More Diverse YA Books = More Diverse YA Movies

I had intended to share another excerpt from my MFA paper, but a more pressing concern, or real world example expressed itself to me and I felt compelled to write about this instead. While we here at RiC focus on diversity in YA literature, it must be mentioned that the need for diverse characters is even more important when we look at the number of YA books being turned into movies. Those of us who are already reading diversely are able to balance out the pervasiveness of the dominate culture in movies with our literature, but what about the kids who aren’t as well versed, whose only exposure to literature is from the movies that are made from books?

This question popped into my head recently through an assignment I gave my students for our first unit. We are studying the elements of fiction and instead of having the entire class read one book, I thought it would be fun to have the students choose their own book, have them read something they are interested in. Last year when I did this, I had a number of students asking me for recommendations and you know I encouraged diverse texts. This year, not so much, and well, sadly most of the books the students chose were novels that hit the big screen in 2014. The books my students have chosen….

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsCatching_fireDivergent_(book)_by_Veronica_Roth_US_Hardcover_2011

ifistayThe_Maze_Runner_cover

I want to just let you think about something for a minute….my student population is 60% Hispanic and 40% African-American, and those 5 books are what most of my students chose. Let it sink in that none of my students are able to see a reflection of themselves as the hero, the love interest, in any of these stories. It was during a class activity when the students had their books out that I started to get irritated with the situation. I feel that if stories that featured characters of color were seen as “marketable” or “popular” (whatever that means), then my students would have more diverse reading lists. As it is, they’re only reading diverse stories because I choose diverse texts for class! I’m only one teacher, what about all the other teachers whose population numbers are similar to mine? Are they sharing diverse texts with their students or only teaching one voice, with the exception to a novel about slavery or the Civil Rights movement one month a year? I’d hope they’re not, but the sad reality is that many students, especially students of color in low-income areas, do not have access to diverse texts and only read books that have been made into movies, because the rational is “it must be a good book if it was made into a movie.” I find this unacceptable, do you? African-American and Hispanic teens throw down large numbers of cash on movies and movie tie-in stuff, is it so hard for a book that features a character of  color to be made into a movie? The audience is already there and I can guarantee that teens will run to the theaters. Hollywood and publishers do not get that “If they build it, we will come”. They don’t get that the reason why they are not seeing big numbers for diverse books and movies is that they are not putting the money behind the authors to get the word out, to find the audience. Again, the audience is there as the #WeNeedDiverseBooks juggernaut keeps proving time and time again.

I will admit that the only movie on this list that I have seen is Catching Fire, as I really have no desire to see the other movies (okay, maybe Maze Runner). I read all of the books and can honestly think of other, better books that feature diverse casts that should be made into movies. So, to end this rant on a positive note, here is a list of books that I would love to see made into movies.

otherthe living
every day pointe bloodofeden

I think the next big YA series made into a movie should be Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series. It was just that good!

 

since you asked

This would make such a funny tv show as we follow Holly through high school.

What say you, dear readers?

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Book Review: The Forever Song

safehTitle: The Forever Song
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genres: Speculative Fiction/Dystopian
Pages: 416
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Copy: ARC via NetGalley
Availability: Available April 15

Summary: VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

MONSTER

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone. (Via Amazon)

Review:
One wouldn’t think a book whose primary theme is family would be about killer vampires, but one would be wrong because with “The Forever Song,” Julie Kagawa finishes her epic Blood of Eden trilogy with a novel focused on family. If you read “The Eternity Cure,” you know that Allie, Jackal and Kanin make a good team, but in this novel, you get to experience them interact as a “family”.  And OMG is it hilarious! Allie and Jackal are the typical big brother and kid sister who love to hate each other, with Jackal getting some good zings in. And poor Kanin is the exhausted parent on the family road trip who puts up with the kid’s shenanigans until a certain point and then threatens “Do you want me to pull over” to calm everyone down. I loved the fact that despite being ferocious killers, Kagawa really humanizes the three with this familial , especially Jackal and Kanin, so by the end, the three of them are really a picture of a functional family.

Of course The Forever Song, being a novel with vampires and dealing with a crazy vampire such as Sarren, has “happy” times are equally punctuated by events that just hurt. I can’t go into detail without giving spoilers, but I can say there were a few moments in the novel where my heart broke. There were also a few times where I thought, “Should I really be eating while I’m reading this?” Kagawa does not insult her readers by holding back on descriptions of violence and I respect that quality of hers. The world that Allie lives in is desolate and dangerous with the struggle to survive in a land filled with raiders, psychotic vampires and rabids.

Lastly, one theme I really enjoyed throughout this book, and the series, is the concept of being human. Kagawa truly explores this concept by having Allie deal with the loss of Zeke, her link to humanity, and her struggle to maintain the monster she knows lurks beneath the surface. The questions that Allie ponders, and is challenged by Jackal, and encouraged by Kanin, really give a balance to the deep philosophical questions most of us would have if we were facing the end of our known world.

I’m sad that the Blood of Eden trilogy has come to an end because I greatly enjoyed the world that Kagawa created and being inside Allie’s head for a short time. While the novel ends in such a way that the story is finished, there is room for more. Ms. Kagawa, I’m not quite ready to leave Allie behind; is there a chance we’ll ever visit her again? Please?

Recommendation: You better go buy this book on April 15!

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My Favs of 2013

When I first decided to write my year in review, I thought it would be easy to write a post on the books I read this year. But then came time to sit down and write and my mind went blank. I had a hard time trying to even remember most of the books I read this year, especially ones that were published in 2013. Next year, I’m making a list and checking it twice. In the end, I was able to come up with a small list, plus a few books I’m looking forward to in 2014.

 
eleanor and parkOverall Favorite Book of 2013
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

OMG, I loved this book! The minute I started reading it, I had a smile on my face all the way through. Okay, not all the way as the story takes a darker turn, but I was still rooting for Eleanor and Park because I loved both the characters and I loved their relationship. Rainbow Rowell tells their love story in such a sweet and realistic way that you fall in love with both of them as they fall in love. Another aspect of the novel, for me, was the nostalgia factor as the story was set in 1986, so a number of cultural references I could relate to. Even thinking about this book gives me a warm fuzzy feeling and I know this will be a book I will read again and again.

 
Favorite SciFi/Fantasy Book of 2013
Immortal Rules/The Eternity Cure, by Julie Kagawa

julie-kagawa-immortal-rules-eternity-cure-book-covers-2

I know that Eternity Cure actually came out this year, but in order for me to write my review (link here) I had to read Immortal Rules, so I’m placing both books as my favorite for this year. This series is just so intense and it makes vampires scary again, not mopey teenagers in love. I completely lost myself in the world that Julie Kagawa created and fell in love with Allison and Zeke. The Blood of Eden series will be one I’m sure I’ll read again and again. Plus, after the cliffhanger that Kagawa left us on, I’m eagerly anticipating the next book, which is titled “The Forever Song” and publishes in April.

 

 

via Goodreads

via Goodreads

My “Diversity Done Right” Award
House of Hades, by Rick Riordan

I only started reading the Heroes of Olympus series at the request of my students and ended up enjoying the series. While my students were over the moon excited for the 4th book, I was a bit ambivalent as I really didn’t like Mark of Athena all that much. I have to say that I was extremely pleased with House of Hades, the improvements by Riordan to handle the narrative of 7 points of view, as well as how he handled issues of diversity amongst the characters. He doesn’t shy away from it, but he also doesn’t make it a “afternoon school special” feel. He also made a beloved character gay, which shocked my students, but pleased me immensely because Riordan’s world now felt like the one we live in.

 Book I Can’t Wait For

courtesy of Goodreads

courtesy of Goodreads

Ignite Me, by Tahereh Mafi

If you haven’t read the “Shatter Me” series  you need to. It is such an intense series and beautifully written at the same time. Ignite Me is the last book of the series and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to end. Also, isn’t the cover just gorgeous?

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