are confusing, and it’s disheartening to see so little sympathy shown towards her. Love is not always straightforward, and you can’t always figure out how you feel right away. She’s made mistakes, absolutely, but who hasn’t? And it’s important to note that the boys have hurt her, too. It was never a one-way street.  It’s irrational and ridiculous to expect Belly to have the maturity and worldly knowledge of Laurel or maybe Susannah. She, like Conrad and Jeremiah, is still reeling from Susannah’s death, and that grief, in addition to her broken heart, is bound to affect her. But she is caring and sensitive and, above all else, she tries.