Was the book better? Read before you watch, and see for yourself!
How many times have you said “the book was better”? I know I’m guilty of this. But recently there have been some excellent book adaptations that are not only as good as their source material, they may even improve on it (blasphemy? Perhaps). In 2017 especially, we’ve seen a number of adaptations take off in popular culture and dominate social media. I’ll discuss some of the biggest newsmakers below, but I also recommend checking out our Page to Screen reading list, so you can get a jump on the year’s biggest adaptations.
This year, there was 13 Reasons Why—a teen show based on a teen book, but one that made a big enough splash that we included it on our adult lists. Is this a comment that the show is not actually appropriate for teens? Well, no, but there’s been plenty of discussion about that. I have my personal reasons for not loving the show (see: framing an entire story around suicide without once discussing mental health), and professional psychologists have theirs as well, but the show’s impact on its younger audience can’t be denied. “Welcome to your tape” became a meme during the show’s run, troubling some adults, although I see it as a good sign (the fact that kids are joking about that line means they’re not taking it seriously, which they absolutely shouldn’t, because it’s ridiculous). The show debuted to rave reviews, averaging a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes upon release, and the book is still sitting pretty at 4 stars on Goodreads.
TV network Hulu also made waves this spring with their adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. You might remember this book as required high school reading, but the story of women being held captive for reproduction has gained new life thanks to the TV series. And its release is depressingly timely; women throughout America have taken to donning the handmaids’ costumes in a message of protest against the American government’s treatment of women’s rights.
My favourite adaptation so far this year was less upsetting but still relevant to 2017, and that was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I don’t know if I’d call myself a fan of the novel—I found it a little rambling and never quite knew what was going on, although that may have been intentional—but I can say for sure that I’ve never forgotten it. And I’ve always said it would make a better TV show than a book, since the opportunities for stunning visuals are abundant. So I was excited to hear about an adaptation, and producer Bryan Fuller did not disappoint (does he ever?). The show captures the atmosphere of the book perfectly, and while I still never knew what was happening, the show is so captivating that I didn’t care. Fuller and Gaiman took the opportunity to expand on the novel’s story, incorporating all the main points but fleshing out side characters and adding bits here and there, tuning the story to fit our 2017 world (particularly, 2017 America). I highly recommend it, and the book as well, although with the fair warning that this story is weird.
And then there’s Stephen King’s It, being adapted for the second time into a movie. This is a touchy one for people who grew up in the 80s and 90s. The 1990 version is the kind of movie that everyone was aware of, even if they hadn’t seen it. I’ve never watched the whole thing (it’s over three hours, way too long for a sleepover movie) but even I know to check behind the shower curtain and stay away from storm drains. But it looks like this kind of legacy will help the newer adaptation: the trailer holds the record for the most views in a single day, reaching 197 million views in just 24 hours. And the online reactions were hilarious, to say the least. I admit I never bothered to read the novel since the movie always seemed to be a bigger deal. The new version comes out in September, giving me and I assume plenty of others time to actually read the book. But the question must be asked: how will anyone top Tim Curry as Pennywise?! Bill Skarsgård looks terrifying, but will he be as iconic? We’ll see. And let’s all hope this doesn’t inspire a repeat of 2016’s weird clown problem.
Have you read any of the books on our list, or seen their adaptations? What did you think of them? Have you ever seen a movie or show that you liked better than the book? Let us know in the comments!