The Allure of Hollywood

I’m not sure of anything that boosts a book’s sales like a movie deal. The recent influx in teen books transformed into film has adults scrambling for copies of The Hunger Games, The Giver and The Fault in our Stars but the phenomenon works the other way around too. Teens and kids are also drawn to books that inspire films – even if the text was originally intended for adults. What surprises me, sometimes, is the reaction that adults have about kids reading a book like Eat Pray Love or World War Z (by Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide  (which inspired the film Zombieland a teen hit) among others) particularly when kids and teens are openly watching the films… but, what’s the difference?

I suppose that’s what’s so interesting about crossover books in general, it’s kids and teens reading books for older readers and those older readers reacting (or not) to the phenomenon and vice versa… although it seems that adults have the most stigma against the whole “crossover” thing in general. As evidenced by the Slate article, the rebuttals and general blogosphere milling about reasons, causes, effects of books being read across age grouped audiences.

But let’s set that good old adult predisposition to judge and control aside and move on to why I think adaptations might actually be a good thing… despite the films not always being… well, good.

'We are making a film of the book.'

 

I’ve mentioned before, as a burgeoning teen I dove straight into adults books – after The Hobbit and LOTR I was into adult fantasy and sci-fi and off on a world of adult adventure that didn’t phase me – but they certainly filled the gap. I was entertained, taught and delighted by Eddings, Hickman and Weiss, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Michael Crichton and various others all with varying degrees of “good literature” stamps, but who cares? I was reading.

While I’ve always been a proponent of “hey, whatever gets ’em reading!” (and that goes for adults and youth because goodness knows adults need a kick in the butt sometimes too!) I am also a big believer in the assertion that:The Book is better than the movie”  – and in most cases it really really is. (Note to self: compile a list of movies that are actually better than their book counterparts…hmm)

So while adaptations can be iffy in terms of storytelling clarity and style, for this is where I find them the most lacking (I mean, some adaptations are so difficult to follow if you haven’t read the book) I would argue that one of the great benefits of all this transforming books into film is the interest that then comes back to the original source: the book. If the film drives people to the bookstores and libraries to read the book before the film – or perhaps to help explain what they just spent two hours watching – then I’m all for them. Sure, adaptations are tricky creatures to get right, but it is so much fun to have read the book, watched the film and make your own assessment, engage in that wider adaptation discussion. Oftentimes books that have been made into film find their way onto school reading lists (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and A Clockwork Orange both arguably adult books originally) and I think this is where the crossover appeal comes from, it’s that appeal of the wider discussion and that wanting to know more about the story and the world.

Young people are watching the series Game of Thrones on T.V., for instance, and they crave more Westeros so they run to the books and read ahead – well, honestly, that’s wonderful.

The allure of the Hollywood adaptation of a book is that hope, and oftentimes fact that, those who watch will read and those who read will watch. It’s the wonderful read, watch, engage cycle. Find the differences, why are there differences – what are the limitations of film? Writing? Which version of the story did they like better and why? The questions and discussions can go on and on and that’s great. A book with a film adaptation will get discussed and not simply set back on the shelf – so, despite the potential negatives, perhaps adaptations are doing something good for too.

Don’t hide the adult titles of upcoming blockbuster releases in the adult section – put them out there and offer them up as food for thought!