by Tara Alvey
The Help poster courtesy of magnoliaforeverr.wordpress.com
Summer is right around the corner. For many people this means days spent lying in the sun with a good book, then sneaking off at night to see the movie rendition.
This past year, quite a few popular books became box-office hits. The “Twilight” series released another movie, much to the delight of screaming teenage girls. “The Help” moved audiences to tears and encouraged them to think and question the world around them. And “The Hunger Games” debuted its first movie to fans sitting on the edge of their seats the world over.
So, in case you’ve missed the boat when it comes to one or more of these books and movies, below are some fellow fan’s opinions about all three books, all three movies, and how they compare to each other.
Now, be warned, this article is not about straight facts and hard news. It’s strictly opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. But please read on, because it might just help you decide what to spend your summer reading and watching.
Stephanie Meyer’s first novel, “Twilight,” debuted in 2005 and was on The New York Times Bestseller List within a month of its release. The rest of the “Twilight” books, “New Moon,” “Eclipse,” and “Breaking Dawn” were all released to equally favorable reviews. And how could they not be? A book about forbidden teenage love (with a vampire, no less) that stands the test of time is the kind of book that all girls dream about.
“The plot is exciting and creative, and I’m a sucker for chick-flick books,” Crystal Leung said, when asked about the “Twilight” series. Leung is a 23-year-old food and nutrition major who attended USU last semester as a transfer student.
“I read them in ninth grade to impress all the girls and to show them that I was comfortable enough with my sexuality to read the books,” 18-year-old JB Engler said. “I did kind of enjoy them at the time, except for the second book. I was sick of her being all, ‘Jacob! No, Edward! No, Jacob! No, Edward!’”
Indeed, the on-and-off again feeling that Engler describes might be a good way to describe how people feel about the “Twilight” books as a whole. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. At first you like them, and then you don’t.
“I will never, ever, re-read ‘Twilight,’ but ‘The Hunger Games’ I’ve read like three times,” Kalli Wyatt said, a public relations student at Brigham Young University.
In many ways, “The Hunger Games” trilogy is a lot like the “Twilight” series. Both have has a love triangle that is seemingly impossible. Of course, there’s one small difference: “The Hunger Games” is basically about teenagers fighting to the death.
OK, maybe the difference isn’t such a small one.
“I thought it was ‘Rambo’ meets ‘Project Runway,’” USU English instructor Russ Beck said.
Despite many people’s skepticism about a book where teenagers try to kill each other, most people who have actually read “The Hunger Games” seem to love it.
“I think what makes stories like these so attractive is that we are challenged to imagine how we as readers would measure up against the main characters. Would we have the strength and courage to join the resistance, or would we just sit back and accept the status quo?” Christine Cooper-Rompato, a USU English professor, said. “’The Hunger Games trilogy’ lets us explore what happens when our present-day passions (like reality TV) are taken to extreme ends.”
“I read the first one in four hours at 3 a.m. I could not put it down! I loved the action and the suspense and it made my fingers fly,” Engler said. “When I heard the movie was coming out, I had a minor freak-out.”
“I was super excited when I found out there would be a movie, but I was nervous that they wouldn’t do the book justice. It’s a really hard book to turn into a movie,” USU freshman Katelyn Murdock said. “It’s pretty gruesome and the majority of the book Katniss is talking to herself in her mind.”
Cooper-Rompato said that while she believed Katniss was “softer” and “sweeter” in the film than in the book, she recognized that the film’s challenge of translating first-person narrative, the voice of the book.
“That’s unfortunate, because I think her prickliness and emotional discomfort made her particularly appealing,” Cooper-Rompato said.
The portrayal of Katniss, the book’s heroine, not being completely herself was the only complaint many people had about the movie. Overall, the movie was met with favorable reactions from fans interviewed.
“I think they did an awesome job on the movie, I loved it!” Murdock said.
However, out of the people interviewed that read the “Twilight” series, “The Hunger Games” trilogy, and “The Help,” the last seemed to take the cake.
“The books are all very different genres,” Alicia Tebbs, an avid reader and mom from Bountiful, Utah, said. “But ‘The Help’ would be number one for me because I laughed and cried. Any book that gets both extreme emotions from me has accomplished a lot.”
“I am a die-hard “Twilight” fan, but definitely “The Help” has to be the best of them all,” 20-year-old Kellie Ann Carlson said.
“The book helps us see our culture, our history, and makes us take a good hard look at ourselves,” Liz Marshall, another reader from Bountiful, said. “Sometimes seeing something for what it is, that’s 95 percent of the battle.”
“I think the narrative helps remind us that well-meaning laws do not necessarily change bad behavior; people have to change bad behavior,” Virginia Exton, a USU English assistant professor, said.
“I thought it was poignant that a friendship developed between a white woman who was not accepted by the privileged white women and a black woman who also suffered discrimination,” USU English associate professor Glenda Cole said.
“The power of the human spirit and doing what we can regardless of our circumstances was brilliantly displayed,” Marshall said.
After these fan reviews of the hottest books, and subsequent movies of the year, one lesson can be learned. All of the books and movies have redeeming qualities; you just have to decide what you’re in the mood for.
If you want a fantastical, eternal love with a bit of suspense, the “Twilight” books are the ones for you. If you want to read about a dystopian world filled with cutthroat games and a little bit of redeeming love, choose “The Hunger Games” trilogy. If you’re in the mood for something a bit heavier — something that might make you laugh, cry, and question the world around you — go with “The Help.”
Whatever you do, choose something, and choose it fast. Summer is right around the corner and you’re going to want to have a good book in hand.