adaptations · discussion

What I Look For In Adaptations

More and more we’re starting to see adaptations dominating the new releases at cinemas. It’s starting to feel like almost every day there’s an announcement of another book – primarily Young Adult – that’s been picked up by a film company. This is a good thing on many levels because it feels like Young Adult content is starting to be taken seriously. Fancasting is a common thing in the book community and many of us openly say we would love to see our favourite story in a visual format (I personally cannot wait for the A Darker Shade of Magic TV show). A phrase that’s batted around a lot is “the book is always better than the film.” I am the absolute worst for watching an adaptation with someone and going “you know in this book…”

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I took a module titled “Film and Literature” where, you guessed it, we read a book and watched its subsequent adaptations then discussed them in classes and essays. In my exam, the highest marked question was “All good books make bad adaptations. All bad books make good adaptations. Discuss.” I remember starting at the paper in horror. How was I expected to write a minimum of three pages about how this is entirely subjective? (I tried and failed miserably I still don’t know how I passed the module at all)

I still firmly believe that this is subjective: what may be someone’s favourite adaptation may be the worst thing ever to someone else. So I put the question to various people on social media sites to see what they thought. I was surprised that a lot of the responses I got focused on the feel of it: people seemed rather happy to have the adaptation veer off from the original material as long as it was true to the story. Capturing the real essence of the world and characters was naturally the overwhelming response I received. After all, how can you enjoy it if the meaning of the tale is lost? Naturally another common response I got was about accuracy: as long as everything is exactly as it happens in the book, it’s sure to be good. But with a need to streamline stories, a lot of seemingly unimportant stuff gets cut. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series but the shortest film out of the franchise. (Come on, did you really not expect me to slip Harry Potter in somewhere?

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I am the traditional reader who will pick up the book before going to see the movie. Mainly because I like to imagine everything for myself before that is permanently tainted by someone else’s interpretation of the same story. When I watch the adaptation, I am one of those people who lives for accuracy; even the smallest change can completely take me out of the world. It’s a curse.

So to turn these thoughts I have into something a bit less hypothetical (and probably make this post much longer than it needs to be) I’m going to share two adaptations I really enjoyed and two that are better left forgotten out.
Allegiant (2016) 

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I absolutely adore the Divergent series and the final book is my favourite. I was amazed at how well done the first two films were and often find myself re-watching them. But watching Allegiant felt like being trapped on a train that had derailed over a bridge. Not one once of this adaptation reflects the source material. Nothing was really explained and it felt like the real message Veronica Roth was trying to get across had been muddled in all the changes that were made for the sake of more action scenes. I did a full spoiler review of it on my channel which you can find here if you want to hear me rant.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) 

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It’s only writing this that I noticed I have coincidentally used two examples where Shailene Woodley is the main actress but I had to talk about this film.  I’m sure everyone has heard about this book regardless of whether they’ve read it or not. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, tears rolling down my cheeks while I breathed a sigh of relief. This one of few adaptations to me that really got it right; so much so that I didn’t mind the minor changes. Everything about this is perfect, from the  soundtrack to the aesthetic, to the acting. As I said in the introduction, keeping the message is important and you really do feel it in this film.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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My tolerance for horror and anything creepy is almost non-existent which makes it odd that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. So when I heard that he had signed on to work on a story about peculiar children and there was a book… you can see where I’m going with this. I ended up loving the overall series more than I ever thought I might as it is out of my comfort zone ins some respects. The adaptation is very mixed more me as I really didn’t like some of the actors, and for the life of me can’t understand why the roles and names of Emma and Olive were swapped for the film, but it has some redeeming element to it; mainly the aesthetic. I feel like enough of the world is there and that information is presented in a way that makes it easy to follow (whereas Ransom Riggs’ prose gets difficult to follow at times) but I think it did the right thing in changing the ending as I don’t think it did well enough to work on Hollow City. 

The Book Thief (2013)

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If you watch at least one adaptation in your life, please make it this one. The book is a very dark, haunting read. (What could you expect from a book narrated by death?) With such a strong narrative voice, I felt this might be lost once it was changed for screen and in a lot of ways it is but the acting is absolutely beautiful. I think it’s impossible to watch this film and not feel with every ounce of your being for these characters and the unfortunate situation they’re having to endure. The message is clear, visually it’s gorgeous and while a very slow burn, it’s so worth it for the re-evaluating of your life you’ll definitely do after.

And there you have it. You’ll notice that I didn’t use Harry Potter and that’s for a good reason: I plan to do a whole separate post about the franchise. Stay tuned for that!

What do you look for in adaptations?
What are some of your favourite adaptations and why?

discussion · Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?

 

 

discussion

Nineteen Years Later

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*spoilers for the series*

The first of September rolled around and, leading up to 11am, I was sat on twitter. As usual, I was tweeting about how I had arrived too early to get the Hogwarts Express and so was sitting in my regular carriage with way too many chocolate frogs for the journey. I was not the only one tweeting about the upcoming departure of a train to magic school (many hashtags about the significance of the date were trending) and received may responses from people asking if there was room for a Ravenclaw in my cabin. I replied with “of course! I have some Fizzing Whizbees if you want to share.”

To the milder or non-Harry Potter fans, this turn of events will seem completely bizarre. After all, the Wizarding World is not real (hard to digest, I know!) and, rather than being docked out in Hufflepuff robes on a train stationed at a secret platform, really I was sitting in bed in my Harry Potter themed PJs pretending that I was. Also, even in an alternate world where Hogwarts did exist, I would be way to old to attend. But to me, these scenarios remind me of what it feels like to be home.

My adventures with Harry Potter began when the Scholastic Book Fair came to my primary school and we were allowed time out of class to go and buy something if we had the money. Armed with the funds my mother had supplied, I went on my way and came across a book called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I don’t remember what it was that struck me about it but I bought it and read it; not realising it was actually the second book in the series. By the time I had caught up with the ones that were already out, there was a brand new one waiting for me. My first read-through of the books was 2-3-1-4-7.

I used to have two light switches in my room: one by the door and a pull string above my bunk bed. It would drive my mother bonkers when she’d get up in the night to find my bedroom light on and me tucked up in bed reading very late on a school night. When my mother too got into the books we had one copy of Order of the Phoenix  which I would be allowed to read one chapter of each night before mother would come and take it off me to ensure I slept. She would then take the book downstairs and read it herself. Both this book and Half Blood Prince used to have two bookmarks in indicating where we were. To this day, my most prominent memory of Harry Potter was reading period in school, during Year 4, when my teacher said that the hour had begun and we must remain silent. I was in a class of 30 children and every single one of us had a copy of Order of the Phoenix. Even the teacher. I think that was the first moment that I really got a sense of how Harry Potter was so much bigger than my sole experience with it. To say I’ve grown up with this world and these characters is too much of an obvious statement to make, and frankly it frustrates me that I can never full put into words why this particular series has had such a impact on me when other series I read around the same time (for example The Chronicles of Narnia) are forgotten memories. It’s the kind of thing where only other extreme Harry Potter fans can share a look and say “I know exactly what you mean.”

Harry Potter has remained a constant in my life. No matter the situation, it’s always been there when I’ve needed it and it always feels like being greeted by old friends.

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1st September 2017 held more importance than the previous years. This year in the Harry Potter timeline, marks the epilogue. This year marks nineteen years later. As I write this post, we have officially passed the Harry Potter timeline. (Don’t talk to me about Cursed Child)

As the hosts of Mugglecast joked on their podcast (Episode 334: Back to Hogwarts?), “how many more endings to Harry Potter are we going to get?!” While easy to laugh at, it’s true. There have been many endings to Harry Potter. The books ended and a few years later so did the film adaptations. Then Cursed Child (*shudder*) and in a few more years the Fantastic Beasts films will end. When I read that iconic last line in Deathly Hallows I cried for two weeks. Having been lucky enough to go to Orlando and visit the theme park, along with going to the studio tour several times (I’m going for the fourth time next month for my birthday. Eek!) it never really felt like the definitive end. Until now.

As I said earlier, I grew up with Harry Potter and aged alongside him. Even with my adult perspective now when I read the books I still get that all consuming feeling that I honestly cannot explain. I can pinpoint who I was and where I was when each book came out and list all of the places I read them.

Officially passing the timeline for the books has stirred a feeling in me and it’s not a pleasant one. In a strange way, it’s like I’ve been reminded of my own morality; that I will continue to age while the characters that were so present in my formative years do not. I am trying not to be sad about it and instead distract myself with happier Harry Potter memories. But it’s not without its struggles.

For the first time it really feels like this is goodbye.

book event · discussion · poetry

Poetry Event | Neil Hilborn

“I saw the future, I did,
and in it,
I was alive.”

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I never used to really be into poetry. Despite having a degree partly in English Literature, having to constantly analyse poems made it really hard to love them outside of a classroom. A friend of mine is a poet and, when I shared these concerns, introduced me to a channel called Button Poetry and his favourite performance poet Neil Hilborn whose main focuses are around mental health as he has OCD. When the announcement of a UK tour was made, it seemed wrong to pass up on it so me and a couple of friends – who all love his poetry – decided to make it a small friend reunion.

I try to pretend that my anxiety disorder is not as crippling it is because sometimes it makes me worry about completely unnecessary things but it’s been a just over a year since I passed my driving test and driving places I’ve never been before still fills me with a sense of dread. But I knew I needed to push myself and one of my friends had driven to Birmingham before so was able to help me navigate along with a sat nav. I am so ridiculously proud of myself for forcing myself to do it; even if my muscles were clenched for the whole journey. We met up with my other friend who’d got her train to Birmingham to meet us and we had dinner to catch up and explored the city. Of course, we took a trip to Waterstones and I was quick to pick up a copy of the newly released Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.

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We then indulged in more food and made our way over to The Glee Club which was the venue for the performance. The capacity was 420 people and the event was sold out. I’ve been to poetry nights before but never solely to see one poet so I had no idea what to expect.

It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to experience something. Especially when it’s visual. Neil Hilborn’s poetry is so deep, intricate, and complex. To watch him on that stage, pausing as he looked at the floor and taking a deep breath before putting all of his heart and soul into getting those feelings across in his performances felt almost like we’d stumbled into something that was meant to be private.  He even broke away halfway through poems to joke about some of the lines he’s written which just added a little extra humour and a more human element to it. But honestly, I forgot that I was in a tiny room in a comedy club in Birmingham. Listening to these poems with the actual poet in front of me felt like being in a different world.

Surprisingly, after his show had finished, there was the opportunity to meet him. I felt bad not having a copy of his book (I read it on Kindle) and no cash to buy any that were available at the merch table so when I finally did get to meet him I started off by pointing this out and how I felt terrible. He shook my hand and I told him about my anxiety and how listening to his poem The Future helps me when I get into a state where doing every day things becomes difficult. The irony of the situation was that I was on the brink of having a panic attack while thanking him for helping me… not have panic attacks. But I mean, one of the greatest modern poets was sitting in front of me, staring at me and listening to what I was saying. After that, he signed a little card for me and we got a photo.

We then said goodbye to the friend who’d gotten the train and got back in my car where I had to do the whole awful journey in reverse; which turned out to be very eventful as the junction I needed to get off the motorway was closed so we ended up with a lengthy detour.

I feel so honoured to have this experience and getting to meet the man behind all the words and videos I’ve consumed over the past few years. I often find it’s too easy to see people through a screen and forget that they are just that: people.

I’m going to end this post with Neil Hilborn’s performance of The Future which I hope will encourage you to look further into his poetry.

 

discussion · lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

adaptations · discussion

Movie Announcement | The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give was always going to be big. Given the current political situation and an ever growing push for diverse books in Young Adult, when Angie Thomas burst onto the scene with her debut, it got people talking. The book crashed onto the New York Times Bestseller list in the top spot and, several months later, still remains on the list.

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The story is about a teenage girl called Starr who witnesses her best friend get shot by a police officer. In the media frenzy and outrage from the community that follows, it is down to Starr to stand up, seek justice, and more importantly make her voice heard.

So let’s get into the current casting:

Starr Carter played by Amandla Stenberg 

 

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Amandla Stenberg was the first actor to be cast for this film. In fact, they were cast in the lead role before the book was even released. Which shows how much Fox believes in the source material. When I first saw them as Rue in The Hunger Games I could never have predicted that they would be a child actor that goes on to have a real career in acting. But with their recent role as Madeline in Everything Everything, it seems that Amandla may well be someone to watch. I have to admit, when the news broke that they would be taking on the lead role I did a fist-pump. I cannot wait to see them bring this character to life.

Lisa Carter played by Regina Hall

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Taking on the role of mama Carter is Regina Hall, most known for her role of Brenda in the Scary Movie franchise. For the moment I don’t really have an opinion on this announcement as I haven’t seen any of her TV or film work. But I really hope she does the character justice.

Big Mav played by Russell Hornsby 

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Daddy Carter comes in the form of Russell Hornsby. He’s most known for his roles as Hank in Grimm and Lyons in Fences. I’m a little unsure, since at this point I can only go off his look unless I decide to venture into his previous works, I just pictured the father to be a little older for some reason. But again, both parental figures in the film could really prove me wrong.

Seven Carter played by Lamar Johnson

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And finally, completing the line-up of the Carter family is Lamar Johnson. Yes. Quite simply, yes. In terms of credentials, Lamar is due to play a role in the upcoming X-Men film X-Men: Dark Phoenix so he’s another one worth keeping an eye on! I cannot wait to see him bring one of my favourites from the book to life.

The fact that this book is being turned into movie and definitely going to hit screens -unlike many YA adaptations that end up stuck in the mud – is so important. I feel like this film, given the current state of the world and raw, brutal, honesty of its message will really get people talking. Hopefully, talking about change. Because things really do need to change. And this being put out there in a visual format may finally get the conversation moving in the right direction. And with conversation comes action.

Let me know your thoughts on the casting. Who would you like to see take on the role of Khalil or Starr’s school friends? Are you looking forward to seeing The Hate U Give on the big screen?

 

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adaptations · discussion · young adult

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before | Movie Announcement

Over the past few years, there has been a steady increase of Young Adult books making it onto the big screen. From Everything, Everything to Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda, the newest addition to the list is To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the best-selling series by Jenny Han.

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The story follows a girl called Lara Jean who has just started her junior year of High school. Everything is going fine until her box of letters written to her crushes is delivered to their doorsteps.

I have to admit, I have seen the massive love for this trilogy but I haven’t read it myself. (Though that is soon to change due to this announcement!) As a result of this, I can’t speak for the accuracy of the actors cast so please express your opinions! With that being said, let’s get into the casting:

Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey

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Lana Condor made her debut appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse and is now going to be taking on the lead role in this adaptation. As Jenny Han highlights in her announcement, this is massive news. The casting directors could have easily gone down the white-washing route which happens all too often, but instead they decided to go with a Vietnamese-American actress.
Janel Parrish as Margot Covey

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Probably the most recognisable from the cast announcements, Janel Parrish’s popularity stems from her role in the hit TV series Pretty Little Liars. It’s nice to see moving on to other acting roles.

John Corbett as Dr Covey

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John Corbett is taking on a fatherly role. From a quick look through his roles, it doesn’t seem like he’s made many big-impact appearances.

Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky

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There’s another recognisable face in the form of Noah Centineo who’s most known for his role in the Disney Channel Original Film How To Build A Better Boy.

The film is also being directed by Susan Johnson and the screenplay is by Sofia Alvarez, so there’s women taking on roles behind the camera as well!

I’ve made a post in the past about strong female characters and the role of women in both books and film. Since then, we’ve had the likes of Wonder Woman, a female Jedi in Star Wars , and a woman taking on the lead role in Doctor Who for the first time in the show’s history. While these are all monumental achievements, it’s important not to forget about women of different ethnicities getting their representation too.

As I said in the section on Lana Condor, they could have easily white-washed this film and come up with some terrible reason for doing so. But they haven’t. They’ve stayed true to a fundamental part of the character which, from seeing the outpouring of love and support, is already making a huge impact.

And I hope that this film is a success. Not just because it’s loved by so many, but also because if it does well, it really could pave the way for more POC women taking on leading roles in films.

contemporary · discussion · young adult

A response | Zoe Sugg: The Vlogger blamed for teenagers reading more…

… is what the headline for the new article  from The Guardian should say.

Like anyone with a social media account, I am very much aware who Zoella is but I have never been a “fan” or watcher of her videos. When her debut Girl Online was announced, I was impressed that she was one of the first vloggers to write a book that was actually a work of fiction and not an autobiography of her life; these feelings quickly changed when I heard that it was ghostwritten, but I’m not writing this to express my thoughts on that.

Over the past few years there have been streams of articles attacking Young Adult fiction. From Variety’s article about the film adaptation of Me Before You (in which the writer disregards the ages of the protagonists and goes on to say “this is another squeaky-clean YA tearjerker built around a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom”) to Slate’s article in which the writer says that adults who read teenage fiction should be “embarrassed”, I am getting really really really tired of this “anti-young adult”narrative.

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If we put aside the fact the main article is just a very bitter rant  about Zoella herself rather than her books – which are mentioned in a total of  less than 5 sentences – this is yet another attack on young people and what they choose to read.

I am twenty-three years old and I read a decent range of genres and age ranges but I primarily read YA and I am also working on books within this age group that I hope one day will join the shelves. I choose to mainly read Young Adult, quite simply, because I enjoy it. There’s such a fantastic pool of variety – including  important themes -within this category that just isn’t explored outside of it. I adored reading during my school years and was advanced for my age but that didn’t stop me reading whatever I wanted. I was bullied quite a lot for actually wanting to read outside of a classroom and if I’d experienced that and seen articles online saying that one of my favourite authors was the reason so many teenagers were essentially dumb for reading “below their level” it’s highly likely I would have bowed to peer pressure and stopped reading altogether. This narrative is incredibly harmful. 

I worked as a Christmas Temp at Waterstones and in my short time there I saw just how well loved she is when parents would bring her books to the counter and tell me how their daughter has finally started reading because of these books, how their daughter stays up reading them. One time when a girl who came to the counter to buy the 3rd book, she asked if I’d read them and I said I hadn’t, she demanded that I buy them when I finished work. She was so animated when she talked about those books. To blame a single writer for the reason teen literacy is declining is an insult not just to her, to fellow authors and aspiring writers of the category, but to her readers. Who has the right to label something “less” or even “simple” just because it’s popular? These people are the first to include Harry Potter as an alternative in their arguments which is actually 9-12 fiction. Though, no one seemed to attack adults for reading them when they were being released.

Quite simply, rather than looking for a single person to blame (unsurprisingly a vlogger which all seem to be the subject of media-based attacks recently), or rather the reason why this is happening. Try to find ways to encourage young people to read rather than attacking the one person who may have made them pick up a book in the first place.

No matter what your thoughts are on Zoella, she is the voice of a new generation. Much like Harry Potter and Twilight in the past, she is getting people reading.

And frankly, that is more important than anything else.

 

discussion · fantasy

The Importance of Hermione Granger

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In honour of the release of additional Harry Potter material in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it seems only fitting to talk about how much this series has shaped my life. However, that could take years to fully explain so for now you will have to accept this rather shortened version.

I first discovered the Harry Potter books when I was 7/8 years old. I was wandering around the giant metal crates of books as the Scholastic book fair was at my primary school. My mum had always pushed me towards reading: if I wanted a toy she would make me wait a week and if I still wanted it then I could have it. If it was a book, I could have it right away. She sent me to school that day with money to go to the book fair and get whatever I want. That day when I eagerly scanned the shelves of the various containers, I came across a book called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. At the time I wasn’t aware this was the second book and I devoured it. I found out that there were in fact three books out at that point and my first read through went 2nd book, 3rd book, 1st book and then 4-7.

There’s no way I can really encapsulate how much this series meant to me, not only growing up, but even now. It gave that escapism I needed as a child and I was just in awe of this world that I was thrown into. I followed this small orphan boy into a world of magic and wonder, facing something so much bigger than him. I pictured myself fighting alongside them, defending them where needed. I saw myself sat in black robes lined with yellow at the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall. I had found a place where I belonged. My mum would let me read one chapter a night before bed and then take the book off me and read it herself. We always had 2 bookmarks in our copy of the most recent book because she would take it to work with her and I’d get it when I got home from school. My most prominent childhood memory is sitting in class and my teacher declaring that our reading hour had started. Every single child in that room pulled out a copy of Harry potter and the Order of the Phoenix and began reading. Including my teacher.

Naturally, I adore the movies but there’s so much magic that you don’t get in those compared to the books and every year I find myself coming back to those books, even if it is only one of them. This series was by no means the first I read as a child, but it was the first that really stuck with me. When we went on holidays where we took the car (like getting the ferry across to France) I would demand we listen to the Harry potter audiobooks and I’d sit in the back reading the book along with the soothing tones of Stephen Fry.

When the final book came out, I stared at it for the first two days. We had two copies of the book at that point so mum was well into her copy, but I was terrified of the adventure ending, of parting away with the characters that had been the only real friends I ever had. One night, at 4am, mum came running into my room because I was hysterically crying; Fred Weasley had just died. At that time, I didn’t realise that they would continue walking alongside me to this day. At twenty years old, I was having fights with university friends about which Hogwarts house was superior, my university had both a Harry Potter and a Quidditch society. Some of the best people in my life right now became my friends because of our love for this story. At nearly twenty three, my car keys are attached to a Hufflepuff crest keychain. When I went to the Harry Potter worlds in Universal and the Harry Potter studios, I cried.

This blog post is title “the importance of Hermione Granger” because she was the first time I saw myself as a character in a book. Of course I’d read many books with characters who loved reading but Hermione Granger didn’t just love reading, she loved learning too. She didn’t just have a fascination for the magical subjects of Hogwarts (as she’d lived 11 years of her life in a non-magical world) but she even loved Muggle Studies; a topic about something she already knew probably more of than the teachers did. She is made fun of throughout the books for being the one with her hand always in the air to answer questions, always doing her homework on time and demanding that Harry and Ron start revising for their exams. Her knowledge saves Harry and Ron’s lives countless times. Out of all the things she could use a time turner for in the third book (minus the obvious plot point) she uses it to attend more classes than is physically possible to do without manipulating time. In Deathly Hallows she fills her bag with over ten books just in case there might be any useful information in them that could help further down the line: something that Harry doesn’t even think of when he originally plans to go alone.

My point is she loved reading and she loved learning but more importantly she never changed. She could’ve so easily shrunk inside herself and contained the things that made her such a remarkable character but she never hid her love for either of those things. She showed me that devotion to something you love is important and you should never ever be afraid to passionate about the things that mean the most to you.
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discussion · young adult

The Damaging Stigmas Around YA Fiction

*Trigger warnings: Mentions of eating disorders, rape, other mental illnesses and racial discrimination*

If you’re a frequent reader (or writer) of Young Adult fiction then you have most likely seen the endless stigmas around it. Young Adult is often viewed as a sort of stepping stone – a pit stop before inevitably moving on to the vast world of Adult Fiction. Contrary to this belief, there are many adults who obviously write within this genre, but there are also many adults that read it too. For example, I am twenty-two years old and I both read and write within the genre.

My reason for doing another kind of discussion post here is due to the recent article for The Guardian, written by Anthony McGowan titled Most YA Fiction Is Grown-Up in Disguise. As you can tell, it was yet another article discounting the validity of a rather important reading area. This not the first and certainly won’t be the last in a long line of obnoxious articles about an aspect someone doesn’t really understand. In 2014, Ruth Graham wrote a piece titled  Against YA in which she used the sub heading “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children” and  (again as you can tell) she discusses how you should only read about the people of your own age as they tend to be more realistic and about “more important things.” Very recently another article surfaced about the adaptation of Jojo Moyes novel “Me Before You” in which the headline was Me before You: how to build a YA movie that rules however the problem here is that the novel is categorised as Adult Romance and the protagonist is in her late twenties making it fall outside the range it chooses to attack. A fact that is even mentioned within the actual viewpoint Owen Gleiberman lays out:

“The film’s central characters may be 26 and 31 years old, but at heart this is another squeaky clean YA tearjerker built around  a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom.”

There is a common misconception that books are written for a certain audience. Which, in this case, is not true. Young Adult fiction isn’t written for young adults, it’s written about them.  This is a point I want to stress in response to McGowan’s comment within his article where he says :

“I’d content that at least some of these books appeal to me, as an adult, because they are not teenage books at all.”

No, it means that despite these books being about teenagers, you have been able to relate and heaven forbid, actually enjoy them regardless of what your age is.

There also comes a point where these comments are very damaging not just to the genre itself, but the people who read it. There are many statistics showing that most young people stop reading in their teens and with things like this surfacing every so often it’s no surprise why many may feel discouraged. In my teens I found solace in seeing my personal problems reflected in characters in YA books. I know that many teenage bloggers also feel the same. McGowan has the nerve in his article to label YA as a “lazy, disheartening mush of false problems, fake solutions, idealised romance, second-rate fantasy, tired dystopias…” Given that there are a large amounts of books  coming out tackling various mental illnesses such as eating disorders in “paperweight” ,  anxiety in Holly’s Bourne’s “Am I Normal?” series and very serious topics such as rape in Louise O’Neill’s “Asking For It”and most recently scenes of Islamophobia in Kim Slater’s “A Seven Letter Word” I would hardly call any of these “false problems.” Just because they are happening to teenagers and you may have not gone through it at that point in your life, doesn’t in any way lessen the fact of their existence. I personally think it’s disgusting and an insult to those who may find solace seeing characters go through similar situations to themselves. By making such comments you are discounting the valid feelings of young people and in a world where there’s already so much stigma around mental illness and the lack of support out there for young people facing these things, it just makes me livid that someone could make such throw away comments in an article on The Guardian website.

I could go on and on about the reasons these things are wrong. But the only thing I will say to round this discussion up is that no one is forcing you to read YA. If you don’t like it, or you feel it has issues you can’t get past such as it being “disheartening mush” then quite simply do not read it.