YA Novelizations That Probably Should Have Happened

With the final day of TEENS BE READING week here, we’re going to take a look at what could have been in the YA world. Missed opportunities, regrets left and right, plenty of hanging heads down in shame for never giving readers what they really want – novelizations of their favorite TV shows and movies.

In the literary world, novelizations are considered trash by any reasonable author’s standards. It’s one of the least creative ways to use your talent as a writer, and one of the most looked down upon. But people still do it. And they’re still entertaining. Mama’s still gotta get that money. Of course, novelizations are nothing new, in fact we’re covered them before with Dawson’s Creek (hint: a Gilmore Girls one may be on deck). There are plenty of books to choose from when it comes to kid and teen shows, such as Full House, The OC and Lizzie McGuire, but unfortunately not all our faves could be translated into the magic that is novelizations.

Here are our picks for what could have been. Books that could have had the chance of having Harry Potter like popularity. Ok, probably not, but it’s nice to dream.

Summerland: A Fresh New Summerland

The Summerland novel serves as a final chapter in the cancelled too soon WB series that ended only after two seasons. The book picks up five years later, when Bradin (Jesse McCartney) is a successful professional surfer who, after 3 years sober, resorts back to drinking when he has a string of losses. Meanwhile, we find out Nikki (Kay Panabaker) has lost touch with her former BFF and BF Cameron (Zac Efron), who suddenly became a movie star after he was spotted in the mall by a casting director. In the novel, he attempts to win her friendship – and maybe even her love – back.

The Real World: Seattle : The Slap

One of the most iconic moments in Real World history happened in season seven, when a dramatic showdown between Irene and Stephen led to the slap heard ’round the world. In this novelization, we only follow the lives of Irene and Stephen through a series of alternating past and present day (as in 1998) stories. We follow Stephen as he’s raised by a single mother in a black Muslim household then converts to Judiasm at 15, and we see Irene as she goes through the constant battle with Lyme disease. It all comes to a head when Irene calls out Stephen for being gay in “Present Day”, and his immediate response is to throw her beloved stuffed animal in the Seattle waters then slap her across the face. The epilogue includes Stephen revealing actually IS gay and engaged. To a man.

Guts: The Aggro Crag’s Revenge

For years, The Aggro Crag had to deal with tiny little teens climbing up its sides. No matter how hard it tried, they always managed to find their way to the top. In this Choose Your Own Adventure-type book, contestants must choose their paths up to the mount wisely, with rocks, creatures, and very bright lights at every turn. You won’t have a safety harness to rely on this time around, so do, do, do, do, you have it? GUTS.

S Club 7 in L.A. : S Club 7 in Las Vegas

Following their three TV series, Miami 7, S Club 7 in L.A., and Hollywood 7, the fictional British pop group continued their story via book form. Set in 2002, a year after the Hollywood season, the singers hop in their red convertible and drive to Las Vegas (despite the fact management offered them a private jet) to kick off their six-month residency at the Golden Nugget. The seven-book series features a singer’s perspective in each book. Tina’s got a side job working as a showgirl on her days off, Bradley fell in love with a girl at the Wheel of Fortune slot machines and he may or may not have gotten drunkenly eloped, and Paul is in massive debt due to his gambling problem.

Seinfeld: The Book About Nothing

Literally the one about nothing. The book is full of blank pages. The final page is a sketch drawing of Kramer storming into Jerry’s apartment.

Sister Sister: Sister Sister (Sister)

In this non-canonical novelization of Sister Sister, Tia and Tamera’s lost triplet, Tarisa, shows up with a desperate plea for money. Suspicions are raised when they realize that Tarisa doesn’t look like them and appears to be an adult woman. It all comes to a head when Tarisa has to dress up as Tamera to take Tamera’s Geometry test for her for some reason!

Destinos: An Adventure In Present Tense Spanish

This companion novella to the substitute teacher-endorsed “Spanish” hit takes you deep into the world of Fernando and Raquel. Or actually, very shallowly into their world, because all of the dialogue is written in basic Spanish. Raquel’s uncle Jorge is missing at the zoo and she and Fernando have to use all of their rudimentary vocab to find him! ¿Encontrará Fernando al tío de Raquel in el parque zoológico? They’re asking all their best questions and dropping all their most relevant knowledge: !Tío Jorge lleva una camisa roja! !Anduve cerca de las gallinas! ¿Ha visto a mi tío Jorge? ¿Cononce a Jorge, el hombre que le gusta jugar al tenis?

Friends: Ben’s Dyno-mite World

Capitalizing on 90s children’s fascination with Friends, a show about grownups, this chapter book highlights the busy, modernish Greenwich Village life of Ben, a little boy growing up with two moms and a dad he sees once or twice a season. When Ben gets lost in the Natural History Museum, he has to use his dino smarts to find his way back to his dad. He is with his Uncle Joey, but he is mostly useless.

Titanic: My Heart Will Go On And On

After the sinking of the Titanic, 17-year-old Rose Dawson (nee Dewitt Bukater) lands in New York with nothing to her name – so she makes a name for herself, first gaining popularity on the Vaudeville circuit, then starring in early silent films. As Rose’s fame grows, she finds herself bound for England aboard the Lusitania. Rose finally lets herself love again – a roguish scamp named Mack Carson – but when the ship meets a tragic fate, Rose must learn that her heart will go on. And on.

Zoom: Ub-an Fub-un Tub-ime Ub-in 02134

It’s a Saturday afternoon in Greater Boston’s zaniest zip code. The Zoom kids have to complete a fun obstacle course across Allston without dropping their balloons – or triggering Zoe’s latex allergy. When someone swipes Alisa’s bookbag during a rousing round of the cup game, the gang has to track it down by snacktime! Where could it be? Find out in this adventure written entirely in Ubbi Dubbi.

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When Heaven Was A Scholastic Book Order

“Take one and pass the rest back.” In elementary school in the 1990s, those seven words were the key to every bookworm’s dream world. It was a Friday afternoon, your teacher didn’t care anymore, and you had 15 minutes to leaf through four very filmy pages of the Scholastic Book Order — which was like the Sears Wish Book for a very specific type of kid.

When I think back on it, the whole thing was so 90s, and not in that cute fake way of tumblr fashion blogs.  We had to mark the books we wanted in pen, copy the order numbers onto the form on the back, and then ask for a check from our parents. An honest-to-goodness CHECK, like they probably have in history museums now.

In hindsight, the whole system seems fraught with error and it almost feels like a miracle that any of us got the books we asked for. But one day a few weeks later you’d spot those Scholastic boxes in the front of the classroom, and sure enough there was the 3-pack of Ella Enchanted, Catherine Called Birdy, and The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, just like you ordered. I imagine this trio was called The Future NPR Listeners Sampler, or the Someday You’ll Own Cats Club Pack.

The real Cadillac of the Scholastic order was the club subscription (usually located on the back page, lower right, if memory serves). You’d get a new book every month and a pointless academic accessory like a pencil topper. Pencil toppers were cool then, okay? They were like the iPhone covers of 1996. Plus there were special bonuses, like a cassette tape featuring an interview with Ann M. Martin if you joined the Baby-Sitters Club Club (I assume it had a better name, but honestly maybe not). Let that sink in for a while. Before internet,if you wanted to learn about an author who wasn’t in the encyclopedia, you had to fill out a paper order, send a check, and then listen to an audio cassette.

Ann M. Martin had cats too, by the way.

The Scholastic order was also the number-one source for hot celebrity gossip, full of Unauthorized Biographies With 8 Pages Of Full-Color Photos. Sure, children these days have celebs’ actual Twitter and Instagram accounts at their fingertips, but back then it was enough to read that JTT’s favorite dessert was apple pie a la mode, or that Tay, Zac and Ike share a bedroom.

Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday that you were reading those factoids? Well, Tay, Zac, and Ike now have a cumulative nine children. That’s 3 Hansons. Or an Mmm Mmm Mmm Bop.

You would think that now, when I could find any book on Amazon in seconds, the Scholastic orders wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. But I found a few Troll and Arrow Book Club catalogs online, and I can almost smell the new book smell … and feel the papercuts. That thin-ply book order paper was for some reason notorious for paper cuts.

This has everything I remember about 90s book orders. There are pencils that, even 20 years ago, you could have bought for far less at a grocery store. Athlete bios. An inside look at the cast of 90210 with a RAP ROUNDUP (not sure what that is). I especially like how they call it “book club news,” as though they aren’t trying to sell us stuff, just keeping us informed that Midnight In The Dollhouse is only $.95.

Friends, we truly lived in a magical time. On the same page, you have Hook and Addams Family novelizations, Laura Ingalls, American Girl, and Babysitters Club. This is calling up more childhood memories than looking at family photos (because when the photos were taken, I was probably somewhere reading a book).

Ah, yes. 1991. When all the kids were clamoring for a paperback about Nelson Mandela. The Room Upstairs, an Anne Frank-y tale of World War II peril, contains a surprising number of exclamation marks in the blurb. And that pig eraser… just me, or did those gummy jumbo erasers never actually erase anything?

Lincoln, MLK, Edgar Allan Poe, medical mysteries … just some chill light reading for 9-year-olds. Boomers can knock millennials all they want, but don’t they see that we spent our childhoods heavy-burdened by their hopes, dreams, and expectations? As well as by a complete set of Boxcar Children books? That series was dope. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and the other one, right?

It’s so weird to think that most of us got these orders regularly as kids, and then one day – and you didn’t even know it was the day – you read your last one. You started buying your books at stores, and eventually the internet. You recorded over the Ann M. Martin tape doing fake commercials in Austin Powers voices at a slumber party. I haven’t seen a pencil topper in decades. But the memories live on … as do the large stack of unauthorized biographies sitting somewhere in your parents’ attic.

Forever Scarred: Traumatizing Moments from YA Novels

Like Joey Tribbiani, we believe that some books belong in the freezer. If you aren’t a Friends fanatic, that’s a reference to the episode where Joey kept The Shining in the freezer because it was too scary. When he and Rachel do a book exchange, we learn that it isn’t just overtly gory fiction that makes you want to freeze away your feelings:

Whether gross, creepy, or just plain sad, these are some moments in YA fiction that had us reaching for the icebox:

The One Where Dobby Dies

I admittedly was very late to the Harry Potter game. Like, I didn’t start reading the series until the seventh book came out. I blame my parents. Anyways, as I was reading the books from the beginning, I would discuss my thoughts and feelings about what was happening to my friend who had read them already. In particular, I remember being so incredibly annoyed and mad at Dobby. Inherently, I disliked him for his affiliation with the Malfoys, but also I couldn’t stand the way he spoke in third person. “Listen to Dobby!” “Bad Dobby!” “Dobby is fed up with this Malfoy bullshit!” As I continued reading, he began to have a soft spot in my heart and soon became one of my favorite characters. So when he was killed by Bellatrix’s knife after essentially saving HP, I was absolutely gutted. He was devoted and loyal to Harry, and passed away in the most heroic way. I had to stop reading because I was so stunned and also the tears were clouding my eyes and prohibiting my ability to read.

Hazel’s ‘Fake’ Eulogy for Augustus

SPEAKING OF BLUBBERING AND TEARS. THIS ENTIRE PASSAGE:

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

The Hunger Games in General

Like a lot of other people, I like and appreciate the world Suzanne Collins created, it’s easy to forget just how troubling the premise is. Before the first movie came out, I was explaining to someone (a mother of three) what the books are about. It wasn’t until then, when I was saying it outloud to someone who has kids that I realized just how effed up it must be that we get entertainment out of these books, in particular the first one. As a parent, she must have been picturing what it would be like if her kids were put in that situation, when you have no choice but to watch your kid fight to the death in a televised sport. I know the series is more than this, but, still. How messed up.

Stacey McGill’s Diabetes Pee

Everything I know about diabetes I learned from Ann M. Martin. But the most traumatizing lesson was when Stacy hadn’t yet been diagnosed, and she wet the bed at a sleepover because diabetes makes you pee a lot. This led to her losing her best New York City friend. The diabetes also caused Stacey’s divorced parents to fight all the time and to bring her to some sort of quack doctor. When she tries to play it cool and not tell her BSC friends about the diabetes, they assume she has a shady secret. AND when everyone is tucking into Claudia’s food hoarder snacks, the narrator always explains that they have saltines or something for Stacey. Basically if you get diabetes you will pee everywhere and your life will be ruined, is what I learned. For more BSC thoughts, see our The Baby-Sitters Club: The Musical — Excerpts From The Libretto.

Jonas’s Dad Kills Babies

Ah, The Giver. Probably one of my favorite YA books of all time. Except for that part where Jonas’s usually-chill dad is seen cooing at an adorable little baby then shooting it up with death drugs because it was a twin, which was against the rules. Then Jonas learns that the baby who has been hanging out with his family is also on death row so he escapes into the wilderness with it. Damn.

You Might Get Cancer. Love, Lurlene McDaniel

Remember Lurlene McDaniel? She wrote treacly, vaguely Christian books about teens with terminal illness. She covered all manner of diseases but I knew her best from the Dawn Rochelle books, which were about a 1980s teen who has leukemia. McDaniel probably did a lot to teach the youths that kids living with disease are just like us. But it’s almost like she did a little TOO good a job because as someone who bruises easily and is prone to violent, cascading nosebleeds, I definitely spent my junior high years being like “you know who had these problems? Dawn ‘Leukemia’ Rochelle.” Most traumatic moment: when Dawn’s friend and hospital roomie died and Dawn got her Bible with that one part of Ecclesiastes underlined.

Open-Air Mating In The Alien Zoo

Our high school was notorious for ridiculous eight-book-long summer reading lists, where most of the books were 400-page tomes set on the British moors. But Junior Year, they assigned at least one “hip,” “modern” book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that these disgusting slimy aliens abducted the main character and he had to live in a human zoo. They brought a porn star in and the two of them, like …. mated. In front of the disgusting terrible aliens. Who were cheering, maybe? It was horrible.

Those Disgusting Button Eyes

Coraline discovers Other Mother and Other Father, who are alternate-universe parents who have button eyes. Then Coraline, a human person, is supposed to sew buttons over her own eyes to “match.” And THEN she meets ghost children onto whom the Other Mother had sewn button eyes. Nah.

 

 

 

What I Think Happens In Popular Young Adult Novels (That I Didn’t Read)

When we were “young adults” I feel like Harry Potter was the only acceptable book series to tout being a fan of. As of late, there’s been a trend of reading YA novels to be “cool”, and the authors are considered superstars. Like John Green and his entire bibliography or The Hunger Games and Katniss braids left and right. Reading teen lit isn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, and as an adult, I feel a weird opposite reaction to this, in that I sort of feel ashamed I HAVEN’T read the most popular series in YA.

For our first day of TEENS BE READING Week, our companion to YALSA’s Teen Read Week, we’re giving our best guess as to what these books are all about – even if we have no clue where to start.

Sweet Valley High

Blonde twins, Ashley and Jessica, live in Sweet Valley, California and the series chronicles their their normal teenage life. They attend the titular Sweet Valley High, and encounter drama with friends, drama with boys and drama with each other. They probably fight over the same boy at one point, and do the good ol’ switcheroo to get make sure one of them passes a driver’s test or something. They also have a mortal enemy in the most popular girl in school, Lizzie, who has hated them ever since they were in second grade when they (accidentally) embarrassed her in gym class. Also the twins’ parents are divorced, and they split time in between houses, which also causes drama within the family.

The Maze Runner

The setting: dystopian future, specifically the U.S. The government puts all kids starting at the age of 14 through a rigorous test to be in the military (defense from the Canadians). If they don’t pass, they get three more tries, and if they fail, they go to live in what is now the South on labor fields. The final portion of the test is a huge maze (in New Jersey), which includes multiple traps, logic puzzles and endurance tests. Dylan O’Brien, on his third and final test, decides both options, whether win or lose, are horrible, and attempts to fight the power. Hence, The Maze Runner. The subsequent books are about the repercussions of him running through the maze. I’m also assuming there’s some kind of romance going on at some point because, young adult.

Twilight

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison have a showmance and it ends with a public scandal of her cheating on another vampire who is married. Taylor Lautner is literally so hot he has to have his shirt off at all times and Anna Kendrick is better than this entire franchise.

Lord of the Flies

A group of kids are stranded on an island in Micronesia and have to fend for themselves. They start a new civilization, led by a kid named Mowgli who’s always drinking coconut milk and attracts a lot of flies.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

After the death of her mother at age 12, Margaret is sad, confused, and doesn’t know where to turn. Her and her family would go to church occasionally throughout the year, but not religious by any means. As she enters a new chapter in her life without her mother, she finds herself asking a lot of questions, and feels like the only person (or entity) that can help her is one she can’t even see.

Go Ask Alice

This is written in the style of a found diary or autobiography, and is unattributed in a Blair Witch-y way where it’s supposed to be real but it isn’t. Alice is a normal girl until something bad-ish happens (parents’ divorce, maybe?). Then she gets peer pressured into trying “dope” (I’m never 100% clear on which drug “dope” is supposed to be so I just use it as the generic word for the kinds of drugs you learned about in the D.A.R.E. program). Things spiral and long story short she ends up homeless and faces a whole slew of Cautionary Tale problems, like cutting, eating disorders, and premarital sex. Shouldn’t have tried that dope, Alice.

A  Wrinkle In Time

Meg, a bookish girl from a garbage family, discovers a magical object/place/ability/person, which allows her to travel through time. But she doesn’t travel through normal time, she travels through Game Of Thrones, Lord Of The Rings-y time where everyone’s a dragon or whatever. She meets a cute boy who is sensitive but also a little gruff. There’s some sort of monster/ event / astrological phenomenon that threatens Meg and the cute boy, which they have to outsmart and outrun to make it back to the normal world. They do, but they never forget that wrinkle. The wrinkle… in time.

The Outsiders

Let’s say you’re a teen and nobody really “understands” you. You’ve read The Catcher In The Rye and have decided that everyone’s a “phony.” Your nice parents are totally obsessed with society and so are the kids at school whose parents have bought them cars.  You just know when you grow up you’re not going to have a 9-5 job and live in the suburbs, you’re going to support yourself somehow without working and live on the beach and not file your taxes ever. So you read this book, about a bunch of misfit, wrong side of the tracks 1950s kids who are all James Dean or something. It’s a bunch of boys who aren’t into acting like everyone else, and they live somewhere in the Midwest perhaps. There’s one girl in the group, like Anybody’s in West Side Story. Actually, the whole thing is kind of like West Side Story if it was about only the Jets. If your favorite book was The Outsiders in High School, you’re going to have a Bob Dylan poster in your dorm in college.

The Hobbit

Hobbits are basically these really quirky small people. They live in Tiny Houses and are obsessed with food and make up weird meals, like Fourth Meal, which the Hobbits are as excited about as modern humans are about Brunch. They live in Middle Earth, which looks exactly like New Zealand it turns out. And they dress in a lot of natural fabrics with tunics and low-slung belts. They’re mostly like hipsters. And kind of like the peasants in the Feudal system, where their whole year is punctuated by meaningless festivals and holidays to mark time and keep them joyful. And they’re sort of a little like rabbits, in that they like burrows and hanging out in little spaces and eating produce. Bilbo Baggins is one such Hobbit, and he has to go someplace or find something. The Hobbits are good guys and the bad guys are always kind of like evil wizards or bad trolls, things like that.

Hatchet

A boy, from modern times when the book was written but now clearly the 1970s or 1980s, gets stranded in the woods. It’s basically just him and this hatchet that he has. Thank God for that hatchet. He uses it to cut down trees and build a fort, to forage for food, and to survive in the cold, harsh world. The boy befriends a forest animal, who looks out for him. At one point he loses or breaks the hatchet and you’re like “nooooo!” But then he signals for help and you’re like “YES.” It’s a lot like My Side Of The Mountain, which I was obsessed with so I’m not sure why I didn’t read Hatchet.