Storytelling school

Creator of “The Summer I Became Pretty”

Do you remember going from a dumb middle schooler to a handsome teenager who suddenly commands attention? Amazon Prime Video’s series, “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” explores this delicate transition through the eyes of 16-year-old Isabel (aka Belly) Conklin. It is adapted from the trilogy of novels by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Han.

In seven episodes, Belly is no longer the skinny, funny girl with glasses and braces. Her summer vacation begins with a startling realization: the boys she grew up with now think she’s hot. She spends her holidays stuck between three boys.

“The real change in her is that she comes out of her own shell and into hers,” Jenny Han told Press Play.

She adds that summer is when you can be the version of yourself you want to be and then go back to school in the fall feeling a bit changed and grown.

The series also addresses the challenges that teenagers also face. Han says her approach is for young people to learn how to express themselves and how much they want to share with others. This is particularly the case of Conrad, the object of Belly’s affection, who does not know how to let his emotions escape.

Gavin Casalegno stars as Jeremiah and Lola Tung plays Belly in “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” Photo by Peter Taylor.

Change race

In the novels, Belly is white, but in the series she is mixed race, with a Korean mother and a white father. Han says she approached this TV adaptation as if she were making history today.

“It’s all the same characters. And they have the same essence, but how would I see them as they are in 2020-2021? And so I thought it was just a really good opportunity to expand that , and that this story in the series feels more modern and of this moment.

She says that for a long time people weren’t interested in stories about Asian American main characters, but now they’re looking for more diversity.

“I think it’s about telling a great story. And a representation should be part of it.

Friendship between different classes

During Belly’s summer, she and her family go to Cousins ​​Beach and stay with the Fishermen, who are wealthier than them. The two matriarchs of each family have been friends for a long time and it is a tradition for them to spend this time of year together.

“They are definitely two very different women raising their children differently. … Laurel, who [is] Belly’s mother, you can see her itching sometimes to want to tell Susannah how she should raise her children,” Han says.

Laurel and Susannah also have their inner life – they’re not just mothers. “Everyone has their summer, they are all the main character in their own stories.”

Jenny Han has adapted her new trilogy, “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” into an Amazon Prime Video series of the same name. Now she is working on season two. Photo courtesy of Jenny Han.