Author Jenny Han’s novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty, was a smash success with the YA crowd when it debuted in 2009. Now, 13 years later, it has become an equally beloved series on Prime Video. But to make this early aughts book into a modern, seven-episode series, Han had to do some major rewriting and additions to her original story, including creating whole new characters, plot lines, and romances. Thus, there are some major differences between Han’s book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, and her new show.
Warning: Spoilers for The Summer I Turned Pretty follow. Of course, the overarching plot of the series doesn’t stray much from the book: The beachy teen rom-dram follows Isabel, better known as “Belly” (Lola Tung), and her family as they stay for the summer at a family friends’ beach house, as they do every year. But this summer is different, largely because Belly is different — she’s finally out of that unbearable stage of middle school awkwardness (good for her!).
In both the book and show, a love triangle forms between Belly and her childhood besties, Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) and Conrad (Christopher Briney), who also happen to be brothers... and the sons of her mom’s best friend, whose house Belly is staying in. (Messy!) While the show still focuses heavily on Belly’s choice between the two boys, it makes the story more of an ensemble, bringing side characters from the books into the spotlight.
Han also made a lot of changes in order to take the story — which she originally published in 2009 — into the modern era, with major moments and character choices that simply couldn’t have existed back in the day.
TBH, there are enough differences between the series and its source material to fill a while book, but to save you some time, here are the 12 biggest differences between The Summer I Turn Pretty book and show.
1. Jeremiah’s Sexuality
In the book, Jeremiah is seemingly only interested in girls, but in the show, he is an “equal opportunity flirt” (his words), chatting up and making out with both boys and girls. Gavin Casalegno, who played Jeremiah, welcomed the addition of his character’s open and fluid sexuality wholeheartedly.
“I have to give so much credit to Jenny for taking what was a 13-year-old story and bringing it into today’s world,” Casalegno told Elite Daily at the series’ premiere in New York. “Jeremiah exploring his sexuality is really an undertone in the show for everyone exploring their identities and who they are.”
2. Conrad’s Smoking
In Han’s original story, Conrad smokes cigarettes, not pot. The show updates this with his occasional stoner tendencies and allows Belly to tease Conrad about his previous judgement on people who get high.
3. Taylor’s Visits
Belly’s bestie from home, Taylor (Rain Spencer), is a much bigger character in the series. In the book, Taylor is only present in flashbacks, but on the show, Taylor visits twice throughout the summer. She may be a bit overbearing at times, but her visits also show how much she cares for Belly.
4. Lots Of Partying
The book generally feels pretty young, without any overtly steamy scenes or mentions drinking. In the series, however, Belly and the boys get up to a lot more rebellious teen behavior, including sneaking out, hooking up, and occasionally getting very intoxicated.
5. Finding The Necklace
In both the book and the show, Conrad gets Belly an infinity necklace for her birthday, but doesn’t actually gift it to her, perhaps out of embarrassment or confusion over his feelings. In the series, Belly finds the necklace in Conrad’s desk and confronts him about it in the second half of Season 1. But this tense moment doesn’t happen in the books until the second novel in the trilogy, It’s Not Summer Without You. This difference escalates Conrad’s affection for Belly in the series whereas in the books, his desire to be with her doesn’t become as clear until the second book.
6. Learning About Beck’s Cancer
Although Beck’s (Rachel Blanchard) cancer is a major part of both the book and the show, the boys find out about it in a different way. In the show, when Jeremiah realizes Conrad knew about her cancer all along, they pummel each other at the deb ball instead of fighting it out on the lawn at the beach house.
7. The Deb Ball
In the book, there’s actually no debutante ball at all. In the show, this addition raises the stakes regarding Belly’s love life (since she needs to choose an escort), as well as illustrate Beck’s desperate desire to, as she says, “see Belly in a white dress,” with the implication that Beck won’t be alive to see Belly wear a white wedding dress in the future.
8. All The Female Friendships
Both Beck and Belly’s mom, Laurel (Jackie Chung), have much more compelling roles to play in the show, which also brings their beautiful friendship more into the plot. Following in their footsteps, Belly also makes friends with the other debutante girls, skirting the typical YA trope of pitting girls against one another.
9. Laurel’s Career & Saucy Hookup
Laurel gets a much more interesting arc in the show. For one, she’s now an author, which opens her up to meeting a brand-new character, Cleveland (Alfredo Narcisco), another author who sweeps her off her feet — at least for one night. Laurel’s hookup in the car with Cleveland is most definitely not in the book.
10. So! Much! Kissing!
Laurel isn’t the only one getting it on in the series. Unlike the book, in which minimal kissing occurs, Belly has multiple makeouts with multiple guys (go girl!). And she’s not the only one — many of the characters get both and heavy throughout the season.
11. Classism & Racism At Cousins Beach
The series also adds commentary on the affluent fictional beach town where the story takes place. When the deb girls discuss how the country club is allowing an LGBTQ+ couple at the ball, Nicole (Summer Madison) argues the inclusivity is just for show, saying Cousins Beach has always pretended to be “woke.”
In another scene, Steven faces racism as he’s serving country club members in the card room: A card player spews racist Asian stereotypes as the other men chuckle, clearly making Steven uncomfortable. It’s all the more upsetting considering the class divide between the wealthy poker players and the teen boy who has to deal with that kind of hate in order to pay for college.
12. *That* Cameo
In perhaps the cheekiest difference between the book and the show, Han actually appears in the series at the deb ball, seen grabbing a flute from the champagne tower. After all, she built this empire; she deserves to enjoy it.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 1 is now streaming on Prime Video.