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The Summer I Turned Pretty: Is The TV Show Really Similar To The Book?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

It’s June, which means summer has arrived in the North Hemisphere, and with it, a new summer series was released to warm our hearts. “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is based on the first book of a trilogy written by Jenny Han, and it was published in 2009, so it has been a long wait for the fans to see their beloved story come to life, but it finally happened!

The book follows the story of the 16-year-old Belly (Lola Tung), the protagonist, and her amazing summers at the Fisher’s house in Cousins. We also get to know other important characters throughout the book, like the Fishers themselves: Susannah and her two sons, Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). 

Susannah and Laurel, Belly’s mom, are college best friends, so their families have been going to the beach house every year, and it’s like nothing ever changes. Belly and the boys, including Steven (Sean Kaufman), her older brother, spend every minute of summer enjoying it as much as they can, going to the beach, swimming in the pool, and playing games.

It’s just that this one summer things have changed, especially Belly. 

watch the trailer!

(Beware that this article may have spoilers!)

2009 Book vs 2022 Series: What Has Changed?

First things first, the Belly Flop is on the show! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the Belly Flop happens when all three boys, Conrad, Jeremiah, and Steven pick Belly from the ground and throw her into the pool while screaming “Belly Flop!”. This tradition is very special to the hearts of many fans, and it wasn’t forgotten in the series, being one of the first scenes when Belly and her family arrive at the beach house.

As said before, Belly is different this summer: she’s becoming a beautiful woman, and the boys noticed that. In both the book and the show, Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah are united not only by their strong friendship bond but also by a love triangle. Although Belly has always been in love with Conrad, she finds herself discovering new feelings, and while we’re focused and intrigued by what choices she will make, we also get to know the other characters and the stories revolving around them.

Since the book was published a lot in the world has changed, and the writers made sure that the story wouldn’t get stuck in the past. Jeremiah, for example, in the book appears to only be attracted to girls, in the series he was introduced as an open-minded teen that’s discovering new things about himself and exploring his sexuality.

Another character change was Steven, Belly’s brother. While in the first book, he doesn’t stay much at the beach house, in the show he stays there until the end of summer with the others. His bigger role really made a difference because we get to see more of his personality, his interaction with Belly, and the brotherly connection between him and the Fisher boys, and now he also has a love interest, and it’s nice to see the growth of their relationship.

In the books, Susannah always loved and cared for Belly, and that is also very present on the show. In the first episode of the series, Susannah gives Belly an invitation to take part in the “Debutante Season”, which happens to present a young woman to society when she reaches maturity.

Although Belly and mainly her mom Laurel are not excited about that idea, Belly agrees to participate and ends up enjoying the experience, especially because she gets to make new girlfriends that are the same age as she is. This part did not exist at all in the books and it’s a new addition to the series. 

“Boys may come and go, but a best friend is once in a lifetime.”

One thing that sticks out in the books is the friendship between Laurel and Susannah, and their bond is beautifully told in the series. It was great to see more of them and more of their story from their point of view other than just Belly’s. They are always there for each other no matter what, and with Susannah’s cancer, more than ever, Laurel stands by her best friend’s side, loving and caring for Susannah and her sons.

Another female friendship that we get to see in the paper is Belly’s and Taylor’s, her friend from home. In the book, their story is mostly told by flashbacks of Belly, but in the series, we see them interacting more in the present during phone calls, and when Taylor comes to visit Belly at the beach house twice: the first time to celebrate Belly’s birthday and after that to help her in a volleyball competition that helps raise money for charity. 

In the series, although they have their differences, Belly and Taylor, just like Laurel and Susannah, are very supportive friends of each other. This change makes a difference because their relationship is much lighter, and it shows the importance of their friendship.

Love and Pain

This summer, things had changed, but not only Belly and her relationship with the boys. Susannah was sick again and no one but Laurel knew. She first had cancer a few years before, but she got treated and was healthy again. Unfortunately, and unexpectedly cancer came back, but with the chances of a cure being so low, she didn’t want to go through all the suffering again, so she decided not to tell the kids, and enjoy this one last summer with her loved ones in their special place. 

In the series, Conrad found out that his mom was sick again and he carried that weight all alone until the last episode. Jeremiah had been noticing some strange things happening with Susannah, and on the night of the deb ball he also found out about cancer and went to tell Conrad, but he already knew, which led to a fight in front of everyone. 

After Susannah told her sons the truth, the boys insisted that she couldn’t give up, and she agreed to at least try the treatment. In the books, that doesn’t happen, and Conrad and Jeremiah discover their mom’s state just at the end, together, and their fight takes place in the backyard. 

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is a story not only about summer but about growth, family, love, and especially friendship. Be prepared to fall in love with these characters and feel all the things they feel, but that’s kind of part of the magic of the story, isn’t it? 

So don’t wait any longer and watch it right now because season 2 is already on its way!

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The article above was edited by Giullia Cartaxo. 

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Valentine Boutsiavaras

Casper Libero '25

just a journalism student trying to do journalism things. I'm a sports lover and a superhero fan. I love reading romance books, watching a good rom-com and binge-watching a new series :)
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