With my half-finished bucket of popcorn, I left the 2010 movie “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” distraught. The movie had drastic differences from the book, and while I liked Logan Lerman as Percy, the movie didn’t live up to Rick Riordan’s novel.
Every time I see another book-to-screen adaptation announced, I cringe at how easily a producer and cast can change what was so perfect about the book. While some did well, like the “Shadow and Bone” series and “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” there are some who missed the mark.
Here are four adaptations that missed the mark, plus three adaptations to watch that can hit or miss.
Missed the mark
“Allegiant” by Veronica Roth
I left the theater after “Allegiant” confused and wondering if I had read the same book that had been adapted by director Robert Schwentke. The end of the film was supposed to set up a second part so that the book could be split into two films. However, “Allegiant” was such a flop that they canceled part two and left fans confused. Part of the “Allegiant” novel that I enjoyed was how the novel was split between Tris’ and Four’s point of view, whereas in the film we only saw what happened through the eyes of Tris. The biggest bone I have to pick with this adaptation was how they tried to slide “Allegiant” into two parts. In the book, Tris dies at the end. However, because the directors wanted to drag the series into another movie, she lives on in the movie. Although I didn’t like the ending of the “Allegiant” book, the movie was still ten times worse than Roth’s original ending to the dystopian trilogy.
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare
I have two shelves dedicated to Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters books, but when I think back to that 2013 film adaptation of a book I love so much, I cringe. Clary Fray’s personality and physical characteristics have been completely changed. With Lily Collins as Clary, the fiery red hair and fiery personality that Clary was known for was lost. From the opening scene, the movie was already different from the book with a glimpse of the Fray family instead of diving straight into the world of Demon Hunters. One of Clare’s most memorable characters, Magnus Bane, didn’t get enough screen time despite his prominence in the novel.
Overall, I don’t think an adaptation can do Clare justice unless she has a bigger role in the production process. With four series spanning centuries, the story is overly complex and requires attention to detail if anyone is going to create an adaptation that lives up to fan expectations.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry
Lowry slowly and delicately unveiled the world of main character Jonas, allowing the reader to experience what was going on in the world of “The Giver.” In its opening scenes, the film explains everything that gave the storyline ambiguity and intrigue for the reader. While the movie gets brownie points for Taylor Swift’s cameo, the movie ruined parts of the book that endeared it to so many. In typical Hollywood fashion, the two main leads, Jonas and Fiona, form a romantic relationship that wasn’t in the books. The film also aged the characters, making them 18 instead of 12. In the novel, the ending is vague and deliberately leaves individuals wondering if Jonas and another character, Gabriel, make it out alive. Instead of leaving the ending up to interpretation, the film makes it clear that both characters live, which is fine, but takes away from Lowry’s writing and what she was trying to accomplish.
Overall, “The Giver” books provided a mysterious experience for readers who made them read, while the movie provided explanations for every plot point, which made the experience boring and superficial. .
“13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
Asher’s novel was already problematic, and when it was picked up and adapted by Netflix, I knew it would idealize Hannah Baker’s death in even more bad taste than the original text. The biggest difference that made the show a flop for me was the depiction of Hannah’s suicide. In the book, it’s mentioned that she swallowed pills, which is still tragic, but it’s less graphic compared to the screen adaptation. The show depicts a bloody, gratuitous depiction of suicide as Hannah dies in the bathroom, which is problematic in many ways. The director, Tom McCarthy, treated Hannah’s death as poetic, exaggerating the relationship between Hannah and Clay Jensen and how he missed all the clues to her anguish. The whole point of the novel is that Clay and Hannah never had a real relationship. Yes, they worked together and had a real conversation, but that was the extent of their relationship. While I wouldn’t recommend the “13 Reasons Why” novel, I still think it didn’t do as much damage as the series.
Hit or miss
“Crush” by Alice Oseman
I start to blush when I think how adorable this graphic novel is. When I saw that it was adapted into a TV show available on Netflix from April 22, I started to squeal. Oseman was instrumental in creating the show as a writer and executive producer. Imagine how fun it will be to see how Oseman turned the book into a show. The four-volume series was a delightful read, and I already know I can watch the series and see Oseman’s on-screen interpretation. The story follows Charlie and Nick, who meet at their all-boys British school. They quickly become friends and slowly realize there could be more to their relationship.
The best word to describe “Heartstopper” is wholesome. Please take the time to read the books before watching the adaptation.
“Daisy Jones and the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
While this book-to-movie adaptation has yet to quite see the light of day, I already have the highest expectations for this adaptation, not only because “Daisy Jones and The Six” was my favorite book of 2021, but also because I’m obsessed with casting. Riley Keough is a perfect choice for Daisy, as she is the granddaughter of rock n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. I am ready to see the world created by Jenkins Reid enriched on the television screen. Throughout the novel, I kept thinking it was a non-fiction biography, and I was surprised to realize that Jenkins Reid had somehow created a world that felt so real and which was only loosely based on the efforts of Fleetwood Mac. Told through an interview format between the band members, the reader is transported to a world of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. We follow the rise of “The Six” and what happens when lead singer Billy Dunne meets Daisy, and they find success working together. To really immerse yourself in the world, read the book before watching the show to fully experience the ups and downs of a rock band in the 70s.
“My Policeman” by Bethan Roberts
Harry Styles Fans: Start reading this book now because Styles has been cast as the lead, Tom, for this adaptation. Along with Styles, Emma Corrin from “The Crown” is also a main character, Marion. The only reason I read this book is that Styles was announced as the main character. However, the book itself did not disappoint. The story was beautiful and tragic. I sat with the book in front of me, thinking about everything I had just read and how devastated I was at the end of the story. You could feel the pent up emotions of the main characters as if you were going through them yourself. In the 1950s, Tom and Marion are in love, but Tom leads a secret double life. He found love with a museum curator, Patrick, who showed him a whole new world despite conservative times. This book is a perfect novel to be adapted into a movie, and with Harry Styles in the lead, I’m excited to see it in theaters. I think being able to compare the novel to the movie will only bring a higher experience.
There are some great adaptations that readers can watch after finishing a book. Reading a book before watching the movie will allow you to see the world with the original interpretation. The four terrible adaptations I featured are proof that reading the book is a better experience for media consumers. The three new adaptations that will hit the screen soon will hopefully be better than the previous adaptations, so be sure to check out the latest three before watching the adaptation.