Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Problem With Adapting Young Adult Books Into Movies

The movie industry has been adapting books into movies for years, and I mean, what avid reader doesn't want to see their favorite book brought to life on the big screen (albeit it's always probably going to be taken with a grain of salt. There's no way every single detail of the movie is going to live up to your expectations)? However, recently, there has been a huge surge of adapting popular young adult books into movies, with the most recent being Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (which I still have not read, but it's on my TBR list!).

What's the problem with this, you ask? Doesn't this mean that more people will be reading YA? Isn't that what you want? Well, yes. YA is absolutely my favorite kind of fiction to read, and I'm all for people finding some new spectacular reads. But--I do think that the popularity of turning YA books into movies has helped to foster some of the bad rap that young adult novels get in the media. And let's face it, though strides have been made in recent years, young adult books are all too often looked down upon, in academia, in the media, and just in the general public.

This is partially written in response to a blog post that I stumbled upon talking about a similar point (which can be found here). In this post, they made the same old argument about young adult novels:
"But, by definition, the target audience for these books is the young adult demographic. While they can be somewhat complex, most of the stories are generally going to be clear cut. The hero's gonna be good, no matter what and the villain's gonna be evil. The hero will come out victorious in the end....yadda yadda yadda. Character development is also pretty forced for most young adult stories."
This begs the question: have you actually read any young adult novels? Yes, there are ones that fit these descriptions, but come on, there are books in every genre that fit this description. But it seems to me that these points were made based solely on the writer only looking at the movies and not looking at the books. Because yes, the process of making a book into a movie means that stuff is left out, that you can't delve into the minds of the characters like you can in a book, etc. This does not mean that the young adult stories themselves are flat, or clear cut, or lack character development. In fact, in my experience, it is quite the opposite. Take The Hunger Games, for example (an example used in the previous article as well). While at surface level, it may seem that it is clear cut who is the bad and who is the good, once you get to Mockingjay, this is all thrown out the door. Katniss doesn't know who to trust, whether fighting for the rebellion is really the best thing to do. You get a glimpse of this in the movies, but not nearly as much as you do in the books. It's that complexity that makes the series so great. It's that complexity that makes a lot of young adult books so great.

Being someone who studied young adult and children's literature for both of my degrees, the issue of these books constantly being branded as "not complex" frustrates me. And because children and adolescents are so often viewed as not being able to handle certain concepts and issues, are so often viewed as needing protection from every dark thing in the world, this is how many people view the literature that is written specifically for them. Which, also partially due to the internet, is only furthered by lack luster adaptions of these books, adaptations that fall short of the complexity that is present in many of these books. The solution? Instead of making sure that the movie follows the book absolutely perfectly, film makers should just focus on making a good movie, one that does justice to the story that they are borrowing.

Moral of the story: just because there are young adult movies and books out there like Divergent  and Twilight doesn't mean that all young adult books or movies fall into this category. Go out! Explore! There are many young adult books just waiting to be read.

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