Cruel Summer

How far will Jeanette go to become the most popular girl? Amazon's twisty teen series delivers.

With Cruel Summer the biggest ever series launch on US cable channel Freeform, I figured I better take a look, to see what all the fuss was about.

Having watched the first two eps, I can see why. This is fires an arrow at its young female audience with all the precision of Apollo.

Produced by Jessica Biel, this is a tale of mystery and melodrama set across three separate periods: 1993, 1994 and 1995. Flashback alert, keep up…..

In 1993 Texan teen Jeanette, is turning 15 but while she has a loving family, she and her nerdy pals Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) and Vince (Allius Barnes) aren’t exactly the most popular kids in school. Despite them having close ties and getting up to neighbourhood hijinks, Jeanette has that emptiness inside her.

If only she were more like blonde bombshell Kate (Reese Witherspoon lookalike, Olivia Holt) who has hot jock boyfriend Jamie (Froy Gutierrez).

But how far would Jeanette go to attain just that…?

That’s about all you need to know from writer Bert V. Royal (Easy A.) who shrewdly plays with what goes down over the space of three years. Scenes jump from year to year (pay attention!) which hint at a dark incident but also a blossoming for our lead character. Friendships are discarded, lawyers arrive, and home life is turned on its head.

At one point Jeanette even refers to being “the most hated person in the nation.” Just what went down?

There’s a hefty supporting cast of parents, siblings and teachers and it can take some concentration to grasp how all these jigsaw pieces fit.

Keeping his audience guessing allows Royal to spring surprises and twists and that’s part of the fun of the series. While the dialogue isn’t especially insightful into the growing pains of adolescence, you can overlook it for melodrama confidence.

If you’re missing Revenge, this is a younger upstart.

Cruel Summer begins Friday August 6 on Amazon Prime Video.

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