Tag Archives: coming-of-age

Movie vs. Book: Ready Player One

readyplayerone

 

 

Contributed by Harrison Cole

The year is 2045. Due to climate change, misuse of resources, and an ineffective government, the Earth has become an energy-deficient wasteland. The only respite from this decaying world is the OASIS, an online virtual universe. It originally started as a game, but it’s grown to be much more—the OASIS is where you read the news, watch TV, conduct business, attend school, and hang out with friends. After the creator of the OASIS died, he left his entire fortune and controlling stake in the simulation up for grabs with a contest: the first avatar to find his “Easter Egg” hidden in the OASIS wins it all.

The novel is a gripping story that follows high school senior Wade Watts on his quest to find the Egg. I was obsessed from page one and have been preaching the gospel on this one ever since. It’s an easy read that’s got something for almost everyone: it’s fast-paced, full of 80s pop culture references—many of which I wasn’t familiar with before (how great is DEVO?!)—it has a cringe-worthy teen romance, and best of all, it transports you into the vast, exciting digital world of the OASIS with its endless possibilities. Check out Lara’s book review for more. Read the book. READ IT.

The movie is terrible. Spielberg and co. changed quite a bit from the book, but I actually didn’t mind that. I did mind the internal inconsistencies, the references to the book without any context, and the lack of meaningful interaction or development between characters. If you’ll forgive me a minor spoiler, I’ll give you an example of the movie’s sloppiness: at one point there was a reference to “clearing the first gate.” This is a concept unique to the book, and it felt like that line was an artifact from an earlier draft of the script. Also, the movie never explained the reason for the title: when a user logs in, before gaining access to the simulation, the text “READY PLAYER ONE” flashes in front of her. I thought that was an odd omission from the movie since there’s a point-of-view shot when Wade first dons his goggles. I’ve got plenty more but the rest would ruin it for sure, and just because I hated it, that doesn’t mean you will too. But you probably will.

The movie did have some redeeming qualities: the effects were well done, TJ Miller was hilarious, and there were tons of enjoyable pop culture references. Despite only including one song that was referenced in the book, the soundtrack definitely captured the feel of the story. I also dug the scenes depicting what people look like in real life while engaged in the simulation. Funny stuff.

But it wasn’t enough to redeem the movie. Bottom line: wait for streaming. Or better yet, wait until someone develops an OASIS-like simulation and watch it there.

Get Ready Player One in paperback for $8.79.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Call Me By Your Name

One of my favorite lines from the movie Love Actually” is when the red-headed boy Sam tells his father (stepfather?) that he’s in love with a girl. His father’s response is “I’m a little relieved.” When the boy asks why, he explains he thought whatever the boy was about to tell him would be worse, to which Sam replies “Worse than the total agony of being in love?”

The total agony of being in love is the premise of Call Me By Your Name, which tells the story of a 17-year-old boy who falls in love with another man — a student his father has taken in for research help for their summer abroad in Italy. Enter Oliver, a stunning, charming man who seems so sure of himself, but whom young Elio can’t read. All he knows is he is attracted to Oliver — desperately, hopelessly attracted. Here comes Agony Part One. Over the course of their weeks together, both Elio and Oliver have relationships with girls, but they ultimately keep finding themselves more interested in each other. One night together results in a completely new breathtaking, sensual, deeply loving relationship — one which will knowingly end at the of the summer but affect them forever. (Agony Part Two.)

Typically when I write my movie vs. book reviews, I’ve read the book in preparation for the movie, then see the movie and compare. But in this case, I saw the movie first and fell so madly in love with it, I needed more. So I read the book, which I also fell madly in love with and watched the movie again.

The story resonated with me so deeply, reminding me of my first relationships and flings that, similarly to Elio and Oliver, have had a lasting impact on me. Man man, woman woman, man woman — all that is really irrelevant here. What’s understandable for everyone is the experience, exploration, and desire.

The novel Call Me By Your Name received so many literary awards when it was published in 2007, and it is truly beautifully written with sections full of lovestruck anxiety that wreak of teenager as well as insightful sections about love and life. It is refreshing then, that James Ivory who adapted the screenplay for the movie, kept so much of the book true to the movie down to the dialogue. If the writing is beautiful, why change it? Thankfully Ivory saw, understood and respected that. Thankfully actor Timothee Chalamet (who plays Elio), Armie Hammer (who plays Oliver) and Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays Elio’s father) also do a beautiful job of translating exact lines from the novel into moving action on screen.

That said, there are a few major changes. The movie eliminates one character altogether — a little girl who lived next door to Elio in the book and becomes good friends with Oliver over the summer. She plays a part in getting the two of them together in the behind-their-backs conversations she has with each of them. In the movie, her scenes of dialogue are instead just given to Elio’s mother. The book is also set entirely in memory; it’s from Elio’s point of view and told 20 years after his summer with Oliver. He then writes about several other times he’s met with and seen Oliver in the 20 years since that summer. Instead the movie ends with a phone call six months after the summer (leaving open the option to a possible Call Me By Your Name sequel, which has been widely discussed by the director and actors). The movie also cuts a big party scene from the end of the summer when Elio and Oliver go away together for a few days, an opportunity to show Elio getting excited for his future.

The famous peach scene (which I won’t get into here — but it is full of exquisite metaphor) is possibly more graphic in the novel. And really, everything is a little more graphic in the novel — from Elio and Oliver’s explicit sex scenes and language to Elio’s painstaking agony (See? There’s that word again…) over Oliver.

But overall, it is a beautiful adaptation. I could re-watch and re-read Call Me By Your Name over and over again, if for no other reason than to remember how great love is and how it leaves you no choice but to remember everything.

Get Call Me By Your Name in paperback now for $9.69.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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‘Fault In Our Stars’ Author to Publish New Novel This Year

turtles2ball2bthe2bway2bdown2bby2bjohn2bgreenIt’s only been two years since John Green’s popular storytelling was made famous by the movie Paper Towns. The Fault In Our Stars came out in theaters the year before. But it’s been almost six (!!!) since his last novel was released. The wait for new John Green material is finally over.

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Fault In Our Stars author is publishing a new book entitled Turtles All The Way Down, set to be released on October 10th, 2017. Like his other novels, Turtles All The Way Down is said to focus on a teenager looking for something more. The novel centers on 16-year-old Aza Holmes, who is battling mental illness and searching for a fugitive billionaire.

Publishers describe the book as a story “about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction and tuatara.”

Considering his last novel was The Fault In Our Stars and went on to become a huge international bestseller, there’s no doubt this book, too, will do well and maybe lead to another YA movie?

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Review: The Tumbling Turner Sisters

Screenshot 2016-05-22 at 11.56.59 AMRecap: Winnie and Gert come from an already poor family, but they’re about to be poorer. Thanks to their father’s drunken mishap and hand injury, he can no longer work in the factory where he’s employed, and now they, their mother, their two other sisters and baby nephew must find a way to keep going and pay the rent. Their older sister, Nell is too busy caring for her baby and too depressed over the loss of her husband to help. Their younger sister is still in school. But their mother is all too resilient to let the family fall apart. It’s the early 1900s. The solution is easy. Become a travelling vaudeville act. And that’s exactly what the sisters do.

They practice their tumbling and find an agent who books them gigs throughout Upstate New York. Along the way, Winnie meets a wonderful man who, unfortunately for her mother and her bias, is an Italian immigrant from Boston. His younger sister and Winnie’s younger sister become close friends as well. But Gert, the voluptuous older sister, falls for a black man, a fabulous tap dancer who performs in shows with them. Their love is kept secret for fear they would get in trouble. But a racially-induced misunderstanding eventually forces him to leave the show and escape, leaving Gert in shambles.

And as The Tumbling Turner Sisters continue travelling, adding things to their act and becoming bigger and better, it becomes harder or even impossible for Winnie and Gert to keep in touch with the men they love. They are finally reaching a state of comfort financially and emotionally until one tragic event changes everything. The girls start to realize vaudeville may not be forever, but where will The Tumbling Turner Sisters turn next?

Analysis: A story about four sisters growing up, working together, encouraging each other and trying to find their way in life, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is like a vaudevillian version of Little Women — a correlation made just a little too obvious with the author’s mention of the American classic within her own novel, as Winnie attempts to read Little Women, but is bored with it.

I suppose by contrast, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is more exciting than Little Women (though I will always love that book), and the narration helps with that. Each chapter goes back and forth between narration by Gert and Winnie, clearly the strongest characters in the novel and women in the family, offering differing perspectives on their lives, the theater and the world between 1918 and 1920.

Author Juliette Fay also does such an excellent job of seamlessly including historical aspects of the early 1900s America with her descriptions of vaudeville life that it helps to touch on the social issues of the novel, including  women’s role in society, racism and the economy. The setting is just as big a character as any, making it glaringly obvious just how far we’ve come since then (Women can vote! And go to college!) and yet, how little has changed in terms of racism. Her writing really puts things in perspective.

MVP: Winnie and Gert. Though initially described as sisters who couldn’t be more different — Winnie, the brainy type who wants to be a nurse and vote for the next President  and Gert, the Becky-with-the-Good-Hair of the novel who is beautiful and always has a suitor — they are also the most determined and focused on their goals and their family.

Get The Tumbling Turner Sisters in hardcover for $16.16.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Recap: When Jacob Portman’s grandfather mysteriously and suddenly dies in some kind of animal attack, it’s Jacob about whom everyone worries. The two were close, and Jacob was at his grandfather’s side shortly after the attack. Jacob claims to have seen the beast, which he can only describe as a monster. No one believes him, so 16-year-old Jacob Portman starts seeing a therapist. Soon after, Jacob and his father take a trip to Wales, where his grandfather spent some time as a child. The hope is that the more he learns about his grandpa, the sooner he’ll be able to let go.

On his journey, he discovers an old house where his grandfather spent time as a child: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s in horrible shape. As it turns out, the home was bombed during WWII, killing all of the children inside. But Jacob insists his grandfather was one of those children and survived. That’s when Jacob discovers a time portal that transports him to the day of the bombing in 1940. Jacob befriends the friends of his grandfather and spends every day for weeks learning about this alternative world of peculiar children with special powers, time travel, and villains who are trying to take over.

When he learns that his own life is in danger, he has to choose: should he continue his life in present day with his parents? Or should he move permanently to the 1940 loop, where he has friends and a purpose?

Analysis: What sets this book apart from other adventure, fantasy novels are its pictures. Author Ransom Riggs wrote the book based upon pictures he collected. The pictures are creepy, and looking at the cover of the novel, I anticipated a thriller or ghost story that I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the book wasn’t scary at all; rather, it was fun, exciting and full of surprising twists. The book moved in directions I didn’t expect and did a good job of incorporating the odd photos, including a levitating girl and another girl holding what appears to be a ball of glowing light.

Upon finishing Miss Peregrine, it was surprising to me to learn that it’s a young adult fiction novel. It doesn’t read like one. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age tale at heart, and it’s about teenagers, but some of the issues Jacob must deal with are adult, and the end of the novel is pretty dark. It was so good and well-written, I was surprised to learn it was meant for teens rather than adults, who might possibly appreciate it even more. It also sets up nicely for the sequel — which I have yet to read, but can’t wait to.

MVP: Jacob. Despite being 16 years old, he has some tough decisions to make, and ultimately he does what’s not only right for me, but what’s wrong for everyone — whether they know it yet or not. He is mature for his age, and as the book continues, his confidence grows. I believe he’s the kind of person most teenagers aspire to be like.

Get Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in paperback for $5.71.

Or on your Kindle for just $3.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Paper Towns

Margo Roth Spiegelman is Quentin’s miracle. Margo and Quentin grew up next door to each other in Orlando, and though they were close as kids but grew apart during their teen years, Q never stopped pining after her. He had altogether given up on the prospect of them ever being close again. That is, until she sneaks into his room one night and wakes him up to accompany her on an adventure around the city.

Their overnight rendezvous consists of pranking all of Margo’s “friends,” who she’s recently learned haven’t been as good friends as she thought they were. It’s a night to right a lot of wrongs. It’s a night that Q imagines will change his relationship and future with Margo forever. Little did he know, he was right.

After that, Margo disappears. She doesn’t show up to school, and her parents haven’t given up on looking for her after all the random trips and disappearances she’s planned in the past. But Q doesn’t give up. He won’t. Now more than ever, he needs Margo and is on a mission to find her. After some of his own detective work with the help of his friends, Ben and Radar, he discovers where Margo is — a paper town, an unbuilt copyright trap of a town that doesn’t really exist, except on a map — a parallel to Margo’s fakeness. At this point, the friends — and one of Margo’s friends, Lacey, set out on a journey to find Margo.

Up until this point, Paper Towns, the film, follows Paper Towns, the novel, closely. The casting for the movie on pointe, and the teenage coming-of-age feeling of the book is captured on screen. The last act of the film is where the changes from the book set in — for instance, Radar’s girlfriend also accompanies the group on the road trip to Margo. The novel uses prom as the deadline for the road trip, as opposed to an urgency stemming from Margo moving around. But the very end is the most dissimilar.

Without giving anything away, the book’s ending is open for interpretation. It doesn’t feel final, and it’s up to the reader to decide or assume what happens next. The movie shows what happens next. The movie portrays what happens after the Margo meeting. The movie also does it in a way that only Q sees Margo again, and not the other friends. The movie explains how each of the characters winds up several months down the road. And let me tell you something — that ending is far more satisfying than that of the book.

I’m not usually a fan of a movie over the book on which it’s based. But in this case, I didn’t particularly love the book. The ending of the novel was a let-down after all I felt I’d “been through” with the characters. The movie’s ending was not. It was also more focused on friendship than chasing not-so-real love. It was more in line with what would really happy. Plus it gave me the satisfaction of knowing that everyone and everything ended up alright — better than alright. And when you’re talking about such fake things as paper towns, it was refreshing to see an ending that was real.

Get Paper Towns in paperback for $5.72.

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Review: I’m Glad I Did

Recap: JJ Green comes from a family of lawyers, and she’s expected to become one as well. But as a 16-year-old growing up in New York City in the 1960s, she doesn’t want to be a lawyer; she wants to be a songwriter. She lucks out when she nails an interview and lands herself an internship at one of the biggest music publishing offices in the city. That’s when she makes a deal with her parents: if she writes and sells a song to be published by the end of her summer internship, her parents will have to let her continue on the songwriting path.

As her internship begins, JJ is quickly thrown into the real world and adult life — meeting Luke, a cute, older boy on the elevator and running into her estranged Uncle Bernie, who’s said to be involved in some illegal side activities. But things get real, real fast when she learns that one of her friends has died, and it just happens to be the same woman who recorded an amazing demo for JJ’s new song. The police rule it a suicide, but she knows there’s more to the story. Suddenly her songwriting summer is swirling with love and the mystery of murder. She wants to help solve it, but she also has to sell her song — big goals for one young girl in one short, crazy summer.

Analysis: “I’m Glad I Did” isn’t only the title of the book. It’s also the title of JJ’s original song. It’s also how I felt after having read the book. Yes, I am aware that those three sentences were a little hokey. To be fair, the book is a little hokey as well. But as a YA novel, it should be exactly that, and a lot of fun. The book had some dark undertones, dealing with interracial relationship in the 1960s, gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction, and death. But ultimately it was fun. This girl is living the dream — writing songs with a dreamy boy in New York City and solving a murder mystery. Is it a little far-fetched? Yes. But I put myself into the mind of a 14-year-old girl reading this book, and I couldn’t help but think JJ was awesome and living a pretty fabulous life.

What’s impressive about I’m Glad I Did is that it was written by Cynthia Weil, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter. She helped write classics such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “On Broadway.” Knowing that, I trusted her take on what happens behind the scenes of the songwriting business in the 1960s. I had to imagine that at least some of the story came from real-life experience, and that only made the story more intriguing and exciting.

MVP: JJ. She’s a teenage badass. She stands up to her parents and works toward the career she wants. She stands up to police, insisting they continue to investigate the murder. For a girl who considers herself to be unconfident, she sure is ballsy. And it’s fun and empowering to see her succeed time and time again.

Get I’m Glad I Did in hardcover for $14.24.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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