My book club pick for August 2018 was Wendelin Van Draanen’s 2001 novel Flipped. As it was the long weekend I had the chance to sit down and rewatch the film version. I had seen the film back in 2011, so it was interesting to revisit it after reading the book.

The film adaption of Flipped was released in 2010. It was directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, When Harry Meet Sally, A Few Good MenMisery). Reiner also co-wrote the script with Andrew Scheinman.

The film opens in the summer of 1957 when seven-year-old Bryce Loski (Ryan Ketzner) and his family moving in across the street from Juli Baker (Morgan Lily, also young Raven in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past).

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Young Bryce (Ryan Ketzner) and Young Juli (Morgan Lily)

Juli knows that Bryce will be her first kiss, but Bryce isn’t so sure and does his best to avoid Juli.

Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe play Juli and Bryce as the film moves to 1961 and follows them through their sixth to eighth grades.

Juli and Bryce views of each other begin to change. Bryce begins to look at Juli in a different way and realises she is not what he initially thought. Unfortunately for Bryce Juli’s view is also changing – she is beginning to realise that Bryce is not the boy she thought he was.

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Juli (Madeline Caroll)

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Bryce (Callan McAuliffe)

As I mentioned Reiner changed Van Draanen’s contemporary setting to the early 1960s, a few years later than his earlier adolescent themed work Stand by Me, which was set in 1959. It possible that Reiner chose to change the time period as that was when he grew up. The nostalgic feel of small town America in the 1960s suits the story.

One of the key features of the novel is its he-said-she-said narrative with Bryce and Julie alternating chapters each giving their perspective. I pointed out in my review of the book that this can be risky for an author to do because it can slow down the pace of the novel with characters retelling the same points of plot. Van Draanen did a good job at offering two different perspectives in an entertaining and often amusing way.

Reiner kept with dual perspective with Carroll and McAuliffe each providing voice over for their characters perspectives. This received some criticism from critics that argued the scenes weren’t different enough to justify showing the same scenes from opposing points of view. I would have to agree with this assessment.

The adult cast was made up of a group of experienced actors. Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn as Juli’s parents, Rebecca De Mornay and Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s parents. The late John Mahoney portrayed Bryce’s grandfather and Kevin Weisman plays Juli’s intellectually disabled uncle.

Flipped doesn’t have the same magic as Reiner’s classic film Stand by Me, but it is still a sweet movie and is faithful to the spirit of the book.

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This post continues on from my series to review the film adaptations of some of my past club picks.

My June 2018 book club pick was Gayle Forman‘s 2009 novel If I StayA film version directed by R.J. Cutler was released in 2014.

Chloë Grace Moretz portrays Mia Hall, a gifted seventeen-year-old cellist with ambitions to study at Julliard School of Music in New York City.

She lives in Oregon with hip parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard), and little brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). She is also in a relationship with Adam (Jamie Blackley), who is older and in a local indie band.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Adam (Jamie Blackley) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Teddy (Jakob Davies) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

One snowy day while on the road to visit family friends a truck hits the car she and her family are travelling in. Mia wakes up on the side of the road and sees her unconscious body.

 

The film follows Mia as she wonders the halls of the hospital watching her family and friends interactions with each other, as she is trapped somewhere between life and death.

Chloë Grace Moretz delivers a capable performance as expected, but it is not her best work. A large part of the subplot is the relationship between Mia and Adam, unfortunately there is spark lacking between the two.

It is Stacy Keach who provides the strongest performance as Mia’s grandfather, especially with one particularly tearful monologue.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), Gramps (Stacy Keach), Teddy (Jakob Davies)

As I pointed out in my review of the book the narrative is quite predictable. Viewers that haven’t read the book should be able to pick the direction the film is going on.

 

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As it is a long pubic holiday weekend I thought that I would take the opportunity to review a few film adaptations of past book club picks.

First up is J.K. Rowling‘s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), which was my book club pick for November 2016.

I first saw Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them while on holiday in Kolkata, India. An interesting viewing experience. The film was in English with English subtitles and there was an intermission where staff brought around food that had been preordered.

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Rowling wrote the book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, as a supplement to the Harry Potter series. Profits from both books benefited the charity Comic Relief.

The book was designed to be a reproduction of the textbook written by magizoologist Newt Scamander owned Harry Potter, and first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The film written by J.K. Rowling, and released in 2016, features Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, who in 1926 arrives in New York City from England en route to Arizona with a suitcase full of magical creatures.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

Within hours of arriving Newt accidentally switches suitcases with Jacob Kowalsi (Dan Fogler), a No-Maj (the American term for a Muggle). Inevitably several of the magical creatures escape and begin to cause havoc on New York City.

Stuart Craig, production designer on all eight Harry Potter films, creates a dark and gothic 1920s Manhattan. The set design is one of my favourite elements in the film.

Newt also attracts the attention of Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a disgraced demoted Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), who sees him as a threat to magical society.

We are also introduced to Tina’s sister and roommate Queenie (Alison Sudol), who is a Legilimens, which is a magical person with the ability to read feelings and memories from another person’s mind.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob (Dan Fogler)

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Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

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Queenie (Alison Sudol)

While Newt is searching for his magical creatures the wizards of MACUSA have their owns concerns about the infamous dark wizard, Grindelwald – one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, second only to Voldermort.

Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) accuses Newt of conspiring with Grindelwald.

There is also the threat of exposure from Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), who believes there are witches and wizards in New York City. Graves is working in secret with Mary Lou’s eldest abused adoptive son Credence (Ezra Miller) to find an Obscurus, a parasite that develops inside children if they suppress their magical abilities.

The real stars of the film are the magical creatures. I can’t decide if my favourite is the mischievous Niffler, or the tree-stem sized lock-picking Bowtruckle named Pickett.

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Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) and Credence (Ezra Miller)

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Credence (Ezra Miller) and Graves (Colin Farrell)

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Niffler

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Pickett

The film is directed by David Yates, who directed the final four films in the Harry Potter series. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also stars Johnny Depp, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Pearlman, and John Voight.

A sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released in November 2018. Another three films are expected in the Fantastic Beasts series with the third film scheduled for release in November 2020.

 

Book Club Pick: January 2019

CruelSummer

Title: Cruel Summer

Author: Juno Dawson (originally published under James Dawson)

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Indigo

First Published: 2013

Pages: 324

Publisher Description:

Ryan is looking forward to spending the summer with his old school friends at Katie’s luxurious Spanish villa. He hadn’t seen the gang since their friend, Janey, committed suicide a year ago.
He hopes this summer they’ll be able to put the past behind them and move on – until someone else arrives, claiming to have proof that Janey’s suicide was murder!

Ryan was hoping for sun, sea and sand.
Suddenly, he’s facing a long, hot summer of death, drama and deceit…

Review:

Cruel Summer is largely told from the point-of-view of gay aspiring actor Ryan Hayward, who with a flair for gossip and drama narrates the story as if it is an imaginary television show about his life. This allows for the novel to have flashbacks and quickly change viewpoints amongst the young cast of characters. The chapters are titled scene or flashback.

Ryan labels his friends as if they are characters in a teen television drama – The Good Girl (Katie), The Bad Girl (Alisha), The Jock (Alisha’s twin brother Greg), The Geek (Katie’s ex-boyfriend Ben), and The New Girl (Greg’s girlfriend Erin).

The group of former high school friends are meeting up again for the summer in Spain at Katie’s family’s remote, luxurious Mediterranean villa after their first year at university.

The main mystery of the novel is when Roxanne Dent – the ‘high-school Lolita, boyfriend stealer and best friend turned arch-nemesis of Alisha’ turns up unexpectedly and announces that she has proof that Janey Bradshaw’s suicide the year before was murder – one of them is a murderer.

There are plenty of twists in turns in this tongue-a-cheek teenage soap opera style whodunnit.

 

Links:

Juno Dawson Official Website

Juno Dawson on Twitter

Juno Dawson on Facebook

Juno Dawson on Instagram

Juno Dawson on Tumblr


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: December 2018

BornScared

Title: Born Scared

Author: Kevin Brooks

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Electric Monkey

First Published: 2016

Pages: 244

Publisher Description:

Elliot is terrified of almost everything.
The only thing that keeps his fears in check are the pills that he takes every day, and his mother, the one person he loves and trusts.

A mistake means that Elliot’s medication is almost gone. His mother nips out to collect his prescription. It’s just 482 metres down the road – but she doesn’t back back. Does Elliot stay and wait, or does he try to find her? It’s only 482 metres. It might as well be 482 miles…

Review:

When one thinks of a Christmas story they probably think of a cosy, warm hearted story filled with Christmas cheer. This year I choose read something a bit different – a psychological teen thriller that takes place on Christmas Eve.

Thirteen-year-old Elliot suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. He is terrified over almost everything. Elliot claims to remember his birth and his twin sister Ellamay, who died at birth. He has internal conversations with Ellamay.

It is Christmas Eve, there has been a snowstorm, and there has been a mix-up with Elliot’s medication. Elliot’s mother sets out leaving him home alone after Elliot’s aunt, who agreed to collect the medication from the pharmacy is late and unreachable by phone.

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We also see two robbers dressed in Santa suits and the office Christmas party, which sees a bank manager on a drug-fuelled bender that involves a police chase.

All these elements connect together for a gripping, tense, intelligent exploration of mental illness with an explosive ending.

If you are looking for a more upbeat holiday fare please check out my past Christmas themed book reviews – What Light by Jay Asher and Let it Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: November 2018

HateUGive

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United the States of America

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

First Published: 2017

Pages: 464

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is caught between two words – Garden Heights, her predominantly black impoverished neighbourhood, and Williamson Prep, her affluent, majority-white private school.

She has a white boyfriend Chris from her school that she is keeping a secret from her father. But this secret romance is only a minor subplot in the story.

The focus is the events in Starr’s life after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her unarmed childhood friend Khalil, following a routine traffic stop.

Thomas splits her 464 page novel into five parts: Part 1: When It Happens, Parts 2: Five Weeks After It, Part 3: Eight Weeks After It, Part 4: Ten Weeks After It, and Part 5: The Decision – Thirteen Weeks After It.

This is a powerful piece for a debut novelist. Thomas began the project as a short story for her senior project at Belhaven University. Her project was in response to the 2009 police shooting of Oscar Grant.

The novel features strong language and drug references, which I believe is appropriate for the nature of the story, but as a result the novel is controversial and appears on challenged / banned book lists.

A feature film adaptation directed by George Tillman Jr. was released in the US last month. It stars Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, and Anthony Mackie.

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Book Club Pick: October 2018

Tweak

Book Details:

Title: Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines

Author: Nic Sheff

Series: Stand alone memoir

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2007

Pages: 322

Publisher Description:

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.

Review:

Tweak is a memoir of the author’s recollections of his journey with drug abuse, treatment, relapse, and recovery.

The memoir is written in a conversational style as if Sheff is speaking directly to the reader. This gives the writing a very raw feel. Each chapter is labelled with the day e.g. Day 1, like we are reading his diary. He also peppers the book with flashbacks to his childhood.

Sheff does not glamourise his drug addiction nor does he sugarcoat it. It is gritty and graphic in its detail and language. It is marketed and published as a young adult book. I would recommend it for older high school students.

Nic’s father David Sheff has also written a memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. 

It is these two memoirs that the upcoming film Beautiful Boy featuring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet is based on.

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Links:

Nic Sheff on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.