After reading a few brand new young adult novels (target age range 12-16) I remarked to my library's Director that the YA books read like movies. They seem to have straightforward plots that would translate almost immediately, and easily, into screen plays. The characters of the books are not deep or complex, they again seem like movie characters. For example the character's backstory is such that sometimes when traumatic things happen to them in the book's story, we don't even care. That to me, is not good writing. Readers should be affected by emotion when bad things (or good things) happen to the book's characters.
I remarked that unlike so many very good children's books whose movie adaptation leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled, due to the movie being unable to convey the depth of the characters and often overly focusing on the action in the story, these YA books seem almost like they were written with the intention (or hopes) of someday being sold for movie rights.
The Library Director said that it should not surprise me that the YA books being published today read like movies. She reminded me that the teenagers today were raised with heavy doses of television, movie and screen based entertainment. She said they like the YA books, the young adults think these books are great, even when I think they are "mediocre" or 'shallow'. She said they like their books to read like movies. She said my standard for 'a good book' is different than today's young adults. What I want out of a book, a children's book or a YA book is different than what those young readers want from it, she said.
I guess what she was also trying to say was that my generation, and hers, were raised in a different time when books were different and when screen-based media was almost non-existant or was barely available (such as the four television channels I got on our black and white TV and mainly seeing movies in movie theatres).
I've been trying to wrap my mind around this for a few months since she said this to me. I am not saying that pleasure reading should be heavy or like "War and Peace".
I still have an issue with books written for teenagers whose writing is on a fourth for fifth grade level with simple sentence construction and dumbed down word choices. I still have an issue with very serious issues in YA books being treated too casually so as to not illicit a strong emotional response as they should. I take issue with big problems being tossed about in a book so that the reader is dulled to it and thinks it is nothing to have a problem with. For example, a book character's death, struggles with bulemia, having been a victim of child sex abuse, and not having proper emotional reactions to problems in their lives (divorce, abuse, etc.). I feel that if an author is to tackle a serious issue in a book, especially for some purpose, that they have a responsibility to write well so as to have the intended outcome. For example if the story focuses on bulemia to bring awareness to it and to try to prevent some teens from starting or continuing with an eating disorder the reader should actually feel that way about it not just read it and say "whatever".
Today I read an article about a YA book that is in the process of being written and whose rights to the movie have already been sold. In fact, before the first book has even been published (or its likability tested), a whole series has been planned for (six books).
I truly do wonder if some of the YA book authors intentionally craft their stories for easy adaptation into movies, hoping indeed it will become a movie which I believe has potential for higher profits, especially if the movie is a hit. Then if the movie is a hit, more books will be sold, tie-in merchandise may be a source of income also. Lately, certain action movies also have video games released on multiple gaming platforms. With the way the video game industry is growing and its high profits made the video game can be a major source of revenue as far as "tie-in" merchandise goes!
If the first book and movie do well (or primarily the movie and secondarily the book), then possibly sequels to the book will be made, ensuring more book profits and possibly a movie sequel too.
What do you think of these ideas?
Article title: James Frey Collaborating on a Novel for Young Adults, First in a Series
by: Motoko Rich
Published in: New York Times Books
Hat Tip: I found this story on Twitter from NY Times Books.