Just 13 summers ago, Jenny Han’s book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, was published, and now it has been turned into a TV series. Let’s check out what major changes were made between the book and the series!
*Spoiler Alert*: This article contains spoilers from season 1 of The Summer I Turned Pretty!
It’s been a long time coming for The Summer I Turned Pretty fans, but the wait is finally over. Amazon Prime released the new series, back on June 17th, 2022 and fans have been obsessed ever since.
In May of 2009, Jenny Han published the novel which was about a coming-of-age drama that focuses on the love triangle between Belly (Lola Tung), and two brothers, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), with who she’s grown up with during the summers at Cousins Beach, NC.
Not only did Han write the pilot episode for the series, but also contributed by being a co-showrunner and got to decide what would remain from the book–and what would be eliminated. But thankfully, that magical and dreamy aura from the book was able to translate to the small screen, which was Han’s goal.
“I wanted it to feel like a locket that you find, you open it up and there’s this picture inside,” the author told E! News. “It’s a memory, but at the same time, I wanted it to feel resonant and current and raw.”
Since it has been 13 years since the novel was published, the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before writer did make some detectable changes for the TV series, including one of the main characters experiencing a change in their sexual orientation.
“I was approaching it like, ‘What if I was writing this book in 2021?’” Han said while explaining her thought process in the same interview. “The characters are all still the same, but I think with so much time passing it’s just a different moment. Even though 13 years doesn’t sound like much, it’s a significant amount of time that’s passed and culture has moved in so many different ways, even from technology to diversity.”
But no matter how many changes were made from the book to the series, Han made sure to keep the spirit of the summer love story that made her readers fall in love.
That said, here are the biggest changes The Summer I Turned Pretty made in its voyage from paper to the big screen…
Fans were shocked to find out that in episode 2, Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) revealed to fans that he is bisexual. The first scene that was hinted at was when Jeremiah was lifeguarding at the pool and he started pointing out multiple people that he’s made out with.
“I just like to kiss and be cozy with people,” he says in the series. Then, in episode 3, he is seen making out with a guy named Luke right before realizing he had romantic feelings for Belly.
“It felt right for the character and right for the moment,” author and showrunner, Jenny Han, explained to E! News about her decision to make Jeremiah sexually fluid. She further explains “That character is someone who has always been really comfortable in his own skin.”
Even though some were surprised by this change, Han stressed that “if you look at the books and look at the character, it shouldn’t feel like too much of a surprise.”
Casalegno spoke about this character change to E! News as well, saying, “it was really fun to explore Jeremiah’s side of the story” talking about in the series and “bring different sides of him to the screen.
@jennyhan This one’s for the Jeremiah girlies 😘#thesummeriturnedpretty #primevideo ♬ Boyfriend – Dove Cameron
More Drama for the Moms
One of the surprising highlights of this change was not the friendship between the mothers, Laurel (Jackie Chung) and Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), but the pot-smoking hangouts, casual hookups, and tear-filled battles that were included in the series. Their bond is the series’ most grounded storyline as the two of them understand more about Susannah’s cancer.
The series additionally expands more on their worlds, with Laurel attempting to think of her next novel and managing her ex-husband visiting with his new and younger girlfriend (Belly and Steven’s dad did visit Cousins in the book) and Susannah currently being an artist, who is chipping away at portraits of each of the kids during the Summer.
We particularly love the presence of Laurel and Susannah in light of the fact that it offers a relationship for the original readers, who are currently a decade older, to connect to where they currently are in their lives while remembering the summers of their childhood through Belly.
laurel is the mom and best friend we all deserve ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ZT5v23prRe
— The Summer I Turned Pretty (@thesummeritp) June 9, 2022
A New Character is Introduced
A new character who plays an essential part in the series is the top-of-the-line Brooklynite writer, Cleveland (Alfredo Narciso), who turns into Laurel’s new love interest and a shocking source for Conrad to communicate his feelings, giving viewers an understanding of the teen’s internal conflict that they didn’t have in the book.
More of Belly’s Brother
While in the novel, Steven wasn’t around much, since he decided to go on college tours with his father during the Summer, but the TV series has decided to shine more light onto Steven’s character, as well by giving him a love interest, Shayla (Minnie Mills).
Their storyline discovers the class differences as well as racial biases that Steven undergoes while working as a server at the country club in Cousins.
“Jenny Han and the entire writing team were very, very awesome with giving Steven new breath and new life and allowing me to step into that,” the actor, Sean Kaufman, told E! News.
— noufa 12 (@mp4rodrigos) June 18, 2022
The Debutante Ball
Is it actually a teen show without a big event that the whole season builds up to?
For the show, Jenny Han created the debutante ball, which Susannah persuades Belly to take part in. As well as opening up the world of Cousins Beach and filling in as an entry point for new characters, the deb ball likewise fills in as the new setting for Conrad and Jeremiah’s big emotional fight, which, in the book, happened on the beach.
Not to mention, the deb ball is where Belly and Conrad have their romantic dance, while Taylor Swift’s “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s version)” plays in the background.
It was a magical moment for both of them for sure.
@jennyhan For Belly, Conrad is the sun and when the sun comes out, the stars disappear. #thesummeriturnedpretty #primevideo #booktok ♬ Only Love Can Hurt Like This (Slowed Down Version) – Paloma Faith
Susannah’s Ultimate Decision
In the book, Susannah eventually chooses not to seek therapy after her cancer returns. However, Han picked an alternate direction for the show. In the finale, the crushed siblings ask their mother to do it not just for her but for them. After some hesitation, she concurs. This change might actually altogether affect season 2 as–spoiler alert!–Susannah dies between books one and two.
No More Flash-Forward
Original readers know that the novel begins and ends with the same scene: Conrad’s surprise visit to Belly in Winter.
However, a glimpse at the future is not featured in the series. Instead, it ends with the scene of Belly and Conrad finally kissing on the beach… after she chose to be with Jeremiah.
Fans can’t wait to find out what’s next for the next couple of seasons and how it will play out!
“in this moment i realised. if this can happen, maybe anything can.” the pure joy in Belly’s voice i’m crying. Belly and Conrad forever pic.twitter.com/UW4VhXsvmG
— jess (@fxckoklahoma) June 24, 2022
Just like in the books, Belly’s best friend, Taylor (Rain Spencer), is the outspoken and encouraging friend in the series both of them have a fight after Belly discovers Taylor making out with her brother Steven when she visits Cousins. This scene really happens in a flashback set two summers earlier in the book.
In the series, Taylor gets to have a second chance as she returns back in the final 2 episodes to help Belly fix her love life. While Taylor is a jelly (team Jeremiah) believer, she helps Belly win a charity volleyball game.
Cam Cameron is the Man
Not a major change, but let’s just acknowledge the fact that the series’ version of Cameron (David Lacono) is 100% better than he is in the book. While fans supported Belly in breaking up with him, mostly because of Conrad of course, fans still want justice for Cam Cameron!