Bingewatching YA Read- Alikes

With all the ways to watch TV today including; on demand, DVR, and instant streaming it is possible to watch an entire series’ episodes back to back rather than in a serialized week to week format.  This kind of watching has been dubbed “binge-watching.”  Maybe when you hear this term, an image comes to mind of someone mindlessly watching hour after hour of TV whilst eating chips.   As fun as that sounds, “binge-watching” can also mean focusing on just one show over the course of many days or weeks.  As a reader the way I become immersed in the characters and world of a good book are a familiar, comforting feeling, and binge-watching a quality show can offer a similar (on-screen) experience.  Here are some great YA read-alikes inspired by some of my binge-worthy favorites.

Orange Is The New Black

Orange is the New Black – One of Netflix’s original binge-worthy series. This is the story of a Piper, a privileged woman who has to serve prison time for a crime committed in her 20s.

Read-alikes:

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* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (2000 Printz Award Winner, 2000 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers , 2000 Best Book for Young Adults) A story told in the form of a screenplay by a young man incarcerated in a juvenile detention center.

* Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor BookPopular Paperback for Young Adult 2006 , 2003 Best Books for Young Adults). When Gantos was a young man with heavy debt and a promising writing career he agrees to help sail a ship packed with drugs from the Virgin Islands to New York City.   This memoir describes this well known author’s short-lived criminal career and his incarceration.

* Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the show; Kerman tells the tale of how she spent a year in prison the humiliations she endured, and the relationships she forged.

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What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation

parks-and-recreationThose of you familiar with the lives of the employees of the Pawnee Parks Department know how they feel about the Pawnee Public Library.  The presence of Ron Swanson’s crazy ex wife, Tammy, doesn’t help to mend the fences between these two village departments.  However, I would like to believe that this rivalry between the parks Department and the library would in no way hinder Leslie Knope and staff in their love of reading.  I mean, obviously they would probably have to get their books through Amazon or a bookstore so as not to encounter Tammy.  Let’s see what books the Parks Department would read!

Leslie Knope – Leslie is a very powerful woman who strives at excellence in everything she does.  When I think about disreputable-historyLeslie, I immediately think of Frankie Landau-Banks.  In 2009 Printz Honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Frankie orchestrates a mission to infiltrate The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society on her school campus, of which her boyfriend is a member.  Of course, being a member is not enough for Frankie’s ambition.  Instead, she starts to design school pranks and directs the Bassets in carrying them out.  Frankie is definitely a teen Leslie would be proud of if she were a citizen of Pawnee.  Another title that I would set aside for Leslie is Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Bauer’s story includes a mayoral race in a small town.  When Hope moves to the small Wisconsin town from a fairly big city, she does not expect to get caught up in the situations of her new home.  However, when the owner of the diner she works at decides to run for mayor against a corrupt politician, Hope jumps into local politics with both feet.  Bauer’s book combines two of Leslie’s loves: politics and diners. Continue reading What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation

The Mystery of Veronica Mars: Best Teen Sleuth Of Our Time–Or All Time?

Auntie P flickr magnifying glass
image from Aunti P’s flickr

The teen sleuth has a long history in children’s and young adult literature.  During the twentieth century,  popular children’s fiction became an increasingly profitable market.  Large companies like the Stratemeyer Syndicate and its publishing partner Grosset and Dunlap produced masses of series fiction, finding especially great success with adventure and mystery series for children and teens.  Though these titles were first published in the 1930s and ’40s, many of the characters remain well-known cultural figures.  For example, Nancy Drew continues to appear in novels, video games, and even a feature film as recently as 2007.  Kid and teen detectives from Encyclopedia Brown and the Red Blazer Girls to the Hardy Boys and Gallagher Girls continue to fly off the shelves in libraries and bookstores.

In middle school, I devoured every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on before moving on to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and Martha Grimes. But I’ve always been looking for a new smart & savvy teen sleuth–and when Veronica Mars premiered during my final years of high school, I knew I’d found my girl.  The character and the show appealed to me then as a young adult and a mystery reader–and it continues to appeal to me now, as a fan of the genre and young adult literature as a whole. Veronica Mars is simply a terrific example of storytelling for and about young adults–in addition to being a great mystery series.

The series can trace a connection to young adult literature back to its initial creation.  Before he brought the teen sleuth back into popular culture, Rob Thomas wrote and published a young adult novel,  Rats Saw God, a 1997 Best Books for Young Adults selection, recently re-released in a new edition.   In an interview with The Austin ChronicleThomas explains that his creation of Rats Saw God–and later Veronica Mars–drew on his experiences during his first post-college job as a high school journalism teacher.   So what qualities did Thomas’ writing include that made the show work so well in the world of young adult media?  Continue reading The Mystery of Veronica Mars: Best Teen Sleuth Of Our Time–Or All Time?

From Book to Television: Phoenix Island to Intelligence

phoenix islandPhoenix Island, the debut novel of author John Dixon, packs quite the wallop from the actual storyline in the book to the story surrounding the book itself. Dixon is an interesting case of a first-time novelist, if only for the fact that a major television network bought the rights to his first novel before it was even published! I’m adding that exclamation point because that is a huge deal. Actually, it’s beyond a huge deal. It is a rarity in a business that usually only shells out money for surefire moneymaking hits. I mean it’s hard for published book series with established fandoms to get these kind of deals, and Dixon knocked a home run on his first try. His first book and the television show based on Phoenix Island, CBS’s Intelligence (airing Monday nights at 10/9c), were almost simultaneously released to the world at large back in January.  Serious kudos goes to this guy.

Dixon talks more about this incredible story in an interview with his hometown newspaper here.

It was also this story that really drove my desire to write about how the adaptation from book to screen ended up playing out. It seemed especially interesting to me because the television creators would have more freedom in their adaptation because Dixon’s series did not have an established fandom yet. The upside to not having an established fandom behind the book your basing your series around is that you can’t annoy the fandom. Fandoms can be relentless. Look at all the hoopla casting can cause. Twitter trends have been caused by much less. Not to mention when the adapted work finally does see the light of day there are the inevitable articles that break down everything missed, changed, or totally screwed up in the adaptation according to the fandom. CBS and Michael Seitzman, the show’s creator, did not have to worry about this pressure– so how did they do?

Continue reading From Book to Television: Phoenix Island to Intelligence