Book vs TV Show: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Before To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han wrote The Summer I Turned Pretty, which released in 2009. When we found out that Amazon Prime was making one of our favorite series a TV Show, we couldn’t wait to watch it. We first read these books over a decade ago and quickly became invested in this summer story about Belly Conklin, who falls in love with two brothers named Conrad Fisher and Jeremiah Fisher.

Belly measures her life in summers, always counting down the days until June when she can go to Cousins Beach. But everything is different this summer. Belly’s turning 16, guys are noticing her and their families are hiding some major secrets. Overall, we really liked Amazon’s adaption. While we didn’t love every change, we’re impressed that the show still captured the character’s personalities and the book’s heart.

Warning: Spoilers if you haven’t read or watched The Summer I Turned Pretty.

1. Laurel Dunne

At the beginning of the show, we saw Laurel, Stephen and Belly driving to Cousins Beach. Laurel mentions that she is an author and has an upcoming event. In the books, Laurel is actually a teacher, which explains why she can spend her summers at Cousins.

Another change is Laurel’s romantic life. In the show, Laurel dates a fellow author Cleveland Castillo. Laurel doesn’t have a romance in the book and instead spends most her time with Susannah. We were happy that Laurel got a love interest. She works hard and deserves to find the right person.

Lastly, the main change is Laurel’s last name. In the book, it’s Laurel Dunne, but the show changed it to Laurel Park. The books don’t talk much about Laurel’s appearance, but Laurel in the book is Korean-American, just like the author Jenny Han.

2. The Debutante Ball

The main focal point of the show is the Debutante Ball, hosted at the local country club. Susannah wants Belly to spend the summer as a Debutante, which means shopping and participating in pre-events. Belly’s not into it at first, but does it because it make Susannah happy.

There’s no Debutante Ball in the books. Honestly, we weren’t a fan of this addition. It felt way too snobby for Belly’s personality and much too old school. Below, we’ll go more in-depth about Susannah. But we felt like we needed to say that a Debutante Ball doesn’t fit her personality in the books either. Susannah’s a free spirit, not a country club member.

3. Belly and Taylor’s Friendship

Belly’s best friend is Taylor Jewel, even though they are opposites. In the book, we actually only see Taylor through flashbacks at Cousins. She never visits during the current summer. Taylor only visited once and spent most of the time trying to get the guys to notice her. That summer, Taylor played games and kissed both Steven and Jeremiah.

In the TV show, Taylor visits Belly twice during the summer. Taylor never has something going on with Jeremiah and instead, is pushing him to tell Belly how he feels. She does kiss Steven at a party though, which leads to a huge fight with Belly. Overall though, Belly and Taylor seemed a bit closer in the show.

4. Jeremiah’s Sexuality

Jeremiah is one of the Fisher boys and one of Belly’s love interests. He’s the younger and more extroverted brother, who is always ready to have fun. In the books, its mentioned that he’s a flirt. But the movie actually made Jeremiah bisexual, where Steven joked that Jere will flirt with almost anyone. Jenny Han discussed this change and said if she wrote the series now, that’s one thing she’d include. We appreciated Jeremiah being open about his sexuality and that everyone around him was supportive.

5. Susannah Beck (Fisher)

Susannah is one of the main characters in The Summer I Turned Pretty and her illness is a big plot point in both the book and the movie. The biggest difference about Susannah is that in the book, she didn’t belong to a country club or seem like the type of person who would encourage Belly to join a Debutante Ball. She’s more silly and free spirited than the TV show let on. It’s never mentioned in the show how much Susannah loves both flowers and sea shells, choosing to decorate with both.

Unfortunately, in the book, Susannah’s cancer is terminal and she does not seek treatment because there’s no hope. She doesn’t want to spend her last summer in the hospital bed, choosing to have as much fun as possible instead. In the show, Jeremiah and Conrad beg Susannah to seek treatment. She eventually relents. We’re not sure how the different decision will impact season two of the TV show.

6. Belly and Jeremiah

Belly and Jeremiah’s relationship isn’t the same in the book and the movie. In the book, Belly briefly dates a guy named Cam and when she breaks up with him, Jeremiah tells her how he feels. Belly tells Jere that she’s not over Conrad and nothing else happens. Jeremiah pretends nothing is wrong after and treats Belly the same.

While Belly also dates Cam in the show, Jeremiah isn’t really jealous and his declaration has more to do with Conrad. Jere tries to ruin a moment between Belly and Conrad on the 4th of July by setting off a firework too close to them. Eventually, he decides to tell Belly how he feels in the pool and the two kiss. They get together and Jere goes as Belly’s date to the Debutante Ball. But at the end, everything is left up in the air between them.

7. Additional Supporting Characters

Not surprising, the TV show needed to add more characters since the book mostly focuses on Belly, Steven, Jeremiah, Conrad, Susannah and Laurel. To make things more interesting, we’re introduced to Shayla and Nicole, two of the other Debutantes and love interests for Steven and Conrad respectively.

Unfortunately for Belly, they didn’t always treat her well. Nicole even steals Belly’s clothes once, forcing Belly to walk home naked and call for help. While we did see the need for more characters, sometimes it caused too much extra drama for Belly.

8. Laurel and Susannah’s Friendship

In the book, Laurel and Susannah had been friends since they were nine. They’ve grown up together and are basically as close as two friends can be. They even have scars on their wrist from a childhood incident.

While in the show, the two characters said they didn’t meet until college. They are best friends, but they didn’t seem to have that bond they did in the books. However, the show did focus more on them and how they spent the summer together. But the show spent more time highlighting the differences between the two women.

9. More Mature Themes

While the characters in the book and movie are the same age, with Belly celebrating her sweet sixteen at Cousins, the show highlights more mature themes. There’s a lot more hooking up, drinking and smoking than in the first book. There’s also many more parties, which aren’t a huge focus in the book series. The same goes for the moms as well, who aren’t seen going to bars and partying in the book.

10. Steven Conklin

Steven Conklin plays a bigger role in the show than he did in the book. Steven only spends part of the book at Cousins, choosing to leave early to tour colleges with his dad. He actually misses a lot of the big moments and drama.

In the show, Steven has a bigger storyline. He has a relationship with Shalya, made out with Taylor and has a job at the country club. He even gets involved in poker games to save money for college. It was interesting to see his character developed more. And it became interesting to see his reaction to his friends liking his younger sister.

Published by I'm All Booked Up YA

We write recommendations and reviews for YA books.

30 thoughts on “Book vs TV Show: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

  1. Wonderful post, I can tell you put a lot of thought into the books vs the TV show. Now I want to read the books, so I can watch the tv show

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great review! It’s been awhile since I’ve read the books, though I remember the big points. I heard really good things about the show, though I have yet to watch it myself(Still debating on if I want to or not).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a great comparison! I remember reading the books years ago and really enjoying them but the show ended up being even better than I expected. I loved the exploration of Steven’s character and the addition of new ones, although I do agree the Debutante Ball did feel out of character for both Belly and Susannah. I can’t wait to see what happens in season two!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really interesting comparison. I’m not overly familiar with either but have always found it fascinating to look at how the change can make such a big difference when a book is remade into a movie or tv series. Sometimes it’s different in a good way (like Jeremiah’s sexuality here) and other times it feels like it kinda spoils the whole storyline as you know it from the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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