It’s no secret for those closest to me that I have an addictive personality when it comes to television and movies. Outlander is merely my newest obsession, and since we are experiencing a shortage of new entertainment on a MASSIVE scale, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite book to screen adaptations. Whether they are TV series or movies, Young Adult or just plain Adult , these choices had me giddy from the very first press releases, and they are all available digitally to stream if you are looking for something new to sink your teeth into.
I can remember trading books with my best friends over the course of middle school and into high school like they were candy. We would raid each other’s book shelves during sleepovers, and the latest Gossip Girl book written by Cecily von Ziegsar was always on the list!
Set deep in the social circles of Manhattan’s Upper East Side Blue Blood families, it was almost as juicy as an expose on England’s royal family. So, in 2007 when the CW announced that they were adapting Gossip Girl for television, I was on cloud nine!
The actors chosen at the time to play teenagers born into a life of privilege were little known names that would be rocketed onto the scene: Blake Lively (A Simple Favor), Penn Badgely (You), Chase Crawford (The Boys), Leighton Meester (Single Parents), and Ed Westwick (Wicked City). But during the early 2000s, these five were playing a main cast of characters that despite their outrageous lifestyles were still dealing with very human experiences and emotions that got them six highly addictive seasons on network television!
All six seasons of Gossip Girl are available to stream on Netflix in the US
As a young reader, I was very much the type of reader that only liked “real world” reading–books that had normal human characters with no science fiction. It was the world of Bella Swan and dreary Forks, Washington, that woke me up and showed me the error of my ways.
Like so many other great book series at the time, one of my best friends shoved Twilight across her school desk at me and said, “You have to read this!” and the rest was history. I read the first book in the series in the fall of 2007, right around the time Summit announced their intentions to create a movie franchise around the best selling books by Stephenie Meyer.
The movies would star Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as her vampire main squeeze, and Taylor Lautner as Bella’s best friend and want-to-be love interest Jacob Black. The movies would go on to gross a whopping $3.3 billion world-wide. When people ask me what was so appealing about the Twilight universe, I still have a hard time answering that question. I think, at the end of the day, what it boils down to is it’s a story about a young girl, who has never felt anything but ordinary going on a journey to find herself and discover she is in fact, extraordinary.
Self-admittedly, watching the movies now, I look back and question my obsession slightly, but still agree that the adventure, love story, and coming of age element will always appeal to a massive audience. Earlier this month (August 2020) Stephenie Meyer released her newest work in the Twilight Universe, Midnight Sun, which gives the audience Edward Cullen’s perspective on the first book in the series. It sold 1 million copies in its first week on the shelves, so clearly there is still a booming demand for all things Twilight.
All five movies in the Twilight Saga are available to stream on Amazon Prime in the US.
The Hunger Games
These dystopian Young Adult novels written by Suzanne Collins came on the scene in 2008 and EXPLODED. The journey of Katniss Everdeen evolves from a girl simply trying to save her sister, to a young woman leading a nation in rebellion against a dictatorial government.
Adapted to the screen by Lionsgate in 2012, I was so excited to see the end result of The Hunger Games that my best friend and I left our senior prom early to go to the movies! I think The Hunger Games is one of the best adaptations we as an audience have ever witnessed. It sticks true to the stories and the characters in the book, with just the right amount of embellishment to make it a raving success in Hollywood.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, The Hunger Games Franchise made $2.97 billion during it’s stint in the box office to become the 21st-highest grossing franchise of all time. Recently, fellow Indiana University alum, Suzanne Collins released the Prequel to The Hunger Games series The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which details Coriolanus Snow’s rise to power. It recorded nearly 500,000 volumes sold in its first week on the shelves, and while I haven’t read it yet, I’m extremely anxious to see what transpires within its pages!
All of The Hunger Games movies are available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime. They are also popular reruns for cable television channels such as Freeform, so keep an eye out!
The Vampire Diaires
In very similar fashion to my journey with Outlander, I came to The Vampire Diaries extremely late. In 1991 (before I was born), L.J. Smith published the first book in the series The Awakening, and I didn’t find the series until around 2008 when the craze around vampire literature was reawakened by Stephenie Meyer’s book Twilight! So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that The CW was adapting the thirteen book series into a TV show! Boy was I in for a shock.
Besides the same character names and setting, the television series released in 2009 was nothing like the books I had read. There was an underlying current of tension between the Salvatore brothers, and the protagonist, Elena Gilbert was a teenager in high school, but that’s about where the similarities stopped. However, despite the striking differences, and the shell shock those differences gave me, I stuck with the show, and I am SO glad I did!
Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder The Vampire Diaries created a show with action, love, and mystery that is addictive to watch, and apparently I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. It had a nine season run on network TV and has now found a new life on Netflix, where you can watch it any time!
I first picked up the book Divergent by Veronica Roth while I was working a shift at TJ Maxx my sophomore year in college, and I instantly fell in love. The Hunger Games had fostered my interest in dystopian young adult novels, and Divergent was incredibly well written with intriguing characters Tris, Four, Christina, Caleb, and Peter.
After several successful adaptations of my favorite book series, I was extremely excited to see what Summit Entertainment could do with the Divergent series.
This series is a perfect example of how all the ground work for success can be laid and one bad decision can wreck the whole thing. The first movie was a fantastic adaptation of a beloved book. It had a creative twist for the sets, and the overall mood of the movie had the right feel with director Neil Burger at the helm. The casting was phenomenal with heavy hitters such as Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, and Kate Winslet alongside fresh faces Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz, and Miles Teller. The music was also amazing with the combination of Junkie XL and Ellie Goulding. However, things went from book reader ecstasy to our worst nightmare when Summit hired Robert Schwenke to direct Insurgent and Allegiant.
Under his charge, the Divergent series went from a series about a young woman on a journey of self discovery while taking on a suppressive and destructive establishment, to a sci-fi action thriller with little to no character development. Which left little doubt as to why the fourth and final film in the Divergent series was cancelled prior to the start of production. Despite being a bad adaptation of the source material, the Allegiant movie is a reasonably entertaining piece for those who like dystopian sci-fi.
All of the Divergent movies are available to Rent or Own on Amazon Prime.
Some of my favorite movies and TV shows of all time have been adapted for the screen from a book or series. I love watching Hollywood’s interpretation of the world I envision in my head as I read. Several studios including Lionsgate, who purchased Summit Entertainment in 2012, have made their fortunes off of successful adaptations. I can only hope that they learned their lesson from the Divergent disaster–respect your target audience. Of course, there are always the surprises. The Vampire Diaries took a swing and hit gold, but as is often the case, if the source material is not handled with care, success rarely follows.
Until next week, Cheers!!