Like most bookworms, I devoured the entire To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before book trilogy while eagerly awaiting the movies. Even though I knew that Jenny Han had another YA trilogy that I could gobble down next, one look at the review for The Summer I Turned Pretty sent me running for the hills. But when I learned that Amazon Prime was adapting the series for TV, I knew I had to buckle down and give it a try.
It was a pretty easy read. Unfortunately, all the rumors are true. Belly is whiny and obnoxious. Conrad is selfish. Nobody else has a personality. So going into the show, I felt apprehensive. But within minutes of watching the show, my worries faded away. I still had some problems with it, but on the whole, I think it is a vast improvement for the following reasons.
A more diverse cast
In the original series, all of the characters are white, which was expected in 2009. But we have come a long way since then. Part of what made To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before so unique and wonderful was how it showed us a multi-racial love story and captured some of the Asian American experience. In the new adaptation of The Summer I Turned Pretty, Belly and her family are Asian American as well, and a wide variety of ethnicities are represented in the cast.
Belly and Taylor’s friendship
Taylor, Belly’s supposed best friend, only appears once in the first book, and when she comes to town, it doesn’t go so well for Belly. Taylor immediately steals the spotlight and tries to steal Conrad, which makes Belly miserable. She feels deep, gnawing jealousy for her friend and wants her to leave. While they still have some conflicts in the show, on the whole, they have a great relationship. She confides in Taylor throughout the episodes about all her boy drama. Taylor also visits multiple times and never tries to steal Conrad. Personally, this was my favorite change. I am so over female friendships being ruined by fighting over guys—I’d rather see a strong bond on screen.
More healthy female friendships
This series centers around Belly’s love for Conrad and Jeremiah, and throughout the first book, that is all she focuses on. Taylor, her only friend, makes one measly appearance. In the Amazon show, however, Belly has lots of female friends because of her experience being a debutante, which was a subplot added for the show. While it may seem random, I loved that Belly’s story was no longer all about boys, but girl friends too.
Belly’s relationship with her dad
In the book, Belly’s parents have been divorced for several years, while it’s only been a year in the show. He never appears in the present, so we only see him in flashbacks, where Belly complains about his crappy apartment, among other things. Clearly, he’s trying his best, but to Belly, his best isn’t good enough.
The show removes these flashbacks entirely, along with all of Belly’s bitter feelings towards her dad. He even comes to visit on the 4th of July with his new girlfriend and we see them all getting along. Once again, I’d rather see healthy relationships than toxic ones, especially because the way Belly treated her dad was just unfair and made her come off as selfish and immature.
Belly’s mom gets to be her own person
Here’s something that might shock you: in the book, Belly and her mom don’t get along either. Surprising, I know. It’s starting to look like Belly might actually be the problem? Just a theory.
In the first book, Belly and her mom don’t have much of a relationship. In fact, Belly views her mother as cold and uninterested in her. She prefers to confide in Susannah, who she views as more motherly than her own mother. In the show, this is wildly different. She adores Susannah, but she is still close to her mother, even confiding in her about boys. And instead of being largely absent, like in the book, Belly’s mom actually has a storyline and romance of her own. Hooray!