You've heard the phrase to never judge a book by its cover but what about its movie? An incredible amount of films being released at the moment are based on novels, specifically Young Adult novels. And being students with a multitude of ways to distribute our time, it is easy to fall into the habit of simply watching the movie instead of taking the time to actually read the book.
Watching the movie first vs. reading the book first:
First up, we need to admit that both options each have their pros and cons. Most people would argue that it's better to read the book first and for the most part I agree with them. Reading the book gives you a much wider insight to the characterization and a deeper understanding of the message that the author is trying to convey. And while there are many books that are considered better than the movie, there are also the lucky few films that could be argued to be better than the book but I won't name names in fear of angering passionate book nerds everywhere.
The dilemma is that the market for Young Adult novels is expanding rapidly at the moment and the genre reaches a wide range of people so they just keep getting written. Thus, it's a given that at least a few of them would be made into films as well. And with that option, it's often easier to wait until the film is released instead of reading the book. Let me share a couple of personal experiences...
A Comparison: Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars
Some of you may have had a similar experience, depending on how much YA you personally read but at the time that Divergent, by Veronica Roth, was released there had been so much Young Adult post-apocalyptic content swimming through the literary world that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and avoided YA for a while. When the movie came out, my roommate (who had actually read it) wanted to go see it and at first I resisted because I feared that the movie wouldn't live up to my expectations, kind of like the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's The Host. A book that I liked and a film that I didn't. However, I succumbed and went to see it with her and I loved it. I'm no film critic but I liked this film so much so that I went out and bought my own copy of Divergent so I could read it.
With John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, the story is a little different. John Green's style of writing had diverged from the post-apocalyptic trend and was written to convey a setting that was a lot more realistic and probable. I was drawn to his novels a lot faster than I was drawn to others in the genre. As a causation of this, I have read all his novels. The Fault in Our Stars being the most recent one, which, I might argue to be his best piece of work. The film has yet to be released and is currently in the works but it's an excellent YA novel with a very large and loyal following; and I sincerely hope that the film industry does it justice.
Reading Divergent took a lot longer than I anticipated because I already knew the story-line since I had seen the film. I had had the same experience with City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare. Watching the film first made it more difficult to lose myself in the novel and I often found myself thinking things like, 'that's new,' and 'eh, I think I liked that part better in the film.' Whereas, reading The Fault in Our Stars was a much faster read and I felt like I got more depth out of it since I was imagining the story for the first time.
This dilemma of an expanding Young Adult genre in literature, and in film, isn't necessarily one that needs solving but only that we need to acknowledge. When the rights to a book are sold to a film company, that film company has every legal right to do whatever they want with it, even changing it drastically. That power can go in either direction and sometimes the film isn't a good example of what the book was. I recommend reading the book before you see the film (one reason why I haven't seen The Book Theif yet!) but that being said if I had of stuck by that I would have missed out on reading a couple of really good books in my time. However, I worry that too many people are just waiting for the film, and if the film doesn't represent the author's work accurately then the habit is to avoid said book. Movies don't always represent the book well. So, heed the slightly tweaked version of the old adage; never judge a book by its movie.
Summer reading challenge:
Read all the recent books that have been made into movies!
Buy Divergent here and The Fault in Our Stars here, or simply where the title of the novel is highlighted in the text!
Allanah Osborn is an avid reader with a bookshelf that costs way too much money to move from one apartment to the next. She is currently a byustore employee and writes regularly for the Y Read Blog.