Posted in 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?

Posted in adaptations, Dystopian, review, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | Allegiant

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*not spoiler free*

When I saw the first trailer for Allegiant, my expectations were low. As more trailers and teasers were released my expectations continued to sink. I doubted the film itself would be good let alone accurate. I knew going into the cinema screen that this adaptation would not be the Allegiant I hold close to my heart so of course I was apprehensive.

Here’s a breakdown of the important new characters added to the cast for this part of the series:

David played by Jeff Daniels

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Matthew played by Bill Skarsgard

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Nita played by Nadia Hilker

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Starting off with the existing characters, Theo James failed to impress, yet again, as Four. I’ve always found Four to be a painfully boring character in the books so if Theo intended to transfer that to screen then I guess you can say he was successful. I used to enjoy Shailene Woodley as Tris but in this film she is surprisingly underwhelming. Despite the fact that the existing characters find out in Allegiant that everything they know is a lie and that people have been watching them through cameras their whole lives, they seem content with this in the film, while the book versions go through a massive adjustment period. It just completely threw the tone off in the film, getting rid of any possible tension.

The new characters don’t leave much to be desired either. Remember Nita in the book and the role she played? She might as well not exist in the film. David didn’t seem nearly as desperate and evil, appearing laid-back more than anything else, and Matthew plays a considerably smaller role with the humour and charm that made me appreciate him in the book vanishing into thin air.

The only actor to give a good performance was Miles Teller, returning to the role of Peter, who had screen presence and made the terrible dialogue he was given funny, even eliciting a few laughs from me.

But the lack of emotions from any of the characters led to the events of the film not feeling believable which is key to a story with this kind of concept at its core.

I was already aware from the promotion prior to the film’s release that things would be different; the main factor fans picked up on being the changes to the “world beyond the wall.” That 21st century, modern day Chicago from the book seems like a pleasant dream when you set your eyes on what they have done to the world.

 

Everything beyond the wall is a wasteland. The world is split into 4 places:

Chicago – the city ruled by factions that the characters believed to be the world

  • The bureau – genetic welfare headquarters
  • The province – essentially the government that the bureau has to report to
  • The fringe – a place where those who survived what ravaged the world are living in poverty.

Neither the fringe nor the province exists in the book and I am still trying to understand why they needed to add it. I would have found this slightly bearable if the locations looked real and less like a soft play centre. The source material doesn’t lack the information or action to make this watchable and not seem stagnant so why the creators felt the need to include such massive plot changes just seems redundant to me, unless they were trying to purposely destroy this series, in which case they’re doing a fantastic job.

Natalie’s diary is given to Tris by Matthew to help her understand the important role her mother played and come to terms with her new surroundings. In the film, David gives Tris memory tabs that allow her to relive parts of her mother’s life in the fringe, before she willingly entered the Chicago experiment. Another unnecessary change.

The only part I saw of book Allegiant depicted on screen was the trials.

 

This scene opened the film and showed a sense of madness that had taken over the city as everyone rallied to see the deaths of those that had persecuted them. I will admit, the only moment that elicited any emotion from me other than disappointment was when Caleb was in the cage waiting for his trial and screaming to Tris “please don’t let them kill me.” Even Evelyn with the devastating fear that crippled her in the book fell utterly flat on screen.

There just seemed to be a lack of conviction in all the information given and it felt that none of the cast really wanted to be there, not that they were given much good direction in this script.

I reached a point during the viewing process where I tried to look at the film as if I hadn’t read the book before and even then it just didn’t make sense. Making Tris out to be someone who is a “chosen one”, not fully explaining what makes people genetically damaged or pure. Frankly, it’s just a mess.

But in the end, I am a fan of this series and I will see the final part titled “Ascendant” when it is released next year. I just hope to the book adapting gods that the ending stays the same.
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Posted in book tag, discussion, fantasy

Throne Of Glass Tag

This tag was created byAlexaLovesBook and Soobsessedwith and when I saw it was Throne of Glass themed I HAD to do it!

Lysandra – a book with a cover change you loved

 

 

Ironically my choice for this one is the book this tag is based off. Throne of Glass definitely has one of the best cover re-designs I’ve seen. I didn’t know there was a different cover until I saw it in one of jessethereader’svideos. I’m not a fan of books with models/real people on the cover. It just puts me off a bit. The new cover is simple, white and the drawing of Celaena is just so badass.
Abraxos – a book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside

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It’s not hard to ignore that the first edition cover of The Great Gatsby is well… not nice. I’m taking this topic in the sense of the book cover is awful, but the story inside is truly wonderful. There’s rich people, lavish parties, secrets and lies. I Love it so darn much.

Erilea – a series with great world building

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The world that immediately came to mind is that of the Darker Shade of Magic series.  In this book there are four different Londons: Grey London which lacks magic and is ruled by a mad king, Red London were magic is revered in a flourishing empire, White London ruled by whoever murders their way to power, and Black London… which no one mentions. The description of each of these realms is so rich and beautiful. I felt like I was walking through them while reading this book.

Rifthold – a book that combines genres

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs. It takes the basic things that make something horror-esque and combines it with magical fantasy elements. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because horror just isn’t for me. But this book is too good not to miss.

 

Damaris – a book based on/inspired by a myth or legend

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Hear me out on this one… Yes I have mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson, nor do I intend to finish the series BUT I have read The Lightning Thief and this was the first (and only) thing to come to mind when I looked at this question.

Kaltain Rompier – a book with an unexpected twist

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The last book I read that really made me gasp, splutter and drop it was A Grimm Warning which is the third book in The Land Of Stories series. Seriously, this ending nearly killed me. I need to get on to the fourth book pronto!
Assassin’s Keep – a book with an unreliable narrator

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I brought this up with a group of people a while ago and they disagreed with me however, I find that the protagonist – Charlie – is unreliable. The story is told through letters he writes to someone unknown (it reads like he’s writing the letters to you) talking about aspects of his life, mainly his internal struggles. Some of the things he chooses to and not to tell just makes me doubt whether I can trust him.

Asterin Blackbeak – a book that’s got squad goals

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Ultimate squad goals award goes to the shadowhunters of The Mortal Instruments universe. They just make a really cool badass team with the occasional help of warlock Magnus Bane.

 

Terrasen – a book that feels like home

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Harry Potter has been such a monumental part of my life. I grew up reading these books. I followed the characters from children to adulthood as I went through the process myself. Even though I hated school, the idea of Hogwarts (even with the workload) just fills me with warmth and happiness in a world where I can use Accio to get me things when I’m too lazy to move. Whenever I pick up any of the books and re-read them, I feel like I’m going home and returning to old, well-loved friends.

 

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius – a book with the power to destroy you

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Allegiant – the final book in the Divergent Trilogy – utterly ruined me. This was the most I’ve cried reading a book next to Harry Potter. I think this is probably my favourite in the trilogy because even though the ending is so bittersweet, it feels like the right ending for this book.

 

Manon Blackbeak – a book that intimidated you

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This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. And I doubt I will find anything in my lifetime that tops it. This is the story of a German girl called Liesel who steals books… and the narrator of her adventures is death. You read that right, death. However, this book is huge. I am quite a quick reader but it took me a good month to get through this one.

 

Ronan Whitehorn – a book that makes you swoon

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I had to sit and think really hard for this one. I guess I’m just cold and heartless as I resorted to scrolling through my read list on Goodreads in the hopes of finding a suggestion. Then I came across Eleanor & Park. This book is so cute and the relationship formed between Eleanor and Park is adorable.

 

Chaol Westall – a book that challenged you to see things differently

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I bought a copy of this book along with the new, recently recovered Which Pet Should I Get? Purely because there was a line from Oh The Places You’ll Go that helped me get through high school: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” I knew this quote but had never actually read the book.

As a recent university graduate who is back in her hometown, living with her parents, not exactly doing or being where she wants to in life, I feel a bit stuck. Reading this book helped get things into perspective for me and made me see that sometimes being stagnant is all part of the journey and just because I’m in this position now, doesn’t mean I will be forever.

 

Fleetfoot – a book that you received as a gift

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This books was given to me as a git by my wonderful writer friend Jenny.  It’s an Alice In Wonderland spin-off kind of thing. I am still yet to read it but look how gorgeous this cover is!

 

Eye of Elena – A book you found right when you needed it

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I discovered this book at a really difficult time in my life and without it, I truly don’t know where I would have ended up. It gave me the courage and the strength to keep going on, when all I wanted to do was give up.

 

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Posted in review, young adult

Divergent Thinking – Edited by Leah Wilson

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Blurb: “Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy has captured the hearts and thoughts of millions of readers. In Divergent Thinking YA authors explore even more of Tris and Tobias’ world. With a dozen smart, surprising mind-expanding essays on all three books in the trilogy, Divergent Thinking provides a companion fit for even the most Erudite Divergent fan.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The last time I read a book like this was Shadowhunters and Downworlders and I loved it. There’s something truly wonderful about reading essays from a bunch  of authors about sections of a series you’ve come to love talking about. Here we have Divergent Thinking where the series of focus is… you’ve guessed it. Divergent.

There will be some spoilers in this review as the book itself has spoilers. So if you haven’t read the whole series, I would wait before reading this book… or this review if you fancy coming back to it in a later time.

I’ve decided that the best way to formulate this review is to do a breakdown of the contributors and their chapters. So here we go!

“From Faction to Fire Signs” by Rosemary Clement-Moore

“We like books that put our heroes into boxes so that we ca enjoy watching them break out.” 

This chapter focuses on the faction system and why we, as readers, love stories where people are sorted into groups. She talks about how she thinks it is the reliability. I’m sure all of us have read a book/series with groups and matched ourselves accordingly: “I think it’d be in Erudite because I value knowledge”, “I think I’d be in Hufflepuff because I’m kind”, “If I was in the shadowhunter world I’d be a warlock.” We love to attach labels  to feel more involved in the world, to bring it even more to life.

“Divergent Psychology” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

“Psychology can explain the significance of the five factions, what it really means to be Divergent, and why, as readers, we’re faced with the same challenges that Tris confronts: to look beyond the simulation, to carve out an identity, to find the place where we belong.” 

Divergent raised the question of who we are, what we are and where we belong through the use of the faction system. Are we too selfish for Abnegation? Too afraid to be Dauntless? Not passive enough for Amity? In this essay, Jennifer examines the personality traits linked to each faction and talks about how they affect our open-ness to experience new things.

“Mapping Divergent’s Chicago” by V. Arrow 

Sadly I don’t have a quote for this one, but this was definitely one of my favourite chapters in the whole book. V. Arrow basically, as you’ve guessed from the chapter, looks at the Divergent Chicago and compares it to real world Chicago as we know it and maps out where she thinks the different factions would be located, where the Erudite headquarters would be, the Ferris wheel used in the capture the flag game.

I have never been to Chicago but I found it really interesting to read this chapter.

“Choices Can Be Made Again” by Maria V.Snyder and Jenna Snyder 

No opening quote again but in this chapter mother and daughter Maria and Jenna discuss something we all have to face countless times in our lives: choice. Whether it’s deciding what university to go to, whether we want to go at all, or deciding whether to order takeaway. We all have to make choices.

The discussion focuses on how real world choices are fluid. If we decide we made a mistake, most of the time we can put it aside and start over, but those in the world of Divergent who attend the choosing ceremony don’t get a second chance to start over. There is no trial run. The only choice you have is to pick where you want to go and stay there. They don’t get to say “actually I don’t mind giving Abnegation a go.” Once Tris chooses Dauntless, she has to go through jumping off moving trains and getting beaten to a pulp in order to fit in.

“Ordinary Acts Of Bravery” by Elizabeth Norris 

“Fear isn’t an enemy of bravery. Driving people to free themselves completely from fear doesn’t necessarily mean their actions will be brave. Fear is what makes people brave – feeling afraid, yet acting in spite of fear.”

This chapter tackles the different kinds of bravery: acting in spite of fear, standing up for one another, the need for the truth and being honest all the time.

As we all know, Tris likes to keep hold of her secrets, mainly, her Divergence. She stands up for Al and takes his place in front of the target so Four throws knives at her instead. She doesn’t tell anyone that she killed Will until Candor’s truth serum forces her to. Does this make her brave?

“Fear And The Dauntless Girl” by Blythe Woolston 

“If fear can be learned through conditioning, it might be possible to unlearn it.” 

Naturally fear plays a big part in Divergent in the form of the fear simulation test. Blythe discusses how if we can learn to fear things from seeing others afraid, it may be possible to unlearn this as we see when Four allows Tris into his landscape and tells her to react logically “the way a Dauntless would.” This chapter also discusses how we may see someone’s fear as irrational but to them it’s completely rational. For example, Four’s fear of heights: if you fall from high up, you will go splat.

“They Injure Each Other In The Same Way” by Mary Borsellino 

Mary brings up a very interesting point that I overlooked when reading Divergent : Tris views her parents as just that, parents. However, when she changes factions, she begins to see them as individuals.
“Secrets and Lies” by Debra Driza 

“While it’s obvious that Divergent makes a case for more truth in politics, what does the series have to say about truth in personal relationships? Does it make a case for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” 

Debra tackles the topic of lies and how they are handled: Abnegation lying by omission since its considered selfish to talk about yourself and (as I touched on earlier) lying about her Divergence.

“Bureau Versus Rebels: Which is worse?” by Dan Krokos 

“Tris argues that the bureau doesn’t want to stop the revolution in the city to save lives, but to save their experiment.”

As you’ve probably guessed, this chapter deals with that pesky bureau. Bad people. But are they worse than those rebelling against the faction system?
“Factions: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” by Julia Karr

“The faction system was flawed, but it helped people feel secure in the knowledge of who they were and what their purpose was. Losing that is never easy.”

This was another really interesting chapter to read. Focused on the various sides of the factions and the slurs they have for each other: Erudite’s are a “nose”, a Dauntless is an “adrenaline junkie”, a Candor is a “smart-mouth” and amities are “banjo strumming softies.”

“The Downfall of Dauntless” by Janine K. Spendlove

“Dauntless was founded by those who blamed fear for the world’s problems.”

I think we all know that Dauntless has a few problems *looks at the animosity between Four and Eric* okay, maybe more than a few issues. When Al fights against Will and is getting beaten pretty badly, Tobias says that Al can concede, then Eric steps in and says they must fight until one of them can’t continue anymore.

Also, while some Dauntless initiates are Dauntless born, some are not. They are not fighters so it is not their instinct to automatically/ willingly “kill the enemy.”

“Emergent” by Elizabeth Wein

“Though Tris doesn’t know it yet, there is a large Divergent population among the factionless, which is subtly foreshadowed in their multicolored clothing.”

What better way to finish off this book by discussing the factionless? They’re almost like a sixth faction, the place that all the outcasts go to. While a seemingly scary group, it’s a very interesting insight.
This is a MUST for any Divergent fans!
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