25 major differences between The Summer I Turned Pretty show and the books
17 July 2023, 17:18 | Updated: 17 July 2023, 17:28
Summer I Turned Pretty cast play This or That
The Summer I Turned Pretty is a loyal adaptation of the books but there are many key differences in season 1 and season 2.
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So you love The Summer I Turned Pretty but have you read the original books and did you pick up on the major differences?
Two years in and there is no denying that The Summer I Turned Pretty is still the must-watch show of the summer. A chaotic but loveable protagonist? Check. A dramatic love triangle? Check. An 11/10 soundtrack with many Taylor Swift anthems? Check. If that weren't enough, the show is based on a beloved trilogy of books by To All the Boys author Jenny Han.
Jenny Han actually works as a showrunner on The Summer I Turned Pretty so it does stay very loyal to the source material. That being said, there are a few key differences. With that in mind, here are 25 ways the series is different to the books.
1) The books are just from Belly's perspective
The first The Summer I Turned Pretty is told completely from Belly's perspective. The second book is then told solely from Belly and Jeremiah's perspectives and the last book is told from Belly and Conrad's perspectives. In other words, all the scenes that take place without Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad, don't appear in the book.
The series essentially fleshes out all the other characters and gives us some insight into how they are feeling as well as the main trio.
2) There is much less drinking in the books
As a whole, the books are aimed at a younger audience than the series. The first book also came out back in 2009 so it's a lot tamer when it comes to drinking and even partying. Iconic scenes like Belly getting drunk on cocktails are completely unique to the show.
3) There is much less kissing in the books
On that note, the book is also much more PG when it comes to kissing. Belly kisses Jeremiah in a flashback in the book but it's during a game, and the steamy pool kiss doesn't even happen. Meanwhile, she makes out with Cam much sooner and much more in the series than in the book.
4) Belly doesn't lose her virginity in the books
You guessed it, the iconic scene in season 2, episode 2 where Belly says: "I want to. I want it to be with you." and loses her virginity to Conrad does not happen in the books. Explaining why the change to Variety, Jenny said: "I felt like that’s where Belly was in her journey. These two characters were very much in love and had known each other their whole lives."
Jenny then added: "I felt like they had really been through something together - and we had been with Belly through many first-times. It was important for the audience to be with her for that one. I thought no matter what happened in the future, this will always be a moment that she shares with her first love."
Jenny ended the interview by stating: "I approached the show in some ways as if I was writing a story in this moment in time. That’s what I would have done if I was writing it today."
5) Jeremiah isn't queer in the books
As for Jeremiah, he is written as straight in the books. Meanwhile, in the show, it's made very clear that he's had multiple, previous male love interests and he even makes out with a guy on the show.
Chatting about Jeremiah's sexuality to TV Line, Jenny said: "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 open-minded, and open to exploration."
Jenny then ended by saying: "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."
6) The debutante ball isn't even in the books
Yeah. The pivotal debutante ball that season 1 revolves around doesn't feature in the books at all. Talking to The Wrap about her decision to add it to the show, Jenny Han said: "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."
She added: "I think different cultures have many different ways of marking that moment of between, like, girlhood and adulthood... And that's what Deb Ball is, you're coming out and being seen as an adult."
7) Taylor only appears in flashbacks in the books
Taylor and Belly may be besties in the series but, in the books, it's implied that they've fallen out and she is only referenced in flashbacks where she flirts with Conrad despite knowing how Belly really feels about him. While Taylor and Belly do butt heads in the series, they resolve their issues and remain besties.
The scenes of Taylor and Steven following Belly to Cousins in season 2 are completely unique to the show.
8) Jeremiah hates Taylor in the books
On that note, Jeremiah makes very clear that he doesn't care for Taylor in the books and they often argue in the flashbacks. By contrast in the show, Taylor is Jeremiah's number one cheerleader and she actually roots for Belly to end up with him instead of Conrad.
9) Aunt Julia isn't in the books
It's Not Summer Without You does see Conrad attempt to stop the Cousin's house being sold. However, Aunt Julia doesn't exist and she isn't the one responsible for trying to sell it. It's just Conrad and Jeremiah's distant father. In other words, the show amps up the drama.
Speaking to E! News about joining the cast, Kyra Sedgwick said: "I think I was daunted by the concept when I first heard about it, but that diminished the second I got there. Everyone was so lovely."
10) Skye is a brand new character written for season 2
Just like Aunt Julia, Skye was added as a new character to season 2. Skye is the franchise's first nonbinary character and they act as a bridge between Aunt Julia and Conrad and Jeremiah.
Following the season 2 premiere, Elsie took to Instagram to write: "thank you so much to everyone on the cast and crew for making me not only feel welcome but a part of the family. Really such an indescribable pleasure to know these folks and an even greater one to work with them. I hope you all like skye once you meet them."
11) Belly has more female friends in the show
The books are so focused on Belly's relationships with Conrad and Jeremiah that there isn't as much scope for her ongoing friendships with girls. By contrast, the show puts her friendship with Taylor front and centre. On top of that, from Nicole to Shayla, Belly also grows close with many of the girls she meets at the country club.
12) Conrad doesn't have panic attacks in the first book
Like we said before, the first book is told from Belly's perspective so we see Conrad being moody to her but we're not given any insight as to why until the end of the book when he opens up to her. The series peels back the curtain on Conrad a little bit by showing his struggles with his mental health first-hand.
13) Cam breaks up with Belly in the books
In the first book, Cam breaks up with Belly because he can see that she's actually in love with someone else. By contrast, in the series, Belly actually decides to break up with Cam after becoming aware of how she feels about Conrad and realising that it's unfair to string Cam along. Growth! We love to see it.
14) Laurel isn't an author in the book
Belly's mum Laurel is given a huge character development in the series. As opposed to just being a side character in Belly's life, we see her struggles as an author. We also get more insight into her friendship with Susannah and it's really beautiful to watch unfold.
15) Laurel's novel about Susannah isn't in the book
Yeah. This means that Laurel doesn't write a book about losing her best friend Susannah to cancer in the second novel. In season 2, Laurel's novel is titled It's Not Summer Without You as a nod to the book season 2 is based on.
16) Cleeveland didn't feature in the books
Believe it or not, author Cleeveland Castillo was invented purely for the series. In other words, that legendary hook-up scene between Cleeveland and Laurel in season 1 is not part of the books and Laurel's love life isn't really explored.
17) Steven leaves Cousins in the books
Steven does appear in the book but he heads off to tour colleges shortly after arriving in Cousins and there's no love story or Country Club job for him. Essentially, all of the iconic Steven and Shayla moments in the series are completely new. Shayla was actually created specifically for the show.
18) Conrad doesn't smoke pot in the books
Conrad does smoke in the books but it's just cigarettes. The show changes it up with Conrad occasionally smoking weed and getting high. Belly, of course, teases him for it because Conrad used to judge stoners.
19) Belly doesn't find Conrad's necklace in the first book
So Belly finding the necklace in the series is pretty key to her realising that her love for Conrad is requited. However, it isn't until the second book that Belly finds it. In other words, it takes a lot longer for Belly to actually clock exactly how Conrad feels about her.
20) Belly and Conrad don't get together in the first book
On that note, we don't get the romantic scene on the beach in The Summer I Turned Pretty book. Belly may realise that she wants to be with Conrad but they never act on it. The whole scene with Conrad saying: "I do want you" and then kissing Belly on the beach as 'This Love (Taylor's Version)' plays is a TV exclusive.
21) Susannah doesn't paint the boys in the first book
Susannah painting the boys is a touching addition to the series. And it's made even more touching when you realise that this was her last summer with her children.
22) The show is more diverse than the books
Belly's race is never explicitly addressed in the books and the original covers portrayed Belly as white. By contrast, Belly is mixed-race in the series. Her mother is Korean and her dad is white. Also, Nicole is described as "blonde" in the book but she is played by Summer Madison, a Black actress, in the show and there are many more characters of colour.
Discussing the diversity in the show with Cinema Blend, Jenny said: "When I was approaching the adaptation, I wanted to really reflect the moment that we're living in. 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."
She added: "We get to have an Asian American family on the show. And 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."
23) The show explores racism
As well as casting people of colour in the show, The Summer I Turned Pretty actually explores racism that the characters of colour would experience in Cousins. Nicole calls out the country club for pretending to be "woke" and Steven experiences racism when country club members insult him with Asian stereotypes while he's working there.
24) Jenny Han actually cameos in the show
Naturally, it would be a bit odd for Jenny to write herself in her own book as a character but like many iconic authors before her she gets a cameo in her on-screen adaptation. During the ball in season 1, Jenny can be spotted taking a flute from the champagne tower. Pretty legendary, if you ask me.
25) Susannah doesn't change her mind in the book
Like the series, Susannah has cancer in the book and she's adamant about not getting treatment. The show leaves her story on a more hopeful note though. Instead of preparing for her death, the boys persuade her to fight and get treatment, and Laurel agrees to support her every step of the way.
Unfortunately, Susannah does die in season 2 but season 1 let us live in denial a little longer.
Get to know The Summer I Turned Pretty cast here:
- Lola Tung: 13 facts about the Summer I Turned Pretty actress you need to know
- Christopher Briney: 16 facts about the Summer I Turned Pretty actor you need to know
- Gavin Casalegno: 17 facts about The Summer I Turned Pretty actor you need to know
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