"I want to. I want it to be with you."
And with those 10 words, The Summer I Turned Pretty's entire trajectory changed as the decision for Belly (Lola Tung) to lose her virginity to Conrad (Christopher Briney) marked one of the Amazon Prime Video TV series' biggest departures from Jenny Han's books.
While the pair also staged a secret visit to Cousins during Christmastime on the page, Belly and Conrad did not have sex. But in the second episode, it's revealed that the couple are intimate for the first time in front of the fireplace. "Conrad, it's only you," she tells a sleeping Conrad after. "There's only ever been you." Of course, this makes their relationship—which never reached the official distinction of boyfriend and girlfriend in the book, like it does onscreen—much more serious and their eventual breakup all the more devastating.
"That was a big change from the books," Christopher told E! News' Erin Lim of the sex scene. "It definitely caught me off guard."
In episode three, viewers are introduced to Susannah's half-sister Aunt Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) and Conrad and Jeremiah's cousin Skye (Elsie Fisher) after Belly and the boys learn that Julia is selling the Cousins Beach house. The distant and cold Julia and Skye, who identifies as non-binary, are characters created for the TV series, helping to raise the stakes and tension.
"I think I was daunted by the concept when I first heard about it, but that diminished the second I got there," Sedgwick told E! News of joining the cast. "Everyone was so lovely." It also helped having Elsie by her side, with Kyra adding, "We had each other to bond and be the new kids on the block."
For Han, Julia and Skye helped to fill a storytelling void left by Susannah's death.
"So much of the story of The Summer I Turned Pretty is about mothers and children and the world of Cousins," Han explained to Entertainment Weekly. "In losing Susannah, we kind of wanted to take the opportunity to gain another mother-and-child relationship. Bringing Aunt Julia and Skye into the world, that was our opportunity to do so, and also to get a glimpse into Susannah's history and one more look back on who she was and where she comes from."
As in season two, Belly's brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) and her best friend Taylor (Rain Spencer) are given expanded roles compared to their book counterparts. While they briefly make appearances in the second novel, the duo decide to hop in the car and head to Cousins to help Belly and the Fisher boys, with Steven also having the ulterior motive of wanting to spend more time with Taylor.
Mom's got problems, too.
Like her daughter, Belly's mom Laurel (Jackie Chung) is struggling to process the death of Susannah, her life-long best friend. While her grief is mostly off-page in the book, the TV version of Laurel writes a memoir about her friendship—titled It's Not Summer Without You, the same as Han's 2010 novel that served as the basis for season two—with Susannah, which she initially feels conflicted over promoting.
"Both seasons have been different from the book because I feel like my character has been expanded so much in the series," Jackie told E! News. "So there isn't much of the career, life, romance in the books that I get to experience."
The infinity necklace is a piece of jewelry that has big significance in Belly and Conrad's relationship. He first bought it with the intention of giving it to her for her 16th birthday in season one, but never did.
Fans finally got to see Conrad gift Belly with the item in the season two premiere after they decide not to become a couple to protect Jeremiah's feelings. In the show's recreation of the infamous prom scene, a devastated Belly gives the necklace back when Conrad breaks up with her. And Belly stumbles upon the token while gathering items from Conrad's dorm room. But, unlike in the book, Belly doesn't take it, choosing to leave it on the desk.
While Han previously told E! News that it was Casalegno's "golden retriever energy" that landed him the role of Jeremiah, the actor gets to show off his more dramatic side in the new season.
Between losing his mother and watching Belly date his brother, Jeremiah is going through it in the first three episodes. While Jeremiah calls Belly asking for help to locate Conrad in the books, it's Belly who phones Jer onscreen, with the younger Fisher brother initially trying to avoid her.
Belly and Jeremiah ultimately have a confrontation about their falling out in episode two, with Belly admitting she "hates herself" for feeling like she abandoned and let down Jeremiah.
"It was really, really bad," a crying Jeremiah tells Belly of Susannah's death. "I needed you and you weren't there. You left me." Sob!
Given they are largely absent from the books, Steven and Taylor's adorable romance—including their choreographed dance routine to Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." in episode six—is a welcome addition to the show.
Because Aunt Julia and cousin Skye are show creations, it's Conrad and Jer's father who proves to be the antagonist, wanting to sell their beloved beach house.
Ultimately, the resolution is largely the same, with Laurel coming to Cousins to help the boys convince Adam to keep their beach abode. The only difference? He doesn't have to sell their Boston house in the book.
Like his panic attacks, Conrad's internal struggle with whether or not he would be able to leave his brother and go to Stanford was not in the books.
Episode four began with Conrad experiencing another panic attack, which is brought on by Conrad finding out he got into the prestigious university, a dream his late mother always held for him. Guiding him through the episode is Steven, with the emotional scene allowing viewers to see the bond between the lifelong friends.
"It's a beautiful chance to explore their relationship, which you don't get to see all that much of," Briney told Entertainment Weekly. "It's referenced and talked about, and they're obviously childhood friends, but to get to see a moment of trust between friends and Steven having his back, I loved it. I think it's really wonderful."
The TV show pulled directly from the page when it came to the resolution of the Belly-Jeremiah-Conrad love triangle by the end of book two: Belly and Jer are together. (And Team JellyFish goes wild!)
What TSITP didn't show, however, was the cryptic final chapter, which is set a couple of years later and finds Belly wearing a white dress while running to a car with an unnamed boy.
"The future is unclear," Belly says, "But it's still mine."
Anyone else ready for season three?