Brennan #2, my seventh grade daughter, is a prolific reader. She's always been a good reader, but when she was eight-and-a-half, I gave her the first three SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS books for Christmas. She loved them. Why? Because "bad things happened." After pushing her, I finally understood what she meant. There wasn't a happy ending, per se–she couldn't predict how the story was going to go.
When you're young, every ending is a happy ending. Fairy tales end with the prince and princess riding off in the sunset, and your parents assure you that even though Nemo was flushed down the sink in the dentists office, he's going to be okay.
So for her ninth birthday I gave her the rest of the series, except the last two that hadn't come out at the time. She read them that summer. And thus began Brennan #2's lust for reading.
I buy a lot of books I intend to read, but never do. Two of them were A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray and TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer.
I gave both books to Brennan #1. Okay, this was a mistake. I know that my oldest daughter, the serious athlete and social butterfly, doesn't care much for reading. Oh, when she finds something that grabs her, she'll sit down and read it straight through–she loved Gena Showalter's Teenage Alien Huntress series (Gena's coming out with another YA series from HQN in 09/10) and she devoured R.L. Stine's "Fear Street" series.
(Aside: I met R.L. Stine at Thrillerfest this past July and, being pushy, I introduced myself and told him my daughter–who is not a big reader–loved his Fear Street series. He blinked, astonished. Told me he wrote those so long ago he was surprised they were still for sale. Thought about it and nodded. "Right. I had teenagers then. That's why I killed a lot of them in those books.")
But Brennan #1 wants action–on the first page. If you don't grab her immediately, she's gone, grabbing her constantly vibrating cell phone to make sure she doesn't miss anything. This is very much like her personality–as an athlete, she thrives in action–she wants to be on the court, anticipating, jumping, working for the point. She plays volleyball and basketball and even though she's not the tallest on either team, she is one of the strongest players because she's dedicated and involved.
Brennan #2 has that same dedication and involvement with her books. Having read all the books on her shelves, she came across A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY last summer and read it. In three days. It's a meaty book, over 400 pages. So I bought her the next one, REBEL ANGELS, which was 600 pages. She finished it in less than a week. She was practically dying for the third book . . . which came out a few months later and she said that A SWEET FAR THING is her favorite book of all time.
Now, I've never given up on #1. I mean, I'm a reader AND a writer, dammit, I expect all my kids to read. I kept pushing TWILIGHT on her. "All my friends say it's great," I would say. She'd look. "It about vampires. Yuck." This, from the teenager who, along with Brennan #2 and myself, loves the television series SUPERNATURAL. But I couldn't argue with her. To me, vampires are evil. Like . . . SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King. They're the bad guys. It's why I don't read vampire romances or any book where there's a good demon. Remember ANIMAL FARM? I just can't get it out of my head: two legs good, four legs bad. Demons and vampires–bad.
So TWILIGHT makes the move, unread, from our old house to our new house. The movie is announced. #2 picks up the book. I ask her if she's going to read it. "No, everyone's already read it, I don't want to be the last person to read it. It's popular. I probably won't like it. I don't want to read it because everyone else is reading it."
But the movie is imminent. She really wants to see the movie. But she wants to read the book first. She goes back and forth. Then two weeks ago, she picks up the book and starts to read it.
She can not put it down.
She's halfway finished and says, "Mom, please, please, please order me the next book because I'm almost done and I have to read it."
So being a good mom, I order her all three. #2 (NEW MOON) and #4 (BREAKING DAWN) come two days later from AMAZON, but #3 (ECLIPSE) is not in the box. It's being shipped separately.
Again, these are meaty books, but Brennan #2 is undaunted. She dives into NEW MOON and read it over the weekend. Then she panics. ECLIPSE has not arrived. She's going through withdrawl. She begs me to take her to Borders so she can buy it. But, I tell her, it's coming from Amazon. She makes me check the status. It's at the routing center. What if they lose it? What if it doesn't come tomorrow? What will she do because she has nothing to read tonight???
When the book came–on Tuesday before Thanksgiving–she sat down and started reading. Finished it on Thanksgiving. She was thrilled, because on Friday we planned to see the movie.
So, I haven't read the books and I was going to the movie because she's my daughter and she was excited. We brought one of her friends–who, like me, hadn't read the book. The friend and I both enjoyed the movie. It's a romance with a twist.
Bella Swan is a 17 year old girl who's never quite felt like she's fit in. She's quiet, down-to-earth, and hates the cold, dark and wet. When her mother remarries, she moves from Phoenix to Washington State to live with her dad, the Chief of Police–another quiet, down-to-earth person. She falls for Edward Cullen, a vampire 100+ years old. In this vampire legend, the vampires are essentially superheroes–they can run faster than a speeding bullet, leap tall trees with a single bound, and some of them can see the future or read people's thoughts. The Cullen's are vegetarians–they only drink animal blood. Not all vampires are so . . . healthy.
* * * MINOR SPOILERS BELOW * * *
But from a story point of view, I enjoyed the conflict. Edward will never grow old. Bella will. It's a soulmate type story–Bella's scent attracts Edward, and she's the only person he can't read their thoughts. He's loyal, protective, and dedicated. He'll defend her to the death, always a nobel trait in a hero. Even better, he's tortured. Women love tortured heroes. Give me Joe Pike any day.
Bella's the consummate heroine, feeling safe and trusting him even when he tells her he doesn't know if he can stop himself from sucking her blood.
Okay, okay, I really have a problem with vampire stories, but seriously, the movie wasn't bad. I could buy into the myth because it was compelling and it was true to itself. Stephanie Meyer created a world with certain rules and those rules were met and in that meeting, there was great conflict. But all I could think about when Edward was staring at Bella was "STALKER! STALKER! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!" While Bella didn't commit any blatantly TSTL moves (until the end when she did the classic TSTL heroine move and agree to meet the bad guy without telling the hero . . . I really hate that) I still felt kind of creeped out by the whole falling in love with a vampire thing.
* * * END MINOR SPOILERS * * *
So the movie is over, and #2's friend and I are thinking it was pretty good (she loved it–it was a teenage romance!; I was thinking, okay, it wasn't a waste of $10.25.) I asked my daughter who had just read and loved
She was disappointed. So I pushed. Why? Though I knew–and I had warned her–that movies from well-loved books never (or rarely) met expectations.
So much was left out. She was expecting that, but . . . it left a hole for her. "They talked a lot more," she said. I pointed out that people didn't like to go to the movies just to hear two people talk. (I sure don't.) She understood that, but . . . while they didn't really change the story overall, they moved things around, the secondary characters played less of a role in the movie, and the villains (such as they were–the bad vampires) didn't really show up until near the end of the book. And apparently, someone dies in the movie who doesn't die until book #2, and he didn't die the same way.
She doesn't know if she was glad she saw it. But already, she started reading the last book and wants to finish it tomorrow before she has to go back to school.
It's hard for me to complain. She's read over 2,500 pages in the last two weeks and still managed to get a B on her math test. Even if she has been so quiet we forget she's around.
After she told me her disappointment and the differences (which I had to pull out of her because she was afraid she'd ruin the book for me, so I assured her I had no time to add the books to my towering TBR piles . . . ) I started thinking about books I'd read and whether I had seen the movies . . . or not.
I realized that I shy away from movies if I've loved the book, unless it's something I read ages ago (such as reading I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER as a young teen and watching it as an adult.) It came down to THE SHINING with Jack Nicholson. I was pissed off at the ending of that movie. As a die hard Stephen King fan, I'd read the book and expected the story to go the same way. I understand that books are more detailed, you get more backstory, more STORY itself, but I expect the major points of the story to be the same.
And I HATE it when someone dies in the movie who didn't die in the book . . . and vice versa. And they did that in THE SHINING. Up until Act Three (see Alex? I can talk story structure too! Ha!) I could accept the minor story changes. But they tossed the book in Act Three leaving me angry and frustrated.
I've seen several movies where I haven't read the book–HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS–or watched the movie THEN read the book–BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES–and enjoyed both. Because the movie is the shell, and the book is the meat. So to see the movie first, you can enrich the story with the book . . . but to read the book, you already have it all, and the movie is a pale imitation, hollow, and generally unsatisfying.
There are some exceptions. MISERY, for example. That was one book . . . and movie . . . where I enjoyed both. And THE PRINCESS BRIDE (though I did NOT like how the movie handle the Zoo of Death.) Another thing I've noticed, since I've read most of Stephen King's short stories, is that the shorter the book or story, the better the movie. Perhaps because there's less story and more room for the screenwriter and director to develop the characters while keeping the story true to the author's vision (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and 1408 come to mind as being equal to or superior on film than in written form.)
But in general, I just avoid all movies if I've read–and liked–the book. It's safer that way.
Brennan #2 learned that lesson. Books are books. Movies and movies. And it's a rare movie made from a novel that is as satisfying as the original story.
Of course, if anyone in Hollywood wants to option any of my books . . . I'm listening. 😉
So what do you think? Any books-to-movies you loved? Hated? Refuse to see? What about TWILIGHT? Love it or hate it? And in case you didn't notice, books make GREAT gifts. You might turn a child into a life-time reader . . . with just the right book.