The Issue with Book-to-Screen Adaptations

Madison Donenfeld, Literature Review Editor

Over the past 15 years, the popularity of book-to-screen adaptations has skyrocketed. From bestselling romance novels to cherished classics, audiences have eagerly awaited the transformation of their favorite literary works onto the screen, in the form of both movies and television shows. However, although this is a great idea in theory, the works do not always translate as well as the viewer may hope. The adaptations often end up being cliché, or don’t capture the essence of the original novel. The hype that builds when a beloved book is announced for adaptation can quickly turn into disappointment when the on-screen portrayal falls short of readers’ expectations.

One particularly infamous case of this occurrence is the two Percy Jackson movies. After the Harry Potter saga was turned into an incredibly popular movie series, Hollywood was desperate to have another blockbuster. Following many, many mediocre attempts to gain the viewership of the literary fandom, such as Divergent, Twilight, and The Fault in Our Stars, readers were given the highly anticipated Percy Jackson movies. The issue with them? No one liked them. The cast wasn’t very accurate, the plot felt inconsistent, and fans overall felt that there wasn’t enough effort put into replicating the general feel of the book. During this era, an overabundance of young adult book-to-movies were being produced, and it just felt like every popular book was being made into a horrible, inaccurate show or movie. 

However, although the general consensus is that these 2010s remakes are…not great, some of them are worth watching. Even though The Hunger Games is quite cringey, it is very well-made, follows the book’s plot closely, and ended up being extremely successful. Both the book and the movie were very well-received and well-written. 

At times a book’s popularity can grow due to their television counterpart, which is why many authors choose to approve an adaptation. Although the wave of movie adaptations has died down, it is now common for a book to be produced for streaming services. These recent  remakes are often very well-received, as in the cases of Shadow and Bone on Netflix, Daisy Jones & The Six on Prime Video, and Normal People on Hulu. Although all books were already admired in their own right, their respective shows garnered the books even more attention.

Book-to-screen adaptations will never stop being produced, and although they have a bad rep and a bad history, they are improving with time. A lot of the time they aren’t great…or even good, but the romantic, angsty remakes of the 2010s will always have a special place in my heart.