The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

In an Era of Page-To-Screen Adaptations, Is the Book Truly Better?

Staff illustration: Tatum Herrin

If you’re settling in to watch a new movie or TV-show with friends, family and a bowl of popcorn, chances are whatever you’re watching is based on a book. New films like “Lessons in Chemistry,” “The Color Purple,” “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and so many more came to life on paper before the screen. In an attempt to resurrect itself in a declining era, Hollywood is turning more and more to literature for inspiration. In this returning era of book adaptations, I’ve returned to the age-old question: is the book truly better, or have entertainment companies cracked the code to perfecting on-screen renderings of classic novels?

If you asked me, an avid book reader, this question a few years ago, I would have laughed in your face –– especially after watching the dismal “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” movies released in the 2010s. However, recently, literature-based movies and TV-shows have exceeded my expectations and made me think maybe I was a little too rigid in my prior derision. 

“Red, White & Royal Blue,” which debuted as the number one movie on Prime Video worldwide in July of 2023, demonstrates that some book adaptations are worth a watch but not better than the books they’re inspired by. “Red, White & Royal Blue” was based on Casey McQuiston’s novel of the same name; the story follows the romance between Alex, the son of the first female president of the United States, and Henry, the prince of England. Because of the movie’s shorter running time, the story is narrowed. Although I was initially upset over the exclusion of my favorite character, June, who played a major role in the books, I understand that the writer Matthew Lopez needed more time to develop Alex and Henry’s story. 

When looking at the book and the movie side by side, the cast, writers and director accurately captured the essence of the book by not straying far from the plot. After all, the loveable storyline is what gave the book its bestseller status.

Prime Video also released a series adaptation of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han in June 2022 and a second season in July 2023. This Prime Video release differs from “Red, White & Royal Blue” in that the show is vastly different from the book, and for good reason. With the oversight of Jenny Han, writers of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” series made significant changes, including additions to the plot, an emphasis on Belly’s older brother Steven and the softening of Belly’s best friend Taylor, who remained largely one-sided in the books. 

With all of these changes, the series successfully embodied the same themes of the book series, while also making the characters more relatable and the storyline more entertaining as well as less dramatic. Plus, as a Swiftie, I loved the soundtrack! 

Lastly, this comparison wouldn’t be complete without analyzing Disney Plus’ new release, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” a show series created by Jonathan Steinberg and produced by Rick Riordan. This series encapsulates the lighthearted drama and adventurous spirit of the original book series, published in 2005. By staying true to the plot and including diversity throughout the cast, this series is an accurate representation of how I remember envisioning the books when I first devoured them. 

Ultimately, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to movies and books, but this year has made it clear that book adaptations can be successful, especially when the author contributes to making their vision become an on-screen reality.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Caroline Clack
Caroline Clack, A&L Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: Seeing all of our finished stories in print/online and definitely the CoA community of writers and editors

Interests outside of school: mock trial, soccer, & spending time with friends/family

Class of 2026

Comments (0)

The Coat of Arms encourages dialogue with our audience. We welcome constructive comments that avoid slander, hate, profanity and misinformation. In an effort to give voice to a variety of perspectives, anonymous comments will be considered, but signed comments are preferred. If you would like to submit an anonymous comment, please write "Anonymous" in the "Name" field below. While a valid email address is required, The Coat of Arms will not publish your email address. The Editorial Board will review comments and decide whether they will be put online; the editors reserve the right to edit for concision.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *