It is not very difficult to see the magnitude young adult literature has encompassed. The connection between kids and profit has been a well-understood relationship by many industries for decades, but now it seems as if those industries are linking hands and joining forces to turn books into empires. And, believe it or not, this is a good thing for parents and children alike. At least I think so anyway.
I realize there will be people who hate this article simply because they hate any commercialization of books other than the standard bookstore/internet sale. If that’s you and you’re reading this, just stop while you’re ahead.
Now…..granted, I realize most movies based on books are far cries from the actual novels. Twilight was not a great movie but I’ve watched it a gazillion times and would watch it again….simply because I love the characters and I became invested in the story through the books. Trust me….Hollywood knows this is the case for the majority of fans of best-selling books. We want to see our characters and their world personified.
Disney joined the two worlds of film and literature and marketed their beloved characters through all types of products, like lunch boxes and sippy cups and backpacks and light up shoes. They even have Disney stores planted in malls around the world. But….their demographic is not majoritized by teens.
So…..we come to young adult literature.
Books like Eragon, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Ella Enchanted were all made into movies. It’s not as if this is a novel idea. But….to turn a book or series of books into a world phenomenon is.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was one of the first of this kind of venture. Not only will the book spawn eight blockbuster films and gobs of Potter related paraphernalia, now there is even a theme park for anyone who is mesmerized by the Potter spell. Children, and adults as well, don Harry Potter costumes for Halloween and host movie marathons that can take nearly an entire day to watch.
The Twilight Saga is another example. There will be five films developed from four best-selling books written by Stephenie Meyer as well as soundtracks for each and book companions if you need more background. Include the merchandise, which is everything from tee shirts to perfume to bumper stickers, and massive turnouts for midnight releases, and you have an entity of epic proportions.
The next franchise to add to the list is The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which has recently seen a rise in popularity since the release of its third installment. Lionsgate has procured movie rights and Hot Topic is already selling Tribute gear.
So what does all of this mean to you, the parent, and your young adult reader? Primarily, for the first time in a long time, it is cool to read. Reading now gives teens something to talk about because their books are a part of pop culture thus helping them form connections with peers whom they may have never spoken before. They enjoy going to the bookstore, getting a cappuccino and picking out their next read. Planning movie nights or book/DVD release parties with their friends has become a popular trend. In other words….Books now cause events, which equals happy teens.
Happy teens in turn make happy parents. Parents can even get in on the action and find a new way to bond with their ever-detaching kids since young adult books have been able to span the generational gap. People of all ages have bought the Harry Potter series and scores more have attended and bought the movies. The same goes for Twilight. Mothers and daughters everywhere were bonding over the teenager/vampire/werewolf love triangle. And a big plus is that YA books are usually easy reads and often great books to escape into. This is great for parents who may be getting back into reading or who have little time to invest into their reading and even better, they now have something in common with their teen.
This is huge, parents.
So….instead of getting angry that the powers that be have turned a beloved book into a cash cow that they are milking to death, I choose to be thankful that I at least have the opportunity to not only see my favorite stories come to vivid life, but to also share them with my family and friends. I mean think about it…..when I was a child, I read the Hobbit and fell in love with it. What I wouldn’t have given to have had The Lord of the Rings to watch back then! And it thrilled me to the core when the movies were finally made and now I can’t imagine not having that depiction.
But….if you don’t agree with me and hate book films and all the hoohah that comes with them, that’s okay. Just don’t look for the trend of books to movies, or any of the other methods of promotion, to end anytime soon. The book industry and Hollywood are learning the extensive value of marketing young adult books through other media than just the book itself. In short, they are forming an extension of the book, a universe that is visual, tangible, and addicting for those who have already fallen in love with the story, as well as giving us mementos from that world like Bella’s bracelet or Harry’s glasses that can be bought for our pleasure.
But more than this…….I am thankful for the bonds I have formed thanks to conversations about YA books…especially the new ones formed between me and my own children. Young adult literature is quickly becoming a vast world, and I am thrilled that parents and their children can both be happy inhabitants.
Now go read……