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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Problem with Hollywood and Young Adult Novels

There is something to be said about characters who have become so familiar with readers that they have become "real". That is why Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), have become successful series. Each of these characters, with their likeable, quirky personalities have found their way into the hearts and minds of readers. They are a reminder that anyone can be a hero in their own way. The consequence of this is that the demand for these stories continues to grows because the time spent with these loveable "people" never seems long enough. Time just flies by when they are around. Which is a good thing. However, the not so good consequence of this is that Hollywood tries to force the characters and their adventures onto the silver screen.

The theme for Summer Reading Program for teens "You Are Here", is appropriate when reading the series mentioned above. Each of these series take readers to another place and time that is new, exciting and vastly different from the world that teens are familiar with daily. By placing the reader squarely in the middle of New York City battling ancient Greek mythological monsters, or playing a game of Quidditch along side Harry or getting caught in a survival of the fittest game against Katniss, each of these situations challenges the reader to put themselves in the character's shoes. In the mind's eye the action is exciting and real enough to smell, see and feel everything that the characters are experiencing. Questions come up such as, would the readers make the same decisions that the character made or could a better solution be found? The ultimate question comes down to whether the ride with the characters was satisfying or is there a desire for more stories and adventures? If the story is really good, and with all three of these series it is, the answer is YES, then the trip is worth it and more please. Having said this, who needs the silver screen to help with the imagery?

Reading demands that teens actively turn on their imagination and drift into another time and place. While Percy, Harry and Katniss have the lasting power in books, they also share something else in common. They are all, or soon will be, on the silver screen. Hollywood has taken popular book titles and turned them into movies for years. From a reader's point of view this could be the WORST thing to happen for an author and the beloved characters. Sure, this means that the book is a huge commercial success once it is picked to go on the big screen. However, at what price is it worth the "prestige"? Granted the Harry Potter films remained true to Rowling's work, the same can not be said for Percy Jackson. A serious mistake was made when they omitted Clarrise in the movie. Seriously, she plays such a huge role in the first book that it was hard to believe that she never appeared in the movie. Not even once. As for the Hunger Games, who knows what Hollywood will drop from the plot. It is almost enough incentive to say "pass" when the movie comes out.

The argument can be made that the movie versions of the book can inspire teens to read the books. In some cases, that may very well be true. Although, there is a risk that the difference between the book and the film may be enough to disappoint the reader. The silver screen robs the reader of the joy of stirring the imagination. What's there to imagine what Katniss looks like in her "fire" outfit when the image is right there on the screen? Imaginations need to be exercised on a regular basis. This is precisely why reading is so important. A healthy dose of imaginations prepares the mind to think outside the box and dream of creative ideas. The silver screen may have its uses, but nothing beats a healthy imagination fed by good stories. Perhaps, instead of grabbing every young adult novel and turning into a movie, Hollywood should consider using their own creativity to come up with stories.

As everyone will be clamoring for tickets to see the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter film, this blogger will be safe at home reading the next book of the Kane Chronicles. As each page is turned, fingers will be crossed in hopes that Hollywood leaves this series alone and allow teens to exercise their minds to explore, imagine and enjoy Riordian's tale.
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