‘Pen15’ Review: Making Awkwardness into Art

Pen15, created by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle and Sam Zvibleman, is a Hulu original series about two hopelessly awkward middle school girls dealing with all of the trials and tribulations puberty so graciously brings. What makes this show so unique is that the two main characters are portrayed by Maya and Anna themselves who are over 30-years-old in real life. The series premiered in 2019 and has just returned with its second season.

In season one, we meet Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine) and Anna Kone (Anna Kone), two thirteen-year-old best friends who are just starting the seventh grade. Together, they experience nearly everything from classes to after-school activities and school dances. The tween girls ask all of the age old coming of age questions like how do we get our crushes to like us? Will smoking and drinking beer make us cool? Is masturbating normal? And when do we start wearing thongs? Plus, their seemingly rock solid friendship gets put to the test for the first time.

This season certainly holds up to the same standard of comedy and pre-teen drama as the first. Again, Anna and Maya’s friendship is tested when a third girl, Maura (Ashlee Grubbs), wants to join their group and be their “third best friend.” Things get a bit complicated when Maura lies to Anna and tells everyone about Maya’s period at a sleepover party. 

Season 2 also happens to be when Maya gets her first boyfriend, her co-lead in the school musical Gabe (Dylan Gabe), even though she is still crushing on his best friend Sam (Taj Cross). Finally this season, Anna’s parent’s divorce (which was revealed at the end of season 1) progresses further causing major issues between Anna and her mother. 

Pen15 is a series about pre-teens made for adults. It also acts as a period piece being that the show takes place in the late 90’s back when Anna and Maya were really thirteen. The show can get cringy at times by pushing the awkwardness envelope as far as it can go, but that is part of its charm. Pen15 speaks volumes to the millennial demographic. With that being said, it may not be a show for everyone — but if this sounds like something you would enjoy, don’t hesitate to give it a try.

Pen15 seasons 1-2 are available to stream on Hulu.

By Blair Krassen @blairlyawake

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