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The Summer I Turned Pretty: 6 Big Differences Between The Book And Amazon TV Show

Lola Tung as Belly on The Summer I Turned Pretty.
(Image credit: Prime Video)

Jenny Han is a master of young adult romance, and it's no surprise that following Netflix's To All the Boys movie trilogy (and upcoming spinoff, XO Kitty), the author's original book series The Summer I Turned Pretty is getting similar treatment. Rather than a movie, Amazon's Prime Video developed Han's debut novel into the first season of a series, with the author serving as showrunner. The Summer I Turned Pretty TV show stayed pretty true to the source material, with some tweaks necessitated simply from translating the story to a different platform; however there were a few pretty big differences between the book and the series, so let's take a look at those.

For one thing, Jenny Han's book was told from Belly's first-person perspective. Since The Summer I Turned Pretty dealt so much with Belly's angst regarding the Fisher boys, the series expanded the stories of the other characters around her — particularly those of Laurel, Susannah and Steven — to give us their points of view. Events and characters were added to the current timeline rather than deal so much in flashbacks to past summers. Here are 6 big differences between The Summer I Turned Pretty book and TV series. (Book spoilers ahead!

Gavin Casalegno as Jeremiah Fisher on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

 Jeremiah Was Straight In The Book 

Quite a few aspects of Jenny Han's 2009 book were updated for the sake of inclusion, as the author told CinemaBlend that she wanted this series reflect the moment that we're living in. One of the ways she did that was by making Jeremiah Fisher bisexual in the Prime Video series. The younger Fisher brother proclaimed he was "equal opportunity" while flirting it up with a guy at a party, and he was clearly also attracted to the young women in Cousins (very much including Belly). 

Speaking to diversity, the series cast Asian-American actors to portray the Conklin family, which was made possible in part by the To All the Boys series starring Lana Condor. Newcomer Lola Tung is infinitely likable (and sometimes painfully relatable) as Belly in her first ever role; Sean Kaufman plays her brother Steven; and Jackie Chung is her mother Laurel. Jenny Han also pointed out that Alfredo Narciso, who plays Cleveland, is Filipino. And speaking of Cleveland ...

Alfredo Narciso as Cleveland on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Cleveland Was Not A Character From The Book

Laurel’s eventual love interest was added for the series — another benefit of switching out of the first-person narrative. Belly and Steven's mother had been divorced from their father for a lot longer in the book, so Laurel's Hallmark Movie-esque meet-cute with Cleveland, in which she insulted his novel in the bookstore, unaware that he was standing right behind her, was a cute addition. 

Aside from providing a way for Laurel to dip her toes back into the waters of dating (and, as it happens, sex in a car), adding Cleveland as someone outside the family for Conrad (Christopher Briney) to open up to worked extremely well, and we got to see him process his mother's illness and changing feelings for Belly in a deeper way than the book characters commenting on "Conrad being moody again." 

Sean Kaufman as Steven on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

The Debutante Ball Was Added For The Amazon Series

A Debutante Ball seemed like a strange addition to a show so focused on a modern audience, especially given there was no such event in the book, and it really was a big focus for the entire season, with the preparations and the dates and the dance lessons. Even the characters worried about the event being steeped in patriarchal traditions, giving Susannah the opportunity to tell everyone how big of an emphasis was put on charitable giving, and there was even a female escort.

The ball seemed to at first serve as a way to show how Belly was the daughter Susannah never had, and her telling Laurel she wanted Belly to do it because it might be her only chance to see her in a white dress was our first indication that Susannah was sick. But the friends (?) Belly made through the event gave context and commentary to her dynamic with Jeremiah and Conrad, and provided new stories not in the book, such as Steven getting hustled in a high-stakes card game, and Belly and Taylor getting their clothes stolen after skinny dipping. Also, any excuse for a group dance number!

Lola Tung as Belly on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Belly Did Not Find The Infinity Necklace Until The Book’s Sequel

The development of the love triangle between Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah was moved up a little from the books' timeline (keep reading for more on that), and one major event from It's Not Summer Without You that made its way into The Summer I Turned Pretty was Belly finding the infinity necklace that Conrad had balked on giving her for her birthday. In the second book, she actually put the necklace on, knowing it had to be for her, only to have Conrad confront her about it later.

Rachel Blanchard as Susannah on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Susannah Did Not Agree To Seek Treatment In The Book

The book and the series started out the same regarding the return of Susannah's cancer, with Laurel trying to convince Susannah to talk to the boys, and Susannah insisting she wanted one last perfect summer. One last summer, because she was not going to go through treatment again, and her mind was made up. That doesn't change in the book, and Susannah dies before It's Not Summer Without You. With Jeremiah and Conrad convincing her to do the cancer trial, will Rachel Blanchard appear in Season 2?

The reveal of Susannah's cancer was also slightly different from the book. While it was foreshadowed in the source material, Belly wrote off Susannah's fatigue as sadness over her impending divorce. In the series, the adults talk about it pretty openly, and we can actually see when Conrad and Jeremiah start to realize something's not right. It all does come to a head the same way — with a big fight between the boys, although in the book it just happens in their backyard, rather than at the Debutante Ball.

Christopher Briney as Conrad on The Summer I Turned Pretty.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Both Conrad And Jeremiah Escape The Friend Zone Way Quicker In The Series 

With The Summer I Turned Pretty ultimately being about a love triangle, it's not a huge surprise that those aspects of the story developed quicker than in the books. The source material was more of a slow build, showing how her friendships with Conrad and Jeremiah had developed over the summers — and how different those relationships were. Belly was in love with Conrad, and Jeremiah was her best friend.

Belly's first kiss had been with Jeremiah during an unromantic game of Truth or Dare a previous summer — not the steamy pool kiss we saw on the Amazon show. And while Belly's love for Conrad was probably the worst-kept secret in Cousins, nothing happened between them in the first book — most certainly not Conrad telling Belly, "I do want you," before sharing the most perfect kiss on the beach. So it may not have been the same, but it was a damn good way to end Season 1.

The Summer I Turned Pretty was renewed for Season 2 ahead of the first season's premiere on Prime Video, so it will be interesting to see how the series continues to change from the events of It's Not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer. Check out the first season with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.