Sweetbitter: Book vs. TV Show

As I’ve previously done comparisons of book-to-screen-adaptations for the likes of Still Star-Crossed and Famous in Love, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to talk about the book I just finished – Sweetbitter. The way this goes is pretty self-explanatory. I will talk about the shared plot and then compare the two. Here goes nothing!

General Plot

Tess was not happy with her life and ventures to New York City to pursue life. She doesn’t have a plan, she doesn’t have any kind of aspiration of what or who she wants to be, she simply wants experiences. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the tumultuos life as a backwaiter in a prestigious restaurant and all the drama that comes with being part of the staff.

Book

Sweetbitter

CW: excessive drug and alcohol consumption, sexism, racism, verbal/physical abuse, sexual harassment

I was first drawn to this book and story because when I was younger I used to be a server as well. Granted, I didn’t work in fancy restaurants but upscale hotels instead, still, the overall gist of things seemed similar enough to me. I had my first real job in that line of work when I was 15 and up to about 20% into the story (and aside from the heavy drugs), it really felt like an accurate representation of my daily life back then.

A lot of critics (for both the book and the show) didn’t understand that not everyone is looking for something bigger and better at all times. I get really defensive whenever I read stuff like that, because we need to get rid of the notion that there is anything wrong with working a job like that on the long run. Yes, it wasn’t the right thing for me personally. The plates were too hot, I couldn’t even relax when I was asleep because I constantly dreamed about messing up orders and running back and forth between the floor and kitchen, but overall I loved chatting with the guests. I loved making that connection with strangers and through that making their experience at our hotel a better one. Some people are content and actually happy to work as a server and consequently their way up the food chain in a restaurant or similar establishment and that is perfectly fine.

Having said that and really having appreciated that look behind the curtains of what life as a server (especially in training) can be like, that is where my love for this book ends. Tess is your typically lost 20-something pretty girl and that’s not to say that we don’t need stories like that either, but the way she went through life was infuriating. I am really not someone who gets judgy about whether people drink or don’t drink alcohol, but drugs … it was tough reading about that topic so nonchalantly. While Tess definitely has her low moments, the part of drugs or even so much as a consideration of stopping to take drugs is never addressed.

What bothered me the utmost about the book were all the toxic relationships though! I don’t think a single person ever said a tender thing to anyone aloud ever. They “joked” about how women were only good for cleaning and men were foolish if they ever believed a word a woman said. Bosses slept with employees for favours and even led them to mental breakdowns. But worst of all was Tess and Jake’s “relationship”. It was one of those where the girl obsesses over the super pretentious guy and he ignores her unless it suits him. He treated her terribly, brought her to tears on several occasions and even roughed her up during sex to a point where she had bruises all over her body. It was revealed that he was damaged by some events in the past, but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour!? And still, after everything, Tess just wanted to save him.

I got more and more furious as I read on and then there was this clear lack of structure or cohesion to the story overall. Again, I wouldn’t mind reading about someone wanting to make it in the service industry, but this was just a manic depiction of manipulative people and a young girl making the same mistakes over and over. Did she learn from them? I don’t even know.

Fazit: 1.5/5 stars! (click on the cover to get re-directed to Goodreads!)

TV Show

 

Usually when Starz has a new show, I get really excited. I hadn’t yet finished the book and thought this could be a really interesting show. Was it lacking in diversity from the looks of it? Definitely, but I was willing to give it a shot nonetheless.

It turned out that maybe I was a bit too overzealous? The running time for the episodes is barely half an hour and there are only 6 (?) episodes planned for the first season. With a slow paced story like this one, that seems a fairly odd choice. You barely get to tell anything or start a thought before the episode is already over again. If I were to make a mini-series of six episodes only, I would definitely make them longer. That is not to say that they don’t plan on more seasons in the future, but critics haven’t had too many good things to say and I don’t think ratings were all that great either so far …

Stephanie Danler, who wrote the book, was involved in the adaptation. She tried to make it accessible to non-readers and wasn’t afraid to change the narrative here and there, but I am not sure how much she really succeeded. I think an issue with the show is that she makes references to more or less important parts of the story that the viewer simply cannot understand, because it’s only mentioned in passing while it was fully described in the book.

To me there is just no time to explore the more sensual parts of the story because we are rushed through the experience with food and people and events all packed into such a short running time. Maybe it would work better if you binged the episodes, since it wouldn’t rip you out of the atmosphere every single time you just got used to what was happening?

Conclusion

I cannot really advocate for either of those two? I am sure there are people out there who appreciate the relatable and quite frankly mostly accurate portrayal of work as a server and just starting out in that industry. Whereas other shows and books mostly focus on what’s going on in the kitchen, it is nice to know there is content for what’s happening in the front of the house as well. If only they refined the show a little more …

Have you read or watched Sweetbitter? Do you have any thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

Famous In Love: Book vs. TV Show

You all know that my love for books constantly has to compete with my love for TV shows, because in the end there are only so many hours in one day. That is why I love it all the more when I can combine those two passions and do a little comparison of a book and its (big or small) screen adaptation. I’ve previously done this for Still Star-Crossed and since I am still getting clicks for that, I am just going to assume you won’t mind more posts of the like! Today’s book vs. show post will feature Famous in Love!

General Plot

The story of Famous in Love follows Portland-raised Paige Townsen on her way to Hollywood fame. She soon finds out that being cast for the main role in a YA trilogy adaptation isn’t just glamorous when she struggles to unite her old and new life, succumbs to the pressure of being a new face in a harsh industry and ultimately finds herself amidst an intense love triangle.

TV Show

I am going to start with the show, because I actually watched it prior to reading the book. I usually try to read stuff before the show/movie comes out, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen and from there on it can go both ways. Anyway, Famous in Love is in its second season on Freeform. Not going to lie, Freeform and I have a strenuous relationship, because they often do very superficial adaptations and tacky content, while easily cancelling the things I actually do like (except for The Bold Type, they are doing great on that one!). I suppose that was part of the reason why I wanted to watch the show without having much knowledge about the book, since I knew they were going to change a lot. Not having any sort of allegiance the content beforehand can be really helpful in those kind of situations.

Freeform shows follow a very simple formula. Have a glossy appearance, get a mix of known and unknown actors and actresses in their early twenties and then just add drama, drama, drama at a varying degree of realism. For some formats that doesn’t work at all and for other things I quite enjoy their take. Famous in Love is definitely one of my guilty pleasures, but mostly because it takes place in the film industry and that is my soft spot.

As someone who has worked in that industry, I always like those supposed behind the scenes kind of shows. Mix it with a typical Cinderella and fish-out-of-water component and you basically have me hooked without question. I may not be the biggest Bella Thorne fan to begin with, but it’s easy to root for her character, Paige, the entire time. Who hasn’t secretly (or not so secretly) dreamed of becoming famous over night and having celebrities swoon over you?

I am a simple girl, I always favour episodes with character development and exploration of relationships over the superficial drama that comes with jealousy, affairs, fake press stories and out-of-the-blue-murder, but I guess it was to be expected with this kind of show. And even if it’s silly sometimes, in the end you just want to know what happened? So, while I do enjoy watching it as a whole, I still think that Famous in Love has a couple weaknesses. For one, the cast is quite big and keeps getting bigger, which often makes it hard to focus on anyone in particular for an extended amount of time without neglecting someone else. Also, I feel like some of the characters changed their personality quite a bit from Season 1 to Season 2 and I don’t get why exactly. None of that has stopped me from tuning in every week so far though.

One of my favourite parts about Famous in Love is the teen novel they are adapting called Locked. I want that book to be a real YA franchise so that I can dig in and read the story myself. OR I want that fake movie they are filming to be a real movie, so that I can watch the entire Locked film one day. *sigh* Those are the dreams of a TV obsessed bookworm …

Book

Now that the second season started up on Freeform, I thought it was finally time to check out the source material. Granted, I went into this with quite a few preconceived ideas of what the story would be according to the show, but I still wasn’t prepared for the amount of actual changes.

The general idea is still the same. Paige is a nobody, but gets the role in this huge franchise. But that’s about it. Whereas the show takes place in LA, the book is almost entirely set in Hawaii. Whereas Paige is in her early twenties on TV, she is only 17 and still living with her parents when the book starts. Whereas Paige’s friends are right there with her not just in life but also in the film industry in the adaptation, they have a huge fight and grow apart while also being in different locations entirely. Whereas the love triangle on the show is between Paige, her co-star Rainer and her roommate Jake, the book’s main romance catastrophe was between Paige, Rainer and ALSO her second co-star Jordan.

Look, I am all for love triangles IF they are done well. I like the idea that one’s heart is torn between two amazing love interests, but that just wasn’t the case here. While I may have understood the slow burn approach of the Paige and Rainer relationship, which was actually really cute and developed slowly, the Jordan part was completely beyond me. Paige was downright ready to sabotage him getting a job on set, just to fall head over heels into him without saying much more than “hi” to each other for weeks.

In addition to that, the version of Locked they were filming in this scenario also sounds less appealing somehow and I don’t even know why that would be different as well? Anyway, I think that I would usually allow for the possibility of me not enjoying the book as much because of having seen the show first, but I cannot imagine myself liking this book in any other situation either.

Fazit: 2.5/5 stars! (click on the cover to be redirected to Goodreads!)

Conclusion

So, in the end, I would say that the TV show is vastly superior to the book and I stand by that statement. Making the characters older and a tad more mature with that, as well as setting the scene right in the high life that is Los Angeles, was a smart move in my opinion. They also created a better love triangle (whether you like them or not) than they did in the book and I will happily continue watching the series even if I won’t read any more of the books.

Do you watch Famous in Love? Have you read it? What is your take on the subject? Let’s talk!

P.S.: Shout out to the unsung heroes of any kind of production – the PAs (Production Assistants)! Or in this particular case, Adam, a reoccurring character on the show who deserves more screen time.

Still Star-Crossed: Book vs. TV Show

Back in the day I used to make quite a lot of comparisons between books and their TV or movie adaptations. Whereas others hate movie tie-ins, I actively seek them out in the store. I am odd that way. Today I would like to talk about the book/show Still Star-Crossed. I want to point out that this is a spoiler free comparison but other than that, I think the way I am doing this is fairly self-explanatory so let’s just jump in!

General Plot

Still Star-Crossed follows the story of Verona’s most famous houses – the Capulets and Monatgues – AFTER Romeo and Juliet have found their tragic deaths. To unite the warring families, Prince Escalus, ruler of Verona, suggests a union between Rosaline of House Capulet and Benvolio of House Montague to finally bring peace upon the city. Neither one of them very inclined to marry the other, they have to work together to stop their wedding. An adventure with romantic entanglements, mystery, murder and betrayal ensues.

TV Show

I want to start with the show, because that’s also what I saw first. It consists of 7 episodes, was produced by the Shondaland crew and aired on ABC this summer. I really, really enjoyed the show, which is why I was shocked when the network didn’t even give it a chance and canceled it after airing 2 episodes. They broadcast the rest of the season, but cut it short from the initial 9-episode-order to 7 and ultimately ended on a cliffhanger. To be frank, that makes me quite mad, because those two episodes they scratched could have perfectly concluded the story if you go from what happened in the book. There is no use in being bitter about it now, because ABC refuses to give any more statements on it, but that’s why I ultimately turned to the book. First more about the show though.

One of the first things I noticed was the variety of POC cast members in the show and I am 100% here for that! The characters they played weren’t just servants either but princes, princesses and ladies – do you know how stupidly rare that is? I’ve been saying that historical fiction needs more diversity in its casting and I am glad to see Still Star-Crossed taking a step in the right direction. While history books unfortunately have been written by a lot of white people, they were by far not the only ones existing during that time and especially when it comes to fiction, you can simply do whatever you want. So, why not mix it up a little and make it less white? Give others a chance to see themselves represented. It worked for Hamilton, so it can work for pretty much anything.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the visuals or the costumes (they looked cheap to me but were apparently super expensive and not worth it for ABC), I did love the relationships between the characters and their growth. We didn’t get to see much of them, obviously, but the show had some really badass women, good and decent men and also a lot of crazy people. My personal favorite was the development of the relationship between Rosaline and Benvolio. They truly hated each other, then became friends and only after that foundation of mutual respect and trust was built and tested, there was this option of something more. I was just in love with that. Also, their banter was genius.

Book

Needing to know what happened to my new OTP, I tracked down the book (not as easy as it sounds) and was determined to read it as soon as possible. Right as I started, I was immediately slowed down though. In true Shakespearean fashion, the language was way more flowery and old-timey, especially in terms of the dialogue. I am not saying that’s a bad thing, it is to be expected for this kind of story, but it does not always make for an easy reading time for me personally.

The major difference from the book to the show is the age of the characters (and that they all seemed very white). In the source material, they are only around 16 years old and therefore much more impulsive and superficial in their declarations of love and war. It makes sense for their age, but because I was so used to the TV representation, I missed the more mature versions of the characters.

There were a couple changes made to the story (e.g. in the book Romeo was initially pining for Rosaline, the show thankfully gives the princess a way bigger role, etc.), however, the main premise remains the same. I could easily follow the plot and compare it to the different episodes of the show, but that also meant that there were very few surprises left for me to discover. Ultimately I was glad I read it, because I got a very satisfying conclusion, but I think I might have liked the book better if I hadn’t seen the show first.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars (click on cover to get redirected to Goodreads)

Conclusion

In the end, I would say that I prefer the show. It was more mature and less superficial, especially in terms of the romantic relationships. It gave a some characters that barely even appeared in the books a place to shine and definitely did a great job in making it even darker than the book. If I could change one thing, I would give the show a proper ending and make it an official mini-series.

Have you seen the show or read the book? Do you want to?

The Magicians (TV Review)

I did something stupid and watched the special preview of The Magicians and as expected I loved it and now I am angry with myself for having to wait so incredibly long. I will only roughly mention what happened, because I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I cannot help needing to talk about it.

mag

For all of you who still don’t know, I’ve read the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman this year and it’s left quite the impression on me. I already did a little trailer talk for the show, but I honestly have to say that I am relieved that I actually loved it as much as I did in the end! The series is about Quentin Coldwater, a guy who never felt like he belonged until he got invited to study at Brakebills University for Magic. In a way it’s Narnia with a dash of Harry Potter but for grown-ups (and I really mean that last part!).

The pacing in the first book was a little strange by rushing through Quentin’s education and now the show definitely isn’t wasting time either. I think it’s even more extreme than the book in some ways, but to go into detail would mean that I have to spoil you for the premiere and I don’t want to do that. Somehow they have managed to stay very true to the story and change almost everything at the same time. They’ve stayed faithful with so many details, but then they just up and went to change the timeline, names, the whole story of some characters. It’s odd at first, but because they’ve done it in such a great way, it simply works!

Another thing I have to commend Syfy for is the casting! Okay, not everyone looks the way they did in the book (I’m looking at you Penny!), but I think they made the perfect choice anyway. Jason Ralph as Quentin is this cute dork and just so much more likable than his book-version. My favourite character, Elliot, looks exactly the way I pictured him and Hale Appleman gives him exactly the right attitude. And then Julia! Stella Maeve seriously knows how to portray her despair! I could swoon over the rest of the cast just as much, but maybe you should just take a look at yourself.

The first episode pulled you right in, was funny, intriguing, extreme and fast paced. It left with a huge cliffhanger so I am happy to hear that the actual Premiere on January 8, 2016 will be a double-episode. As an enthusiast of the books, I have to say that the show gave me everything I wanted and so much more! I hope you’ll give it a try in 2016 so we can all gush together! Did anyone else watch the Special Preview?

The Magicians TV Show Trailer & Thoughts

logomag

As I mentioned in my last post, The Magicians by Lev Grossman (click here to read my full book review!) got adapted as a TV show by Syfy. You can watch the Trailer below and then I’ll share some thoughts about the differences and similarities between the book and what I saw of the show so far. This will include Spoilers for the book though!!

So, first off, I imagined this all VERY differently. None of the people look like I thought they would, but maybe that’s for the better. The cast is mostly unknown or at least not super famous and includes: Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Stella Maeve (is that why you left Chicago PD Nadia?), Hale Appleman, Summer Bishil, Arjun Gupta, Rick Worthy and Anne Dudek

For those of you who know the characters, will be happy to hear that Quentin, Elliot, Alice and Julia exist and Julia plays an even bigger role than she did in the first book. As for Janet, she’ll be called Margo now (apparently because there were already too many names with “J”!) and Penny is there too but is Q’s roommate (that so can’t work …) and he’s not a punk at all. There’s no Josh or Anaïs though …

I think the show will focus a lot more on Quentin’s time at Brakebills, the College for Magical Pedagogy he attends. We can already see Quentin’s entry exam in the trailer, which looks fairly accurate to me. There is not much trace of Fillory yet and the blurb on imdb doesn’t mention it either. BUT it was said that we’ll get an early glimpse at it because Quentin will daydream about it a lot and obviously he’s reading the books. I have no idea when exactly it will come into play, because I could imagine that they just loosely based it on the novels and want to make it a more adult Harry Potter instead. I don’t know that for sure though.

There really can’t be much more deduced from the trailer, what are your thoughts? Either way, I am excited for the show simply because it’s about magic.

The DUFF: Book vs. Trailer

In my Taylor Swift Book Tag I mentioned how much I was looking forward to reading the DUFF (=Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger and now I finally got around to it. As you may or may not know, I buy a lot of the books I read after watching the trailer for their movie adaptation and this one was no exception. All throughout the comments on YouTube people complained about how different the movie looked from the book. I thought this was just the usual annoyance that came with movie adaptations barely ever being faithful to their underlying material, but now I can tell you that the two are really nothing alike. I don’t know what the studio was thinking when they produced this film, but it has nothing to do with the story the book tried to tell.

So, basically the movie looks like a typical generic teenage RomCom – nothing wrong with that. Themes like the one from “She’s All That” and “Mean Gilrs” have been copied a million times for a simple reason: they work. I’m not one to judge them for that and quite honestly I would watch it for the simple reason that it has Robbie Amell in it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the book.

Warning: from here on there will be Spoilers for the book (and possibly the movie)!

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger is about Bianca Piper, a cynic girl who deals with her problems by entering into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with the person she hates the most: Wesley Rush. She starts avoiding her friends and bottles up her emotions which inevitably leads to a lot of chaos. Despite what the trailer suggests, the story is a lot deeper and deals with multiple issues that not only teens are confronted with. Here are some of the major differences I’ve spotted:

  • Bianca doesn’t come to Wesley for help. She despises him and solely uses him as a means of escape, well until it turns into something else. It’s different than in the movie though. She doesn’t want to change her appearance, or herself in general, to make anyone like her and he doesn’t fall for her just because she’s slowly changing for the better, but because they have a genuine connection. Bianca knows that for the people who really care about her, she doesn’t have to pretend.
  • I have no idea who Bella Thorne is supposed to be. There is no mean girl in the story. Of course there are the obligatory bitchy cheerleaders, but not a particular mean girl who rules the school. Was that really necessary to add?
  • There is some hope in me that they will deal with the family issues of the characters in the movie, even though it doesn’t look like it from what I could tell from the trailer. But I thought it was important to have Bianca’s father’s alcoholism and her mother being away all the time as well as Wesley’s judgmental grandmother, his sweet little sister and so on in the book. The cast list doesn’t really reassure me though … we’ll see.
  • The movie makes it look like the goal of it all is to make Bianca datable for prom – she doesn’t even go to prom! Neither does she go to the Homecoming or any other school dance, because they just aren’t her thing. There better not be some big showdown at prom …
  • The Nest just doesn’t exist. Seems sad to me, since I really wanted to see Joe.
  • I suppose there will be a lot less sex in the movie. Just an educated guess.
  • I suppose the only thing that will be the same in the movie and the book is moral of the story, which means that Bianca soon discovers that everyone who has friends feels like the Duff at some point.

I hope it came across that I really don’t think the stories have anything in common. I mean not even the set up is the same. Have you read the book? Let’s talk about it!