How is The Summer I Turned Pretty Show Different From the Book, Explained

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ is a teen drama that follows the story of a girl named Belly. Every year, she spends the summer at a beach house in Cousins. While growing up in that beautiful place is what keeps Belly wanting to come back every time, there is another reason that she looks forward to spending summers there. She has been in love with Conrad since she was ten, and now that she is almost sixteen, she hopes he will see her differently. However, Conrad turns out to be more distant and shut off than before. This leads Belly to consider the affection that she gets from his brother, Jeremiah.

The show is based on the book of the same name by Jenny Han, who also serves as the showrunner. While the basic storyline remains the same, there are a number of things that have been changed while bringing the story from book to screen. Here are all things that have been revamped in the adaptation. If you haven’t seen the show yet, beware of spoilers. SPOILERS AHEAD

6. Texting as an important plot device

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ first came out in 2009, which means that the depiction of teen experience in that time is different from 2022’s. Han acknowledged this fact and made a lot of changes to the story to make it more contemporary. The book doesn’t have much use for phones, but the show has the teens stuck to their phones, texting away their feelings. Be it breaking up, patching up, ranting their feelings, revealing their emotions, or simply stirring trouble for one another, phones are an important part of the drama that goes on in Cousins. The teens text and FaceTime each other a lot, and despite that, they succeed in miscommunication, which is what the book relies a lot on too.

5. Fluid Sexuality

A lot of time has passed since the release of the book, and a lot has changed in the way television portrays sexuality. Han used the adaptation as an opportunity to introduce more LGBT characters into the story, tweaking the sexuality of some. The most notable case is that of Jeremiah. In the book, he is straight, considering that nothing much is said about his sexuality and we see him attracted only to girls. In the show, however, Jeremiah is bisexual and is seen flirting with and kissing boys as well.

4. Expanded Arcs for Other Characters

Because the book is told in the first-person perspective, we only get to know Belly’s side of the story. While this allows the reader to get to know her intimately, it also keeps other characters on the sidelines. The show allows expansion on that front, and we receive every character fully-fledged. We see Belly’s brother Steven’s love arc. We see her mother Laurel’s struggles and sorrows. We also get a whole bunch of other characters who did not appear in the book or were only mentioned in passing.

3. Belly Leaves Cam on Read

Though Belly is attracted to Conrad, Cam is her first boyfriend in the show as well as in the book. It soon becomes clear to him that Belly’s heart lies somewhere else. In the show, after almost kissing Conrad, Belly ends her short and sweet affair with Cam on mutual grounds. In the book, however, Cam lingers around for a longer time, even though their relationship worsens with every chapter. In the end, Cam texts Belly, asking her to call him if she wishes before leaving Cousins Beach. She decides to leave the conversation at that and never goes back to Cam again.

2. Different Character Details

In order to lend an episodic structure to the show, the story changes some small things about the characters. For example, in the books, Conrad has nothing to do with sailing. In the show, it is an important part of his story. It allows him to work and bond with Cleveland, which leads to further character development for him. Similarly, Conrad and Jeremiah know about Susannah’s cancer much longer than when it’s revealed on the show. And if you really want to be nitpicky, Belly’s birthday comes after the Fourth of July in the books, not before as depicted in the show.

1. No Debutante Ball

The debutante ball is an integral plot device in the show. It is the thread that gives a proper structure to the story and allows more involvement of other characters. It is also important for Belly because she wants to go to the ball with Conrad, but she also has Cam and Jeremiah in the picture. The ballroom dance scene also has a very Bridgerton-y feel to it, and it makes the audience swoon, especially when the Taylor Swift song starts to play. The book, however, never goes in that direction. There is no deb ball or all the added drama that comes with it. After having seen the show, the deb ball arc is definitely a great addition to the story, which otherwise seems almost impossible to imagine without it.

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