Please welcome Pia to the Smarty Pants stage! She's an English student at the University of Bristol in the UK, and at the ripe old age of 22, she still enjoys watching cartoons while eating cereal on Saturday mornings - in her pyjamas, natch! Her favourite (British spelling, holla!) drink is definitely a White Russian.
With The Perks of Being A Wallflower aka The Budding-Hipster Bible having successful survived its big-screen evolution (featuring a cast of Hot Young Stars + Paul Rudd, no less!), a question comes to mind – might Hollywood try to scope out more non-supernatural YA fare for future coming-of-age adaptations? Sure, the marketability of stuff like The Hunger Games has proven immense – I doubt a line of official Perks-themes accessories will ever make the shelves of Barnes & Noble – plus with Ender’s Game currently in the moviemaking works, and the film rights for Divergent getting snapped up, I really don’t think dystopian-future or alternate- universe settings are ever going to die out in terms of popularity anytime soon. (Even if Percy Jackson seems to have fallen by the wayside, and Lemony Snicket, ohgods Lemony Snicket – reader, I weep.)
That being said, it’s not as though movie versions of non-magical/non-science- fictiony/non-otherwise odd YA books have been hitherto unheard of – from To Kill A Mockingbird to The Outsiders to I Capture The Castle to, uhhh, pretty much everything Jane Austen; really, Perks is just the latest in a long line of YA themes set against the backdrop of Everytown, Nothingmagicaltoseehereshire. But despite this particular thriving transition, there are actually quite a few YA narratives that I would not want to see turned into movies. Stories that fit their chosen medium so perfectly that any attempt at visualising them – and the changes that would likely be made in the process – would compromise their awesome lifechangingness. Or at least, I think so…*coughTheWitchescough*
Paper Towns by John Green
Despite the fact that the movie rights have been optioned and that John Green himself has written the first draft of the screenplay, it’s looking pretty unlikely that Paper Towns will ever be made into a movie. And I am really, really glad about this. I love all of John Green’s books; I think they’re thoughtful and clever and funny. But at their core, they’re philosophical. Meditative. They’re not just stories, they’re about storytelling as a concept; about character types; about rethinking preconceptions. Aren’t all those themes best explored in a textual medium? Not that there haven’t been any movies about any of those particular strands of thought, of course, but the Walt Whitman poetry and the map-reading and games like Metaphorical I Spy all seem like consideration of these topics as they relate to the written word. There aren’t a whole lot of visual elements to whip into a movie here, so if adapting Paper Towns for the screen would mean adding superfluous elements to the story to make it a more cohesive visual tale…then I’m not sure I’d be that interested.
To be honest, I can’t really see most of John Green’s books being made into movies, despite the fact that the film rights have been optioned for all of them. To turn Looking For Alaska into a movie in the wake of Paper Towns – an attempt to deconstruct the concept of Looking For Alaska’s titular character – would be odd, while Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines are both too philosophical to remain unchanged in any attempt to visualise them. The Fault In Our Stars is a possibility, but seriously, have you seen the trailer for Now Is Good?
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Do I think Frankie is awesome? Yes. Do I think that Matthew Livingston just plain didn’t deserve her? Without a doubt. Do I think this book is one of the most shining, pristine examples of YA fiction that should be recced to readers EVERYWHERE? OF COURSE. DO I THINK THIS BOOK SHOULD BE TURNED INTO A MOVIE QUICKER THAN YOU CAN SAY ‘OLD BOYS CLUB’?
…Uh, no. Otherwise it wouldn’t be on this list. Obvs.
The wit, subtlety and overall awesomeness of this story are already so well-explored and portrayed in the book that I can’t imagine an equally clever film version that really captures all that. Frankie is such an original, fresh character that she runs the risk of being MPDG-ed into the ground, or otherwise totally misinterpreted (much in the way Summer from 500 Days of Summer gets so much hate, whereas the obvious flaws of JGL’s character are almost universally overlooked because he’s obviously such a victim I mean seriously, people who think this, did we watch the same movie?! Ahem.), and the charming narrative style is in danger of being lost. Everything that happens is so self-contained, so carefully and expertly laid out, that I seriously can’t think of any way a movie would add to it. The P.G. Wodehouse references and the wordplay – all so great and delightful and endearing in the book – probably wouldn’t translate onscreen. And I especially don’t want some sort of heightened love triangle between Matthew, Alpha and Frankie in an attempt to capitalise on Twilight or whatever. Or for someone whose looks are more in vogue to be cast as Frankie, conveniently ignoring all description of her in the story. Bottom line: this book is AMAZING…as a book. I just can’t see all of its great qualities not being diluted or otherwise poorly portrayed onscreen.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
The story here isn’t remotely supernatural, but David Levithan’s somehow crafted a world so beautiful and accepting that it feels like an alternate universe. The book starts with a dance party in a bookstore, for crying out loud – a setting which perfectly encapsulates pretty much everything about Boy Meets Boy: off-kilter, but in the best sort of way. It’s a gay love story that takes place in a world where being gay is not a problem for anyone. In fact, the actual plot (which is pretty ordinary) isn’t the defining quality of the book – it’s David Levithan’s prose, and the way he uses it to bring this version of reality to life; all soft, sweet and bubblegummy without being too over-the-top.
It’s entirely because of all the above that I cannot see a movie version of this book ever happening, at least not in a way that stays true to the spirit of the novel. The beauty is all in the words –
I move through the crowd with ease, sharing nods and smiling hellos. I love this scene, this floating reality. I am a solo flier looking out over the land of Boyfriends and Girlfriends. I am three notes in the middle of a song.
This book is the literary equivalent of dancing in the rain – innocent, playful, refreshing; but all of that’s the result of evocative writing, rather than evocative visuals. Splayed out on a screen, amusing little touches of the story (like the motorbike-riding cheerleading squad) might look overwrought and contrived. But David Levithan’s gentle style allows details like that to emerge naturally and to keep feeling natural. I’d definitely encourage reading the book; it’s a wholly satisfying experience that will not leave you wanting a movie version.
There you go – three YA books that I think should never be made into movies. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have your own list of books you hope and pray will remain untouched, unchanged and therefore unspoiled by Hollywood? Do you remember the twenty-first night of September? (and on book-to-movie adaptations I do love, how awesome was Get Over It?) Let me know in the comments!