2014 was the year of YA books being adapted into the big screen such as the latest one to hit theaters, “The Fault in our Stars,” a tear-jerker romance by John Green. Specifically, I noticed dystopian YA novels being made into movies, such as Divergent which was released earlier this year and more to come such as the Maze Runner, The Giver, and Catching Fire: Part 1. I’ll admit I’m excited to see most of them, yet considering they’re all based on books, I contemplated picking up the book and reading it. However with my tendency to become passionate about books I really love I wondered if it was wise if I should read them before the movie.
Is it Wiser to Read the Books First?
With that said I decided to raise the following question to some friends. Which is better to do first: read the book or watch the movie? What do you think was the common response? Well you might have guessed it but most said to read the book first because it contains more details and are generally better than the actual movie. I can’t argue with those sentiments considering it’s 99% true. There is more time for the book to divulge valuable (or not so valuable) details that help setup the plot or enlighten us on a character’s thinking.
So the decision should be easy then; just read the book first. The problem is once I read the book (and if it’s a book I really like), I have heightened expectations and preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to be. And when the movie alters the details or goes left field altogether I’m more likely to become more critical and pick out the discrepancies versus passively enjoying the movie for what it is. Most of these books being adapted I have not read, so when others say “That didn’t happen in the book,” it wouldn’t matter to me.
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For instance with Hunger Games, I remember hearing several people make similar comments about certain scenes that were added or didn’t happen in the movie. When I watched the movie myself I really enjoyed the movie and fell in love with the resilient and feisty main character, Katniss Everdeen. It was only till recently that I read the book, which I had a greater appreciation for and was not disappointed one bit! However I wonder: would I have enjoyed the movie as much if I read the book first?
It’s hard to say for certain because even though I did notice some things were left out including some characters, I still like the movie regardless. Which worries me is the book I have read already that is coming to the theater: The Giver. When I watched the first trailer, I felt slightly disappointed. Thankfully though the newest trailer looks like it will be faithful about the whole B&W to color concept from the book (much to my delight).
Yet I can tell they changed a lot of things from the book. My thoughts mirror another blogger’s take on The Giver, because I too would need to detach my emotional attachment with the book in order for me to enjoy this movie.
What are your views? Is it better to read the book or watch the movie first? Are there examples where the movie adaption was as good as the book? I’d like to weigh in more thoughts on this topic.