We finally have an answer for why Shayla isn’t back in Cousins Beach this summer — at least within the TSITP universe. Book-to-screen adaptations usually try to stay as faithful to their source material as possible, but Prime Video’s adaptation of The Summer I Turned Pretty is unafraid and unapologetic about deviating from Jenny Han’s original novels (and as the TV version’s showrunner, she’s totally on board with the updates). Season 1’s debutante plotline was a completely new addition to the series (a very welcome change, IMO), and with it came a whole new cast of characters, including Cousins’ resident summer it-girl, Shayla Wang.
In case you need a refresher: Shayla’s a self-assured socialite who loves fashion, traveling, and Steven Conklin. Her confidence and endless supply of outfit inspo made her a fan-favorite character — so why isn’t Shayla in Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty? Spoiler warning: Spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of The Summer I Turned Pretty follow.
Minnie Mills, the actress who plays Shayla, announced on her Instagram on April 19 that she would not return for the show’s second season in a touching tribute to her character. She wrote that she was especially proud of Shayla and Steven’s relationship, even captioning the post #stevenandshaylaforever. The last time we saw the pair was at the deb ball in the Season 1 finale, when Steven told Shayla that he loved her and she iconically responded, “Well, duh.”
It looks like their love was sadly just a summer fling. In the Season 2 premiere, Steven says in his valedictorian speech, “Sometimes, a girl dumps you after an awesome summer, and it sucks, and you learn nothing from it, but you eventually force yourself to move on anyways.” Steven might still be a little salty about the breakup, but Shayla’s off living her best life. In Episode 2, Belly and Jeremiah run into Nicole, Belly’s deb mentor from Season 1, at a roadside pie shop. She reports that Shayla is spending the summer traveling around Europe with her parents. A Mamma Mia! summer is the perfect way for the show to explain her disappearance; she was practically made to sail around the Amalfi Coast on a yacht. A dream, TBH.
Shayla’s absence shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who’s read The Summer I Turned Pretty series. Her character was created exclusively for the show, so she’s not essential to the second season’s plot. Neither is Cam Cameron, though; he’s only a main character in the first book, yet he shows up in Season 2’s trailer. Why did the show write Shayla off instead?
The first three episodes of Season 2 are setting up a new couple this season: Steven and Taylor. Neither character plays a major role in the series’ second book, but Episode 3 sees them making the drive to Cousins together. Nothing too romantic has happened yet, but the season’s teaser trailer shows a shot of the pair slow dancing in a future episode (!!!). While Shayla’s off in Europe working on her suntan, I’ll be spending my summer gushing over Steven and Taylor’s slow burn romance.