Tuesday, June 18, 2013

YA Novel Transforms on Big Screen

by Jessie Miller, Summer Intern 2013

Judy Blume: one of the most prolific and influential writers of the young adult (YA) novels publishing craze. Her books, which explore sensitive and real-life topics applicable to many teens, have been both incredibly popular and controversial. Released June 7, the movie adaptation of Blume’s 1981 Bradbury Press novel Tiger Eyes features the first of her books to hit the big screen, yet it remains true to Blume’s original story—including controversial material that awarded it the number 78 spot on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000.

The YA books-turned-movies industry has recently been dominated by widely popular, fantasy fiction, dystopian world stories, including series such as The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter. But Tiger Eyes could not be more different from these cult franchises: Blume’s film presents the realistic plot of a teenager dealing with her father’s sudden death and its effect on her family. Willa Holland, as protagonist Davey, embodies the perfect film version of a classic Blume teenager, yet the film takes on a very different tone.

Having been originally released over three decades ago, Tiger Eyes demanded an updated portrayal of Davey and her tragic story; the result is an edgier, off-the-wall film that appeals to an entirely different audience than its previously mentioned YA counterparts. Instead of an action-packed, unrealistic story featuring dramatic heroic teens, Tiger Eyes is a refreshing look at the inner world of a teenage girl who is wrestling with the emotions of loss, confusion and adolescence.

Yes, Katniss (from The Hunger Games series) and Davey are completely different characters, but the parallels and disparities between both girls’ lives point out an interesting trend in novel publishing and film production: The majority of today’s YA films are based around adrenaline rushes and unrealistic situations, while Blume’s film falls perfectly into a different genre of Bildungsroman plots. Upon watching Tiger Eyes, I was instantly reminded of films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Never Let Me Go, and upcoming release The Fault in Our Stars—all of which originate in novels.

So why did it take so long for Blume’s books, which transformed the young adult genre and touched millions of young girls’ lives, to reach movie production? The answer remains unclear—and I still don’t understand why now—but I believe Judy Blume’s need for creative control and the desire for her own son to direct the movie were determining factors. Though the movie version may be long overdue, I’m glad the Blumes stayed true to their own vision, because the final product is remarkable. Judy Blume’s dedication to the movie and Lawrence Blume’s long-time love of the book have created a film that transcends and transforms the original message of Tiger Eyes. Davey is no longer an adolescent teen—she is a passionate force leading the publishing fight back to its roots, something I greatly look forward to.

Further Reading

Jeannette Catsoulis, “Young Girl Grapples with the Facts of Life: ‘Tiger Eyes,’ Directed by Lawrence Blume,” June 6, 2012, The New York Times, http://movies.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/movies/tiger-eyes-directed-by-lawrence-blume.html.

“Judy Blume Hits the Big Screen with ‘Tiger Eyes’ Adaptation,” June 7, 2013, NPR website, http://www.npr.org/2013/06/07/189271315/judy-blume-hits-the-big-screen-with-tiger-eyes-adaptation.

Nicole Sperling, “Judy Blume’s Road to ‘Tiger Eyes’ the Movie and Her Next Chapter, June 7, 2013, Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-ca-judy-blume-20130609,0,3932030,full.story.

Sara Vilkomerson, “Are You There Hollywood? It’s Me, Judy Blume,” May 13, 2013, Entertainment Weekly, http://shelf-life.ew.com/2013/05/13/judy-blume-hollywood-tiger-eyes/

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