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!

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!

Fall Review: How to Get Away with Murder

The new ABC show How to Get Away with Murder will certainly be a show that polarizes. I will have a spoiler-free section and than a little more detailed summary of my thoughts including Spoilers!

Like all Shonda Rhimes shows, How to Get Away with Murder involves a lot of drama, sex and murder. This time it is about a group of law students who want to impress their very demanding criminal defense professor (Viola Davis) and do not shy away from going the extra mile for her. It’s definitely not a fact-based court drama like Law & Order, but much more in the realm of Scandal (big surprise there, considering that they were both created by Shonda). I think the actors are great (ranging from Alfred Enoch, Jack Falahee, Charlie Weber, Billy Brown, Liza Weil and Karla Souza to Aja Naomi King, Katie Findlay and Tom Verica), the show is fast paced and has some great music. I am usually not a huge fan of time jumps and flashbacks, but it really worked for me this time, because it added to the suspense so much. One problem I have with the show is that there is barely anyone likable. While most characters have their secrets and are interesting in one way or another, you don’t feel yourself sympathizing with any of them. To conclude my spoiler-free section I’d say that it’s definitely and interesting show that will make you question your morals and standards. I could see that not everyone will like it, but I will continue watching it!

Now here are some more specific thoughts of mine, which are basically for people who’ve already seen the pilot episode. Spoilers ahead!

  • I love the build-up of the mystery and suspense in the show! I kept wondering the entire time who the person was that the students killed, because I just couldn’t imagine that they killed Annalise Keating. It was a real shocker to me that they seem to have murdered her husband, which directly leads me to my next point.
  • Do you guys think that Sam Keating had something to do with the murder of that missing girl? Obviously, there is something going on with Wes’ neighbor Rebecca and the missing girl’s boyfriend, but I have a feeling that Sam was also involved.
  • I really like all the different characters, but especially Wes. He seems so naive and like he’s too nice for everything he got dragged into. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find the other students intriguing, because I do, but I feel like we could connect with him the most during the first episode.
  • There are some logic issues to the show, but I can usually overlook them in favour of being entertained. But why would first-year law students get a job offer at a prestigious law firm and not students who are about to graduate or who’ve already passed the bar? That’s just one of the things I was wondering about …

I’m interested to see how everything continues. All in all I thought it was a gripping start of the season, but we’ll need a lot of character development, while still keeping up the constant suspense to keep viewers glued to the screen for the long-term. What was your opinion of the pilot episode?

Glue: A Fall Review

The USA is not the only country with new shows this Fall Season (obviously!), but I wanted to stay in the realm of English speaking television, so I checked out E4‘s new original British teen drama Glue! (FYI: I tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible!)

From the trailer I guessed that Glue would be an intense, possibly dark and definitely strange show – I can now say that I was right! I heard some people call it a mix between Skins and a teen Broadchurch, which I also find quite accurate for what I watched during yesterday’s pilot episode, but I still cannot entirely make up my mind about what to think.

The show starts off by showing us a group of friends and all the fun they are having, but soon turns into something darker when the body of one of their own is found dead under a tractor. So, they try to solve the murder of one of their best friends, which makes it sound like a crime show, although it’s not. The focus isn’t on the investigation, but rather on the relationships between all the involved people. There are some gorgeous shots of the countryside, paired with great young (and to me, mostly unknown) actors and actresses such as: Jordan Stephens (who is part of one of my favourite bands – Rizzle Kicks), Callum Turner, Yasmin Paige, Billy Howle, Charlotte Spencer, Faye Marsay, Jessie Cave, Tommy Knight, Tommy McDonnell and many more.

Let’s just begin by saying that the show features a lot of nudity, sex, drugs and death in the first episode, so this definitely isn’t for everyone. Yet, all of this should in no way mean that that’s a bad thing, because it’s not. It is shocking, but in a good way. I don’t have any clue as to who could be the murderer – which is always good – and I feel intrigued by it. The characters all have their secrets and it is generally very tempting to see where all of this will go, but it seems like a very heavy show. I personally prefer shows that have a dark theme, but brighten up every so often, which it just didn’t feel like in this one. I could see opinions really differ on this show, which finally brings me to the point where I would say, it is definitely worth checking out, but I doubt that it will be a mainstream success.

Have you watched it? I am happy to discuss in the comments!