14 Big Differences Between the “Summer I Turned Pretty” Books and the TV Show So Far
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” continues to make us feel nostalgic for the days of summer when school was out for three months, and we could run to the beach and eat popsicles and hot dogs and play in the water to our hearts’ content. Alas, we’ll stick with watching Conrad, Jeremiah, and Belly do all of that and much more instead.
The show, which has become the bonafide “summer show” since its premiere last year, is back this summer with a new season, new characters, and new drama! It’s based on Jenny Han’s “It’s Not Summer Without You,” the second book in the Summer trilogy, and much like the first season, there are already major differences between the Amazon Prime Video adaptation and the second book that fans will be able to pick up on. From Susannah’s prognosis and Conrad and Belly’s love life to Steven’s surprise crush and Laurel’s book dilemma, this summer has taken a 180-degree turn and has guaranteed to be one we won’t forget.
Han, who authored the book and is a co-showrunner on the series, talked to Variety about dealing with readers’ expectations of the adaptation. “It’s a bit of a balancing act, because I really had to weigh what the fans are expecting with where the show is going creatively and find that balance,” she said. “My priority has always been that I want fans of the book to feel really satisfied by the story we’re telling, but also for them to know that this is an adaptation in a new medium, so it’s not going to be exactly the same. I think those are sort of the two things that are always in my head.”
There are always going to be differences of varying degrees between a book and its screen counterpart, so we’re here to break down some of the biggest differences between “It’s Not Summer Without You” and the second season!
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: We're Not in Belly's Head Anymore
It’s common for books to have a limited point of view to tell a story, but it doesn’t always work quite as efficiently on screen. In the book, we see the plot unfold through Belly’s emotions and experiences. The show, however, widens its lens and tells the stories of the surrounding characters, which could increase the longevity of the series beyond the three-book arc because there is so much more ground to cover.
Belly’s mom, Laurel, who is a published author on the show, has a fling with a local author named Cleveland Castillo. We’re more privy to Conrad struggling to keep his mom’s cancer a secret, working with Cleveland for the summer, and confiding in him now that he’s on the outs with his dad. On the show, Steven dates a girl named Shayla at Cousins, and we see him develop hobbies outside of that like playing poker.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: Belly and Taylor's Expanded Friendship
Belly’s friendship with Taylor gets some much-needed dimension in the show. In the book, Taylor’s mostly seen in flashbacks and she isn’t a positive energy for Belly, who finds herself making comparisons all the time. Taylor flirts with all the boys when she visits Cousins, going as far as to kiss Jeremiah and Steven. This strains her and Belly’s friendship by the time she leaves, and the awkwardness doesn’t really get resolved on the page.
On the show, after Taylor kisses Steven, she and Belly have a fight that exposes the ways both of them have fallen short as friends, making their friendship far more realistic and balanced. They end up making up, and Taylor acts as a supportive friend for the rest of the season.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: The Debutante Ball
One of the biggest differences between the book and the show is the debutante ball Belly participates in, which is not a plot line in the book at all.
On the show, Susannah encourages Belly to participate in the debutante ball, much to Laurel’s chagrin. Conversations about the ball are interwoven throughout season one, from who will escort Belly (Susannah asks Conrad to, but Jeremiah takes her instead) to Steven losing all his money at a poker game and not having money to buy a matching tux for his escort. Things come to a head at the ball when Jeremiah learns that Susannah’s illness is back. Struggling to deal with his emotions, he leaves Belly without a dance partner, and Conrad swoops in.
When the truth about Susannah comes out at the ball, it shakes their blended family and leaves them struggling to figure where to go from there.
In an interview with The Wrap, Han talked about the significance of the deb ball to the story. “The Deb Ball was a chance to really bring a rite of passage like a ceremonial rite of passage of growing up to life – to really see that visualized, because I think different cultures have many different ways of marking that moment of between, like, girlhood and adulthood,” she said. “And that’s what Deb Ball is, you’re coming out and being seen as an adult.”
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: Jeremiah's Sexual Fluidity
Jeremiah’s flirtatious personality is ever present in the books and the show, but the biggest difference in the TV version is his sexual identity. In the book, we only see him date girls and his sexuality never comes up. On the show, he is more open about expressing it and hooks up with both girls and guys. In the second episode, the self-proclaimed equal-opportunity flirt identifies guys and girls at the country club whom he’s kissed.
Han spoke to TVLine about wanting to update certain characteristics of the story (which was written in 2009) to reflect teenagers in 2022. “I think perhaps if I was writing the novel today, I may have made that choice because I think that he’s always been a character, to me, that is really at ease with himself, really comfortable in his own skin, and openminded and open to exploration,” she said. “I do think that’s more reflective of today and young people today and the way they view sexuality being much more of a spectrum.”
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: Cam and Belly's Relationship
Cam and Belly’s relationship starts pretty similarly at the bonfire in Cousins in both the book and the TV show, but it progresses differently. They certainly don’t kiss in the book until their first date, and Cam is a lot more present in the book and around Conrad, Jeremiah, and Steven more. Cam eventually breaks up with Belly in the book when he realizes she has her heart set on one of the Fisher boys, and he indicates that he’s around if she ever changes her mind, which she doesn’t. On the show, Belly is the one who breaks up with Cam because she’s not feeling any spark.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: The More Optimistic Ending
Although in the book Susannah remains adamant about not seeking treatment for her cancer, the show takes a different route. After the big reveal at the debutante ball, Conrad and Jeremiah manage to convince Susannah to participate in a cancer-treatment trial. Conrad also apologizes to Belly for being aloof with her and not expressing his true feelings before they share an explosive kiss at the beach that promises happy things for the both of them. In the book, it’s unclear who Belly ends up with, but her relationship with Conrad is up in the air.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 1 Difference: The More Diverse Cast
The “Summer I Turned Pretty” TV show introduces a far more diverse cast than the original book.
While it’s never explicitly stated that Belly is white in the books, the original book covers circa 2009 depicted Belly as a white girl. On the show, Belly is Korean on her mother’s side and white on her father’s side. Cleveland, who is a new addition to the cast, is Filipino, and Conrad’s pseudo-girlfriend/friend with benefits Nicole is Black despite being described as a blonde in the book.
Han talked to CinemaBlend about the decision to include more diversity in the cast and more AAPI characters. “When I was approaching the adaptation, I wanted to really reflect the moment that we’re living in,” she said. “And I think the diversity of characters is a piece of that, so it felt like a really great opportunity to showcase different kinds of talent. We get to have like an Asian American family on the show. And then, we also have a new character Cleveland, who is Filipino. So it’s really exciting I think. And I think it feels really natural to the show, to the characters and the story.”
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Taylor's a Better Friend to Belly
Taylor on the show continues to be more supportive than in the books. She encourages Belly to go out and have fun, helps her get ready for a summer party and builds up her confidence to find herself. She also comes to her defense when Steven gives Belly a hard time for making things awkward between him and the Fisher boys. When Belly sneaks off to find Conrad, Taylor covers for her and eventually drives to Cousins with Steven to be there for Belly even though she didn’t have a good time last summer.
Taylor’s literary counterpart is a lot more snarky and judgmental. While season two starts with Belly having a dream about Conrad and waking up in class after her copy of “The Hunger Games” falls from her desk, book two finds her being woken up by Taylor at a pool party where she’s annoyed that Belly is distracted. Taylor tries to play matchmaker a lot and pushes her to get over Conrad, and when she learns that Belly’s going to find him, she encourages Belly to get closure.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Belly and Conrad Go All the Way
After Jeremiah finds out they’re together, Belly feels guilty and tells Conrad they should cool things off. Eventually, phone calls at the start of the school year turn into a romantic getaway to Cousins where they drink hot cocoa, run on the beach when it starts to snow, and Belly loses her virginity to him. When Susannah’s health takes a turn for the worse, however, Conrad starts to grow distant, leading to their ultimate breakup on Belly’s prom night. Steven comforts her as Conrad drives away in the rain. When Belly and Jeremiah go to Conrad’s dorm at Brown University to find him, they run into his roommate, who recognizes Belly as the girl Conrad’s been pining over post-breakup. And when Belly spots the infinity necklace on his desk that she’d given back to him, she doesn’t take it.
Conrad and Belly’s relationship was still in flux by the end of the first book, so their eventual union is more of a surprise. They do sneak off to Cousins for the night like they do in the show, but all they do ultimately is kiss, and when Laurel finds out Belly snuck off, she grounds her but lets her be with Conrad. The events leading up to prom night shape up similarly, except Conrad is a lot more distracted in the books – he initially says no to going but later gets jealous when Belly lies that someone else wants to go with her. And with part of the book being in Jeremiah’s point of view, we see how torn up he is when he returns home and lies to Susannah about having a great time. However, when Belly and Jere go to campus in the book, Conrad’s roommate doesn’t recognize Belly, leaving her even more heartbroken. And while Belly on the show doesn’t take the infinity necklace, she does in the book.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Something's Brewing Between Steven and Taylor
In the book, Taylor and Steven don’t really have any onscreen connections beyond the kiss they exchanged in book one.
On the show, however, there’s a lot of tension to the point where Taylor is annoyed anytime Steven is nearby. She’s in a relationship with a “musician” named Milo (whom Steven can’t stand) and he seems cheerful at the thought of them breaking up. In fact, he and Taylor drive to Cousins together and seem to bond on the way there.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Belly and Jeremiah Are More Angsty
On the show, Jeremiah and Belly have a falling out after Belly tells him she and Conrad are together. When Conrad goes missing, Jeremiah is reluctant to let Belly tag along to find him and confronts her for not being there for him.
In the second book, Jeremiah doesn’t really harbor any strong resentment toward Belly and is the one to call her when Conrad goes missing. Any disappointment he feels towards Belly is related to her checking out after Susannah’s death, not about her choosing Conrad over him. On the show, they meet at Brown and he pushes her away when she asks him about going to Cousins to find Conrad, but in the book, he picks her up at Taylor’s house and asks her to go to Cousins with him.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: The Friend Group is Back Together
In the book, Belly and the Fisher boys are mainly the ones staying at the beach house, but on the show, Taylor and Steven end up surprising them after Steven learns that Belly lied about staying with Taylor. Cam Cameron and Nicole — who were in relationships with Belly and Conrad respectively last summer — are also back this summer (unlike in the book series, where they never appear again after book one), adding more drama to the group dynamic.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Susannah's Half-Sister is Selling the Beach House
On the show, Conrad and Jeremiah learn that Susannah’s half-sister Julia owns the house on Cousins and that she’s planning to sell it. The boys haven’t seen their aunt and cousin Skye since they were kids, and Julia didn’t make it to Susannah’s funeral, so it doesn’t appear they had a close relationship. Conrad and Jere try to access their trust fund so that they can buy the house from Julia, but their father don’t allow them to do it.
In the book, we don’t hear about Susannah’s relatives, and it’s Adam, Conrad and Jeremiah’s father, who decides to sell the house. Jere refuses to see the selfishness in their father and assumes that Conrad is jealous because he and Adam have a closer relationship.
"The Summer I Turned Pretty" Book 2 Difference: Laurel Continues To Play A Major Role
The title of Laurel’s upcoming memoir is not just a heartfelt nod to the second book in the Summer trilogy but a tribute to Susannah. It’s established from the beginning of the show that Laurel’s not going to be a side character, unlike her literary counterpart who largely stays in the background until she shows up for the kids and helps them keep Susannah’s beach house.
In the second season, we see the role Laurel played in caring for Susannah and how she struggles to move past her death to the point where she’s grown distant from her kids. Despite writing a book about their friendship, she refuses to promote it until Belly accuses her of being unable to deal with her grief.