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Coming soon to a theater near you, just like any other bestselling novel

By Chelsea Miles

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 20 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

"The Hunger Games"

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There is a new trend in Hollywood. Readers have almost an instantaneous assumption that if a book is popular, there will be a movie adaptation. This is seen with many adult fiction novels, and especially with young adult literature, because there does seem to be a correlation between a book's popularity and a film adaptation being made.

This has not just been going on recently, but in years past as well. John Steinbeck's novels "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath" were adapted for the big screen (and the stage) within years of being published.

There is a slight difference, however, between these adaptations and more recent adaptations. Steinbeck's novels are literary classics, and the adaptations were considered to be beneficial to the general public. The timelessness of the stories is what made them popular.

We see almost the complete opposite with adaptations today. If a book is popular with teens, production companies battle over who gets those film rights. It does not matter if the book is good, substantive, timeless material. It just has to be interesting and popular.

I think that is why we haven't seen adaptations of great young adult novels like Lois Lowry's "The Giver" or Laurie Halse Anderson's "Wintergirls." Although these books have material that can make a teen think or provide them with realistic, timeless situations, they haven't been as popular with the teenage audience as books by Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling.

But do we need all of these adaptations? Does putting a novel on the big screen take away the element of imagination that many readers relish? In my view, yes. It is ridiculous that any book that is popular and reaches No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list is automatically becoming a film. Not only does it detract from the reader's imagination, but it has also caused a bit of laziness in the film industry. New, innovative story ideas for films have taken a seat on the bench while adaptations have become the star athletes in the film world.

Not all film adaptations of novels are bad. Peter Jackson created great adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that are much easier and painless to watch than reading J.R.R. Tolkein's excessive descriptions.

But we do need to step back and think about why an adaptation is made and if there is any need for a certain novel to be made into a film? Doing so just gives teenagers — and adult readers — another excuse to say, "I'll just watch the movie," instead of delving into the book themselves.

Chelsea Miles grew up in Holladay, Utah, and is currently studying English Education at Brigham Young UniversityIdaho.

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