TV & Movies

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ TV Series Is Better Than the Books—Here’s Why

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Source: Amazon Prime Video
Source: Amazon Prime Video

The Summer I Turned Pretty TV Series is better than the books. Gasp. I can’t believe I said that. I mean, I even have a sweatshirt that says, “The Book Was Better.” But there are exceptions to every rule, and The Summer I Turned Pretty is that exception.

Why? Because Jenny Han took the books she published from 2009 to 2011 and as the creator, executive producer, and co-showrunner of the series, responsible for everything from the cast to the sets to the music selection, she created a story that is even better than the original. Here’s how she did it:


Jenny Han
The Complete Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy (Boxed Set)

I fully believe the show is better than the books in this one special case—but the complete series is still a great read and something I wholeheartedly recommend to fans of the show.

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The Show Stays True to the Original Story—But Goes Even Deeper

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a love triangle between one girl and two brothers: Belly Conklin, Conrad, and Jeremiah Fisher. Belly and her family spend every summer at the Fishers’ Massachusetts beach house. Ever since she was a little girl, Belly has had a crush on Conrad. But things get complicated when Conrad finally reciprocates her feelings at the same time Belly and Jeremiah start to look at each other as more than friends.

At its heart, the show is still about a girl and the two brothers who are the most important people in her life. But the show goes even deeper than the book by giving us more from Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah. In a day at the boardwalk that doesn’t happen in the book, we see Belly reject a nod from her and Conrad’s past and hold Jeremiah’s hand when he volunteers to ride the Tower of Terror with her. We see Conrad struggle with panic attacks. We see Jeremiah push Conrad away. And well, we see a lot more kissing.


Minor Characters Are Given Main Character Moments

In the books, we are only shown scenes from Belly’s, Jeremiah’s, and Conrad’s perspectives. But in the show, any character can be the star of a scene. As a result, we get to know more about characters like Belly’s brother, Steven, and her best friend, Taylor. Whereas Steven and Taylor barely appear in the second book of the series, the second season of the show has already hinted that Taylor’s long-term crush on Steven might finally be requited.


The Show Is a Multi-Generational Story

In addition to seeing more from minor characters like Taylor and Steven, we also enter the lives of the adult characters in the show. We see Belly’s mother, Laurel, battle with the ups and downs of her career as an author and experience her own love story with Cleveland, a character who doesn’t exist in the books at all. We see Conrad and Jeremiah’s mother, Susannah, struggle with her husband’s infidelity and worry about her sons. We see Susannah’s illness directly from her own perspective and from that of her best friend, Laurel.

By sharing the stories of the adult characters, Jenny Han has opened the show up to more viewers. My husband’s sister-in-law, who has two boys of her own, said she related most to Susannah and Laurel’s fears around motherhood. And anyone who has ever questioned their work will see themselves in Laurel and Cleveland’s conversations.


The Show Is More Diverse Than the Books

The original covers of The Summer I Turned Pretty books depict Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah as white. This was not uncommon for book covers, especially young adult books covers, at the time. Now, over 10 years later, it is much more common for the stories we read and watch to look like the world in which we live. And Jenny Han, a Korean American herself, was sure to make that change in the show.

Belly’s race is never explicitly stated in the books, but she is mixed-raced with an Asian mother and white father in the show. Jeremiah has only dated girls in the books, but he is shown in relationships with both girls and boys in the show. Nicole, who is only ever described as “blonde” in the books, is Black in the show. Additionally, the second season of the show introduces a new character in Conrad and Jeremiah’s cousin, Skye, who uses they/them pronouns.


There’s a Killer Soundtrack

As reported by E! News, Jenny Han revealed that she “almost dedicated” It’s Not Summer Without You to Taylor Swift. And Jenny Han’s identity as a Swiftie is apparent in the show, which features eight Taylor Swift songs and counting. In addition to breathtaking moments like when “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” plays when Conrad steps in to dance with Belly at the debutante ball, the show is filled with scenes made better by popular and iconic songs. I love whenever an Olivia Rodrigo song starts to play, and how could you not laugh when Taylor thought her boy band boyfriend had written “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” for her?


Final Thoughts

It isn’t easy to write a bestselling book series. And it’s even harder to turn that book series into a hit TV show. But with The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han has done both, taking the original books and making them even better with additional plotlines and characters, diversity that reflects our world, and the soundtrack to all of our lives: Taylor Swift.