Since The Perks of Being a Wallflower is both a movie and a book (a mook), I’ll be doing a short review of both. If you are interested in more book-to-movie reviews, including another great review of this pair, you should check out the blog Mookology. And, as always, I hope you ALL pledge to always read the book before you see the movie for any mook.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
Review copy from publisher
Well this book is a throwback to my younger years! I read the book thirteen years ago, when I was the same age as Charlie. I actually bought it the day it came out after seeing a commercial for it on MTV. While I like it enough, I only read it once and it definitely never made any of my lists of favorite books. Charlie was a hard character for me to connect with, and I didn’t have enough life experience at the time to really appreciate everything going on behind the scenes in the characters’ lives.
My main criticism of the book was that it was trying too hard to be the Catcher in the Rye of the modern age, and I only sorta-kinda liked A Catcher in the Rye. The novel is popular because teenagers connect to the isolation Charlie feels. Charlie watches life from the outside. Every character in the novel is dealing with some really shitty stuff, while Charlie just describes what happens with a strange, detached, naive style. The story celebrates the weird kids: the gay kids, the former “sluts”, the Rocky Horror fanatics, and the Nobodies, to name a few. I guess that’s why it is adored, especially amongst actual teenagers and hipsters. Fact: hipsters love quotes from this book.
I saw the movie yesterday, and enjoyed it. Though I was expecting a more awesome soundtrack, I was generally pleased with how well the film stayed true to the tone of the novel. Parts of the story definitely came alive more on the big screen (such as the epic feel of riding in the tunnel), while others got lost (watching Charlie’s writing grow).
I think I liked the story better as a movie. I liked Logan Lerman’s portrayal of Charlie, and the way the movie captured both the darkness and optimism of the source material. And Emma Watson? I’ll watch her in anything. How is she so damn charming? I completely forgot about her British accent, too. Homegirl can play an American borderline-manic-pixie-dreamgirl like a boss.
So here’s the final lowdown: The book is okay, and the movie is good. If you are a YA fan, you are required to read the book and it is strongly suggested that you go watch the movie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is basically canon YA lit, so it’s necessary to have read it if you are going to say you know/understand/love YA. Just please remember not to stand up in the back of any trucks while someone drives you through a tunnel. It just doesn’t sound/look very safe.
Have you read this book or seen this movie? What did you think?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we’re looking at books that we think would make great movies. This can either be due to the desperate desire to see a beloved story/character played out on the big screen or because the book just seems perfectly suited for the theater. I wrote a post about my views on books into movies, which included my favorites and a wish list, so check it out if you get the chance! Here are my top picks:
Top Ten Books I’d Like To See Made Into a Movie
[aka movies I'd pay $15 to see, even though I already know the ending]
1.) Divergent by Veronica Roth
The scene where Tris ziplines down the Chicago skyline from a skyscraper? That alone would be worth it.
2.) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I just want to see the battle room in action.
3.) The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart
Okay, so this one is purely selfish. I just want to see the cute outfits and you KNOW it’d have a great indie music soundtrack.
4.) The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
…so I can watch the movie and decide if I really want to read the books.
5.) Bunheads by Sophie Flack
I could watch ballet movies for hours.
6.) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This would make an amazing kid’s movie that grown-ups could also enjoy, especially if they put a good budget behind it and did it well.
7.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Just imagine all the pieces coming together at the end for a twist and a bang! But I also think the period feel could be done well, and the scenes with the $20,000 Pyramid would be fun.
8.) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
It could ride the coattails of the Downton Abbey obsession AND the paranormal romance obsession, all in one book. I didn’t ever finish the book, so it would also inspire me to do so.
9.) The Maze Runner by James Dashner
It’s just asking to be made into an action movie with crazy special effects.
10.) Any Agatha Christie Novel
Now here’s a movie franchise I could take part in! I would love to see Christie’s stories OR new stories based on hers told on the big screen in the 21st century. The TV movies and adaptations and whatnot are nice, but they could really kill it (pun intended) with a good budget and some great actors.
Basically I’ll go see any movie that comes out for a book I’ve read. What movie would you like to see on the screen? What movie do you wish you could write/produce?
[Also, note that my book cover collages are back! I found a post-Picnik site that will do them just like Picnik: ipiccy.com!]
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Purchased from book fair and audible.com
[#23 in my 75 book challenge]
I did it. I started my re-read of The Hunger Games this week and finished it within 48 hours. I will have it fresh in my mind when I go to see the movie premier at midnight.
For those of you who don’t know the story: 24 kids have to fight each other to the death on national TV. That’s the basic jist. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are chosen to represent District 12 as tributes in these awful “games,” which are just one more strategy the Capital uses to oppress and control the citizens of the futuristic, dystopian country of Panem.
Basically it’s, like, my second favorite book ever. I adored it the first time I read it and I adored it the second time. Re-reading was nice because I could keep track of all the different tributes from each district a little better. Cato, Clove, Glimmer, Foxface, Rue, Thresh, and each of the careers.
This time around I really liked that the games didn’t start until halfway through the book. The first time I was just impatient, but I realize that the reaping and the preparation in the Capital were just as important as the Games. I was surprised by how little I actually remembered from the actual scenes in the arena. The scene with Peeta and Katniss stuck in my head, the landmines at the Cornucopia, and the ending but everything else was like, “oh! Yes! I forgot about that!” Of course, I was also thinking about how some of those scenes will play out in the movie. Now I’m SUPER excited.
Watching this as a movie tonight will be intense. It’s one thing to read the book and imagine everything happening, and it’s another to see it taking place right in front of you. Even though I know it’s not real, it will feel real in a different way than the book did. I can already tell you that I will cry in at least one scene, and I will think the psychological terror of what the tributes experience is terrifying.
FINAL GRADE: A I love it. Duh. It may not be stellar prose, but it’s good. The story, the characters, and the pacing are spot on. Recommended to everyone over eleven (my sixth graders do love it). You can read my review of the book as #2 on my all-time favorites or my review of the The Girl Who Was On Fire (a collection of essays about the series) if you love the book as much as I do!
Are you going to the movie tonight? Friday? This weekend? Do you think you’ll be thrilled or disappointed?
The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices from the Titanic
by Allan Wolf
Purchased from Barnes and Noble
[#7 in my 75 book challenge]
How much of a summary do you really need here? Look at the cover — it’s a book about the Titanic. It’s a verse novel with twenty-four voices telling their stories. First, second, and third class passengers, the captain, the lookouts and stokers, and even the rats and the iceberg are represented in these 480 pages. We all know how it ends (SPOILER: The ship sinks), which is what made this book great — I didn’t know who was going to live and who was going to die.
We’ve all heard, read, and seen lots of stuff about the Titanic. It fascinates us. As we enter the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, lots of new media is being released to profit on that fascination. I’m already seeing it when I go to order books. However, this book won my heart because it showed me angles of the ship’s journey that I had never thought about before. Wolf REALLY did his research when writing the verse and it shows. I had never thought much about the collecting of the bodies, and each section was framed with verses from the undertaker as he collects the bodies from the sea to prepare them for burial. The voice of the iceberg also framed each section quite ominously, representing the inevitability of fate.
The best part, though, was the back matter. Wolf pulled his characters and voices from the real travelers on the Titanic, and he uses the back matter to give as much information as he could about each of these passengers lives (including their lives after the journey, if they lived). He also gives more detailed, objective information about what happened “that fateful night.” His opening to the back matter best describes why he wrote the novel and why it has such a powerful impact on the reader:
“… my aim in writing The Watch That Ends the Night was not to present history. My aim was to present humanity. The people represented in this book lived and breathed and loved. They were as real as you or me. They could have been any one of us.”
Final Grade: A This was a gorgeous and fascinating book. Though it is technically a YA novel, I don’t know how many of my students will really appreciate the complexity in the verse format — but many will enjoy the stories. There will definitely be a library copy ordered in the future (I think I already swapped out a JLG book for it). When the Titanic stuff blows up in the spring I won’t be able to keep any Titanic books on the shelf, including this one. My personal copy of the book was one that I bought, in hardcover, from the bookstore, and I’m glad I own it.
[Also, it really made me want to watch the 1997 movie again.]
I often see people complaining about movies that are made from books. This is understandable. Many movies made from books are crap. Or they change things around. Or they barely even resemble the original material. When a book lover reads a book, she is creating a whole world in her head. Each person imagines scenery, the characters, the action, the sounds, and the mood differently. Some of us even know what the soundtrack would be for a novel (not that I’ve ever done that…). Book purists like that image in their heads to stay untouched. Watching a movie based on a book forever changes that image.
I LOVE seeing movies made from books. I definitely try to follow the rule about reading the book before watching the movie, but I like going to see the film adaptation. Generally, if a movie exists for a book I’ve just read, I’ll go see/rent it. To me, reading is a social activity. I like discussing novels with friends and students. I like seeing how people can get a totally different interpretations from the same combination of words on a page. Watching a movie is like really seeing inside of someone else’s head. I love it.
Yes, it affects my image of the novel for the rest of time, but I don’t care. Harry Potter looked like Dan Radcliff throughout the 5th, 6th, and 7th books. Skeeter Phelan looked like Emma Stone throughout the novel because I’d already seen the previews for The Help. Still totally worth it. Some movies are terrible, but that doesn’t ruin the book — they just reinforce that reading is an experience that can’t be duplicated on the screen. Some books are flash and trash, and the movies are as well (Davinci Code, I’m talking to you). Some movies are even better than the books or add something of great value to the books (I think the Harry Potter movies do this for me).
And you know what? Sometimes the vision presented in the movie is better than the one in my head. I don’t have the creative genius of Hollywood screenwriters and directors. My imagination is limited. If I love a world presented in the movies, I’m glad to have a more concrete visual of the story to take with me. Many people won’t agree with me. Maybe I’m just impressionable, but I don’t care.
Below I’ve created three lists about movies I’ve seen, movies that are coming out in the next few years that I know I will go see, and movies I’d like to see. How do you feel about the book to movie debate? What movies have you loved? Hated? Which do you recommend? Do you read the book before you see the movie? And which movies would you love to see on the big screen?
Movies I’ve Seen Because I Read the Book:
- Harry Potter (all of them) — Fabulous. I own them all on DVD.
- The Help — Ehh. My review of the movie and the book.
- A Wrinkle In Time — Meg set off my gaydar and I couldn’t concentrate.
- Twilight — I continue to pay to see these, but quit reading the books.
- My Sister’s Keeper — Two completely different endings. Why?
- Speak — Kristen Stewart played the role quite well.
- Pride and Prejudice – The BBC movie was very true to the book.
- Holes — Book is excellent, movie is almost as good.
- Carrie — I can’t really remember either. I was 13.
- The Outsiders — There were a lot of notable actors in the movie!
- Anne of Green Gables — I have a soft spot for the movie. Love both.
- Murder on the Orient Express — Again, I was 13 and don’t remember.
- The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons — Flash and Trash x2.
- The Nanny Diaries — Book was better than the movie. But the movie had Scarlett Johannson.
- Hoot — Liked the movie better than the book.
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe — Movie was better (don’t hit me).
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid — The movie made me laugh, the book made me mad.
- Ella Enchanted — Cute book, but the movie was weird, it tried to be too modern (Escalators? Really?)
Movies Based on Books that I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE
- The Hunger Games
- Ender’s Games
- Into Thin Air
- If I Stay
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower
- The Great Gatsby
- Forest of Hands and Teeth
- Jane Eyre
- The New Wrinkle In Time
Movies Based on Books That I Wish Would Be Made
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
- Matched by Ally Condie
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (I just want to see how they’d even do it!)
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
- A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
- Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
- 1984 by George Orwell (could be done VERY well, I think)
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner (would be better on screen than in print)
- Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Anything by John Green (would be hard to do well)
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
Audiobook from audible.com
[#60 in my
52 60 book challenge]
I did not like this book. But middle school kids will (and do) love it. In case you don’t know the story, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
If Harry Potter were poorly written and about mythology instead of magic, it would be this book. I thought it was extremely derivative of the Harry Potter series, and it didn’t meet the expectations of JK Rowling’s series. This book represents everything I thought that Harry Potter would be when I initially refused to read the series.
Let me take a step back. I know Harry Potter is not original. JK Rowling borrowed almost everything in her novels from other great works, mythology, and literary archetypes. But it works. I wish I could articulate why it works, but I don’t know if I can…and I don’t have the room here to do so. However, I feel that the plethora of kids’ fantasy novels that followed the Harry Potter explosion were trying to ride on Rowling’s coattails. Percy Jackson, whether intentional or not, felt like one of those novels. I should have seen this coming when one of Riordan’s other novels, The Red Pyramid, ended up in my “gave up on” pile.
I’m not the only one who sees far too many Harry Potter similarities — read a couple of the reviews over at Goodreads to see that many of them agree (and they list out the similarities, if you’re interested). To me, this just felt like a middle school novel. The middle school kids like an action-packed story and the fantasy element, and they aren’t going to make too many comparisons or ask too many questions. That’s why I’m giving it two different grades…
Final Grade (for me): D I just don’t like fantasy, and think all of these Newberry-hopefuls are raising my personal bar for kid-lit.
Final Grade (for my students): B The kids will like this. I will keep buying it and recommending it. It is great for a study of mythology and getting kids excited about Ancient Greece, which is in our curriculum. And, of course, it gets them excited about reading!
I read the Kathryn Stockett’s The Help because the movie trailer made it look like a great story. And it was a good story. I enjoyed reading the book and thought it was engrossing. I have a personal rule about reading the book before I see the movie, so finishing the book meant I could finally, FINALLY go see the movie.
But I waited too long. It was no longer in theaters near me.
No fear. It came out on DVD last week. Hooray!
It was a very disappointing movie experience. The casting and acting were wonderful, but the plot was lacking. That’s what happens when a lengthy book is crammed into a two hour movie! The writers had to take shortcuts and leave things out to fit it all in, and the story suffered. Things that worked in the book, because anticipation was built and character emotions were established, just didn’t work in the film. Several of the big “reveals” in the book we just given away in the movie — the viewer doesn’t have to work for it, and doesn’t get emotionally involved in the same way.
Two things in particular got me: the ending, and Constantine’s story. Constantine’s story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense the way it is told in the movie, because they changed a major detail (probably because there wasn’t time to explain all of it). It turns into a scene about a couple of people being jerks, rather than the emotional and complex issue present in the novel. In fact, much of the story is given away in the first twenty minutes. As for the ending, it just felt too “happy ending” for me. The book makes it very clear that things aren’t happy just because the book was published.
One thing that did work for me: the scene with Minny’s chocolate pie. Just as funny on screen as in the book. Maybe even better.
Final Grade: C I would say the book earned a B or a B- (this rating stuff is harder than it looks! Now I see why I’ve put it off for so long…), so I graded the movie down one. It was fine. Entertaining. But quite average as a film. I’m not rushing out to buy the DVD.
[If your are looking to watch a great movie, I'd suggest a little gem I also watched in the theater called 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan, and Anna Kendrick (I <3 Anna Kendrick!). It's about dealing with cancer, but it's also an amazing movie about friendship. I want Seth Rogan to be my best friend. So good!]