Kim Possible had everything—the titular character was a cheerleader-super-spy with brilliant scientist parents and annoying/endearing twin brothers, a goofy best friend and his pet naked mole rat, a hilarious and vaguely inept supervillain, and his much cooler and way more competent henchwoman (who now has a filter in her name on Tiktok).
There was also loads of comedy and action, a great theme song and instantly recognizable ringtone, and memorable catchphrases (such as Ron’s “Booyah!” and Kim’s “So, what’s the sitch?”).
It also got a live-action film in 2019, but we’re going to pretend that doesn’t exist.
Kim Possible wasn’t just your average comedy-action animated TV show though. Kim was cool, both her parents were clever and supported her endeavors and intelligence, and Kim was allowed to have dimension: to be a cheerleader, a skilled martial artist, a good friend, a daughter to loving parents, a sometimes frustrated but ultimately loving older sister, a superhero, and feminine as well as smart and sporty.
Earlier this year I wrote about the hype machine and its influence on the book industry (and on our own subsequent reactions to the hyped books). In that post, I talked about how Instagram (“Bookstagram”), YouTube (“BookTube”), and Goodreads all contribute to the success of certain books. But, in my ignorance of the app, I neglected to pay tribute to the actual behemoth in the hype game: TikTok.
Confession: as an organization comprised mainly of adults, staff at the library are not as TikTok-literate as some of our younger patrons. A lot of us were scratching our heads as to why, for example, The Song of Achilles—a book published in 2011—currently has a combined total of 115 holds (and our neighbour to the south, the Toronto Public Library, boasts a total of 1911 holds). I mean, it’s a great book, but why the sudden burst in popularity? The story behind this is the same for titles like We Were Liars(2014), They Both Die at the End (2017), and One of Us is Lying(2017), which all have disproportionately long waitlists for how long they’ve been out. And the story is, to put it simply, that someone cried about them on TikTok.
Influence on book popularity often comes from outside the literary world. At the library, we know that if a book is adapted into a film or television show, the hold list will jump astronomically (if anyone is still interested in reading the first book of the Bridgerton series, it looks like it’s finally available). Same thing happens when a celebrity endorses a book, or if an author goes on TV to talk about their work (this is particularly true for health-related topics like dieting and aging). So it’s not surprising that social media would be a similar force. But where Instagram users pitch books via artfully arranged, hyper-controlled, aesthetically conscious images, and where YouTube creators talk about books for anywhere from 5-30 minutes, TikTokers create short, quick videos pivoting almost entirely on emotional reactions: “books that will make you sob” is a popular topic, and often features people wailing dramatically into the camera. In an interview with the New York Times on the topic, the director of books at Barnes & Noble shared the following tidbit: “These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with.”
On April 23, Netflix will debut its newest highly anticipated adaptation: Leigh Bardugo’sShadow and Bone.As a Bardugo fan, I find myself to be both excited and a little apprehensive, which is par for the course for adaptations. Will the show do the book you love justice (e.g.Normal People), or will it be completely unrecognizable(e.g. The Turn of the Screw-turned–The Haunting of Bly Manor)? Borne from a very specific, early 2010s trend in YA fantasy, this series has been a long time coming. For fans of YA literature, having your faves picked up by Netflix is like a dream come true, even if Netflix’s adaptation history is spotty (did anyone see the ending of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? What was that?!). Netflix is not beholden to the rules of network television, so there’s less chance that the story will be tampered with in order to appease a mass American audience—which is good news for this series, which tends towards dark subject matter and generally more “adult” themes. What’s more, without bending to please middle America, Netflix adaptations are more open to showcasing diversity (see their ultra-popular To All the Boys film trilogy, which previous studios had attempted to whitewash).
Truthfully, I’m surprised the powers that be chose to adapt Shadow and Bone now—is it me, or isthis sort of trilogy-based, post-Hunger Games, one-girl-to-save-them-all narrative a bit passé? It has, after all, been about a decade since it first took off. Which is why I’m a bit miffed that, rather than simply adapt Bardugo’s (objectively!) superiorSix of Crows duology, Netflix has decided to combine the two series into one show. The two might take place in the same universe, but genre-wise and tone-wise they are drastically different:Shadow and Bone revolves around Alina Starkov, an unremarkable orphan who discovers she is actually very remarkable indeed. After the blossoming of her powers, she enters the high-society world of the powerfully magical Grisha, and attempts to take down The Fold, “a swathe of impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh”that is threatening the alt-Russia nation of Ravka. Six of Crows, meanwhile,centres on a gang of disparate criminalscalled the Dregs in the Amsterdam-esque city of Ketterdam, after the events of Alina’s story have already concluded. I think most fans would agree that between the two, Six of Crows is more worthy of an adaptation. In fact, its ingredientsseem ready-made for television: illicit gang activity, a bunch of traumatized misfits finding family with each other, heist action, slow-burn romance, a city setting so fleshed out you can almost smell the corruption. In comparison, Shadow and Bone, while still compelling, just doesn’t hit the same way.