The Summer I Turned Pretty is ready to dive into the sea and sand as the Prime Video original takes viewers to Cousins Beach where 15-year-old Belly’s (Lola Tung) coming-of-age story is about to unfold.
Based on the first book in her bestselling trilogy, author Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy) serves as showrunner on The Summer I Turned Pretty adaptation which has already been picked up for a second season. Originally written in 2009, the story remains intact but gets a few fun upgrades.
“I went into it thinking that it wouldn’t be identical [to the book],” Han tells TV Insider about the show’s version of Belly’s story. “I think that it would have the same DNA. It’d be related, like cousins, but not identical because the formats are so different. I knew that we would have to expand out Belly’s world to be a bit bigger so she’s not at home all day.”
On the cusp of turning 16, Belly travels to Cousins Beach, a fictional Massachusetts town (think Cape Cod), to stay with Susannah (Rachel Blanchard), nicknamed “Beck,” and “Beck’s boys” Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). Belly, her mother Laurel (Jackie Chung), and her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) have visited the family every summer for as long as she can remember.
The show is described as a multigenerational story that hinges on the love triangle between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah, but it covers much more than this romantic drama. “We get to spend more time with certain characters that we didn’t get to in the book and even have some new characters,” Han muses. As much as the story centers on the complicated love story of Belly and Beck’s boys, it also centers a lot on Susannah and Laurel’s relationship.
“It’s also about female friendship and we really see that with Laurel and Beck and this friendship that they have nurtured over decades,” Han shares. “I was excited to tell that story because I think that we don’t as often see the parents on teen shows having their own lives.” And their lives seem to be just as complicated as Belly’s with adult challenges and obstacles to overcome. “I wanted both of those women to feel like they were more than just the roles of a mother or a wife, but that they had their own rich in their lives,” Han adds.
In the show, Susannah encourages Belly to participate in her country club’s debutante ball, introducing a new story element that hadn’t been in the book. That storyline helps to get homebody Belly out of the house in the series, but it also mirrors her journey throughout the series. “The story is really about Belly’s coming of age and growing up and I was just thinking about the different ways that we have those ceremonial rights, where we really celebrate someone coming into adulthood,” Han muses, noting bar mitzvahs and quinceañeras as examples.
“It’s also nice, I think, on a show to be driving towards something and having a big event at the end that you’re waiting to get to, and for me that deb ball did that for us and ended up being one of my favorite parts of the show, even though it’ll be new for a lot of readers,” Han remarks. Expect plenty of debutante-related activities like icebreakers with the other participating girls, dance lessons, and charity volleyball matches. Plus, prepare for love-triangle-related drama surrounding the big shindig.
Even with some of these changes on the horizon, Han wants her readers to know there are some elements from the book that remain unchanged. “To me what was important to keep was the core of the love triangle,” Han says, adding it “was really the thing that needed to float.”
“If that ship didn’t sail I think then that [would’ve been a] problem, but also there were just moments that I knew the fans would want to see.” Among those moments Han describes are the bonfire and a certain scene in the car with Belly and Conrad. Additionally, Belly’s birthday dinner with everyone was “important to me to have,” Han adds.
And don’t forget the Belly flop, an annual tradition for Steven, Conrad, and Jeremiah as they toss Belly into the Cousins Beach house pool. Get ready to dive in with them for this sweet summery treat.
The Summer I Turned Pretty, Season 1 Premiere, Friday, June 17, Prime Video