There are many things to emphasize in storytelling. Some writers are great at creating unique, fleshed out characters, while their tone may seem uneven. Other writers start with an amazing premise, though their plots may wander.
Then there’s Laini Taylor and Patrick Ness, who wrote Strange the Dreamer and The Knife of Never Letting Go, respectively. Whatever other areas may be overlooked in their work, their writing takes center stage.
Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer is gorgeous. It’s almost like poetry with its descriptions and metaphors. It’s highly polished and absolutely beautiful, even when describing ugly things.
Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, however, is anything but gorgeous. If Dreamer is polished, Knife is stripped down, raw. It’s the blood and meat of human emotions and perceptions.
But both books are excellent at what they do, and both styles fit their stories so well. Dreamer‘s polished language and Knife‘s raw writing show just what a range writers have to play with their language, and both are examples of how an emphasis on writing can involve the reader in a unique way.
No spoilers ahead.
For my intro to literature class, I had to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (such a fun book, by the way). Because my teacher is awesome, I could watch Disney’s gorgeous Treasure Planet and write a reflection for extra credit. Through that, I realized how well Treasure Planet adapts (and updates) Treasure Island.
On the surface, they seem almost completely different. Names are changed, personalities are adjusted, and the settings are drastically different.
But upon closer examination, the heart of each story is the same even though the details differ. And in my mind, the heart is the most important part of an adaptation.
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, is a super fun YA fantasy heist book. It’s about six teenagers and their attempt to infiltrate the most secure prison in the known world: the Ice Court. If they succeed, they’ll be rich for life. If they fail, they die.
Let’s be clear here: I loved this book. There’s lots of great things about it, including the surprisingly fresh characters and the multiple cultures and settings. However, it definitely falls short in some areas, including handling multiple points of view.
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys, is a phenomenal YA historical fiction book. It follows four young adults from different countries during World War II as their paths converge to the fated MV Wilhelm Gustloff.
In 1945 the German military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff sank in the Baltic Sea (the sea between Sweden and Latvia/Lithuania/Poland/etc.) while carrying around 10,600 passengers and crew. The majority of these were civilian refugees fleeing the approaching Red Army. Up to 9,400 people died, making it the largest loss of life of a single sunk ship, even greater than the Titanic, which is far better known (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Salt to the Sea‘s four main characters end up on this doomed boat as they flee from their past. (Spoilers ahead)
“Do you have any books by Jane Eyre?” Many potential customers ask this at bookstores. They mean Jane Austen, but instead of referring to the early 1800’s author they say the name of the mid 1800’s heroine. Apparently, those two are easy to mix up.
Or, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice versus Captain America: Civil War, and what we writers can learn from the flop of one and success of the other (any guesses which is which?).