Created by Jenny Han, ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ is a romantic drama series that follows Belly, whose life changes drastically throughout one summer. The 16-year-old comes to the beach town of Cousins Beach to spend the summer with her childhood crush, Conrad, and his family. While he had never really paid any attention to her, things change this time, but the situation gets more complicated when his brother, Jeremiah, also seems to be falling for Belly.
The coming-of-age show chronicles Belly’s burgeoning love life, where she deals with the decision of choosing between the two brothers. Its narrative captures the defining moments of her life where her relationships with her friends evolve into something more. ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ delves deep into the inner turmoil of teenagers, focusing on their emotional state and how it affects their decisions. Moreover, the depiction of teen years makes one wonder if the show is based on a true story. Well, here’s what we know on the matter.
Is The Summer I Turned Pretty a True Story?
‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ is partly based on a true story. It is adapted from a young adult romance book trilogy by Jenny Han, and the first season is based on the eponymous first book in the series, which came out in 2009. The idea to write a story about a girl’s summer romance in a beach house came to Han from her own childhood summers spent in Myrtle Beach and Nags Head. She wanted to explore the feelings of coming of age, becoming self-conscious, and seeing things in a new light.
The author based the lead character on a teenage girl she used to babysit while in grad school. “She was sort of in that moment in her life when you are in bloom and people see you different and you see yourself differently…I wanted to pay homage to that moment in girlhood,” said Han in an online book discussion. Not just that, the name Belly came from the girl’s friend who went by that name. In contrast, the characters of Conrad and Jeremiah were developed by Han on her own. They originated when she began writing and evolved with the story.
Originally, Han had thought about getting the entire story in one book, with each chapter depicting a new experience in Belly’s life. “But as I started to write that book, it became unwieldy so I asked my editor [Emily Meehan] if I could write two more books because, with more room, the story could be richer,” she told Publishers Weekly. Because the author wanted to bring Belly’s life on the screen in an expansive way, she decided to make it into a TV show rather than a film, as had happened with the highly popular ‘To All the Boys’ trilogy.
“I think that novels actually lend themselves really well to TV because you just get a lot more time to really delve into the characters and be with them on their journey,” Han told Entertainment Weekly. Turning the story from page to screen further allowed her to add and change things about the story arc to cater to the contemporary audience. She said, “It’s about distilling what are the most important pieces of the story, and I hinged it around those big moments that I thought were really important to the fans.”
“I continually asked myself, what do the fans care most about, what do they want to see the most, what are those big tentpole moments and trying to make sure that I deliver those while still allowing myself room to expand and find new ways into the story,” the author further shared with Variety. Han wanted to expand the world by bringing new characters into the mix and adding more depth to other characters that had otherwise been on the sidelines in the novel.
Texting and social media became a pivotal part of the narrative, and some characters became more sexually fluid. The show’s writers tried to keep the narrative as close to the contemporary teenage experience as possible. Therefore, even though ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ is primarily fictional, there are a lot of elements in it that the young audience will find relatable.