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The Summer I Turned Pretty: How the Summer I Turned Pretty Show Differs from the Novel

Conrad Fisher and Belly Conklin sitting on a beach at Cousins. Credits: Prime Video.

Isabella (Belly) Conklin has been going to Cousins, a beach town in Massachusetts, every summer since she was a kid. With her older brother Steven and her mom Laurel, they stay with her Mom’s best friend, Susanna, and her two sons, Jeremiah and Conrad. Belly has had a crush on Conrad for as long as she can remember but she never thought anything would happen with him…until this summer. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty, published in 2009, became a national bestseller. Over the next two years,  author Jenny Han wrote two more additions to the series. 

In 2022, Prime Video released The Summer I Turned Pretty as a seven episode TV series based on Jenny Han’s first book. 

Book fans had mixed reactions to the show, which featured additional scenes that the original book didn’t have. Book viewers felt it was inconsistent with the actual plot of the book and messed with the overall flow of the story.  

For example, the first Summer I Turned Pretty book was strictly from Belly’s point of view. The TV show went into more depth with Susanna’s sons. 

“I think in the book, I didn’t realize how much golden retriever energy Jeremiah had, so that became more apparent [in the show],” says Vedha Kakarla (‘26). “And with Conrad I think in the books they go into like his problems with having to share his feelings and stuff [depression and anxiety] and I think that in the show they show it more and make it more of the plot…the TV show is more about other characters besides Belly.” 

Watching the first season of the TV show before reading the book led to difficulty differentiating the book and TV show’s personalities. For example,  in the book, the relationship between Taylor (Belly’s best friend) and Belly was problematic, but in the TV show it was positive. 

“I think that their relationship in the book was a lot worse than in the show,” said Olivia Castillo (‘26). “They sorta fought over more things that were stupid in the book and in the show they fought but made up very quickly. [The] book was a lot more dramatic.”

What drew viewers to the TV show originally was the competition between Jeremiah and Conrad for Belly’s date to the debutante ball. The book didn’t have this element.

The debutante ball allowed viewers to take sides on who Belly should attend with. “Team Conrad” and “Team Jereimiah” fans both have different ideas on who that should be.

Like the majority of viewers, I am team Conrad. “I feel like Conrad is more complicated and deeper and I just like that. I also think he’s better for Belly in the long run. [Jeremiah] just tries too hard,” said Kaklara. Conrad is patient and appreciative of Belly. He knows Belly to a deeper level– a level Jeremiah can’t understand. 

Jeremiah has shown throughout the first season that his relationship with Belly is seen as a competition between his brother and winning Belly is the prize. In the fourth episode, Summer Heat, Belly and Conrad are seen having a conversation outside when Jeremiah sees them and shoots off a firework in their direction to stop them talking before something else happens. In my opinion, Jeremiah is one of the worst characters in the show. Don’t be fooled by his ocean eyes! 

I believe reading the novel is worth it. The show is good but at some points the writing and acting comes off as cringey and unsatisfying. I felt such second-hand embarrassment from certain parts that I had to take a break from watching. 

I would recommend reading the novel, then watching the TV series next. The flow from book to show is better than the other way around, because you get background information from the book. The novel lays the foundation and the show builds from it. 

So if you are looking for an emotional rollercoaster or if you need some entertainment, I suggest you check it out.  

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About the Contributor
Olivia Watters, Writer

Olivia Watters (26') is a writer for the book review section. An outgoing Skyline student, Olivia’s favorite activities include playing tennis and reading.