How to Make a Good Adaptation

If there’s one thing I’m passionate about aside from books, it’s movies. I work at a cinema part time, watch at least three films a week, and have probably consumed more popcorn in my lifetime than would be considered healthy. But as a bookworm who loves watching movies, there’s nothing better than seeing your favourite novel turned into a film or a show.

Although having your favourite books transformed into a thing you can watch, and not just read, is also a little terrifying. Film writers and directors have the ability to change so much of what you love about a book, cast people you can’t imagine as the characters, or even threaten to erase the whole sentiment of the book in something they think is more “sellable”.

So what exactly makes a good adaptation? Find out my top points on how to make an excellent adaptation, as well as reviews for three of my most recent viewings!

Stay faithful to the book.

What we as bookworms usually hate most about the announcement of adaptations is the fear that the script writers won’t stay true to the source work. Of course, there have to be some changes, because books undoubtably have a lot more content than can be smooshed into a 1.5 hour film, but it’s my worst nightmare that filmmakers adapt the source work so drastically that it’s incomparable to the original. Although I don’t know about you, but the film of The Fault in Our Stars would have been infinitely better with dragons. I’m just stating a fact.

Have actors who are representative of the characters.

One of the things I hate most about Hollywood is their constant white-washing of content. White actors are so often given the roles that should have been played by people of colour, and I can’t even begin to describe how despicable that is. Just recently, it came to light that many Hollywood companies would have white-washed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and cast Lara Jean as a white actress. We don’t have enough representation of people of colour in the media as it is, and to change someone who’s a person of colour in the source work to a white person is honestly disgusting. Hollywood can fight me.

Make use of a great soundtrack.

If there’s one thing I wish books had, it’s a killer soundtrack. I know it would be a little hard to implement an audio feature into the paper, but come on, science is a thing. This is obviously a priority and would be an epic invention which is sure to bring the world back from the brink of war. I mean, who doesn’t love a good bop? But one of my favourite thing about seeing books adapted into film or TV is experiencing the story I know and love, but with music. Music has so much power over a scene, and epic soundtracks make the visual medium so much better. I really think Love, Simon killed it with that.

Use the same style as the source work where possible.

Obviously it’s not always possible, but I always think a movie or show is improved so much when they take the main stylistic element of a book and translate it to screen. Take the emails in Love, Simon for example. I really liked how they displayed that in the film. And the video game and comic book elements from the adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Scott Pilgrim definitely takes the cake for this one. I think I’ve seen it approximately 27 times and I’m always in awe of the effects in that movie. Low-key would kill to be one of Ramona’s Evil Exes.


Three adaptations I’ve seen recently…



To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I honestly can’t even think about this film without swooning. I’ve watched it five times now, and each time I love it even more. The casting was perfect, the humour was on point, and basically, I need the second two films right now. What surprised me most about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is how much I loved Peter Kavinsky. I mean, yes, he’s one of the most attractive men on this planet, but I’m not ashamed to admit I was definitely more of a Josh fan in the books. But wow, did seeing this film change things for me.

Let’s talk about Lara Jean’s family for a second. Gosh, they were perfect. Kitty was hilarious, Margo was the incredible older sister we all wish we had, and Lara Jean’s relationship with her father was honesty so adorable. I’m so thankful this film wasn’t just all about the romance, because it was the family aspects that I loved most about the book. But the film did such an excellent job of portraying how important family is, and even though I’ve never had siblings, the way they interacted just felt so genuine and heart-warming.

And then there were the letters. Wow, I can’t even begin to explain how many times I swooned whenever Lara Jean talked about her past crushes. And that scene in the diner with Peter! I am all the heart-eyes. The flashbacks to Lucas from homecoming, the end credit scene with John Ambrose, the hot tub scene… all of it couldn’t have been more perfect. I have so much love and respect for this film, and I just need the other two in my life. Immediately. Plus the whole ‘you still think you haven’t gotten a love letter?’ thing?! ADORABLE. My heart is now a pile of goo. If you haven’t seen To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before yet, you need to get onto Netflix and watch it ASAP!



(5 / 5)


The Darkest Minds

I must admit, I didn’t have super high expectations before going into this film and I hadn’t heard the best things about it, but I still wanted to enjoy it. I love Amandla Stenberg with all of my heart — what an icon — and I can’t wait to see them in The Hate U Give, but unfortunately they weren’t enough to save the trash that this film was. I didn’t hate it and it’s quite a fun film if you’re going into it knowing it’s not going to be the best and just watching it for a laugh, but I just wish Alexandra Bracken’s series could have gotten justice. I loved her books, but I just think that a visual adaptation would never have lived up to the complexity and the believable special effects that it required.

One of the things I hated most about the film was the relationship between Ruby and Liam. I mean, it was pretty much non-existent for the majority of the film, and suddenly we’re just expected to believe that they have such intense feelings for one another that they’re literally willing to risk death to save their ‘soulmate’. Not to mention how awkward some of their scenes together were, primarily the scene where they danced together and were talking about who they’d be in Harry Potter. I literally wanted to throw my popcorn at the screen. At least the friendship between Ruby and Chubs and Zu felt more genuine. I just really didn’t like the way they portrayed the romance in this adaptation. Book Ruby and Book Liam deserved better.

There were so many other things I didn’t like about this film, like Clancy’s face (okay side note, but does he not look like Martin from Love, Simon?!), the way the children’s eyes glowed with the colour they’d been assigned when it was just a way of classifying them and actually had nothing to do with their powers, the random scene with the League at the end where they put paint of their foreheads like that hadn’t been a way they used to be classified and killed… I could go on. But I guess if I had to sift through all the bad to find things I did like about the film, I’d have to pinpoint the friendship between the Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu as the best thing about it. The Darkest Minds: 90% trash, 10% okay friendship moments. Don’t rush out to see this one, folks.



(2 / 5)


Crazy Rich Asians

I really wanted to read the book before seeing the film for this one, but unfortunately I just didn’t get around to it in time! But I’d been so excited to watch it ever since the film was announced and I’d heard such incredible things about the series, so I knew it was definitely one I had to see on opening night. And wow, it definitely exceeded my expectations! Not only was it amazing to see people of colour slay our screens, but the set design was incredible, the fashion choices were mind blowing, and the soundtrack was a killer! Everything about this movie was perfect and I honestly just want to move to Singapore now and live my best life.

My favourite thing about this film was undoubtedly all the characters. As I hadn’t read the book, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to, but I just fell in love with literally every single one of them. Stereotypical bi, am I right?! They were just all so perfect and well-dressed and all of them were equal parts sass and smarts and, ugh, can I just be friends with all of them already and go to lavish parties and spill the tea on all the family members I secretly hate? My goal in life is to be the grandmother and criticise other people’s dumpling-making abilities. What a queen.

I also absolutely adored how big of a role family played in this film — I’d say it was even more important than the romance. Crazy Rich Asians is a movie about the expectations family has for you, what makes a family, and the lengths you’re willing to go to in order to be true to yourself while also wanting to make your family proud. It was just such a heart-warming narrative and while Rachel’s mother didn’t play a massive role in the film, I loved her involvement towards the end and definitely felt it added so much depth to her character and also to Rachel herself. Crazy Rich Asians is a hilarious, heart-felt film, and it’s definitely not one to be missed.



(5 / 5)

Books I Wish Were Movies / TV Shows Already…


What books would you like to see adapted for screen? Which upcoming films are you looking forward to seeing? Have you seen To All the Boys I’ve Loved BeforeThe Darkest Minds or Crazy Rich Asians? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Movie graphics designed by Freepik.


10 thoughts on “How to Make a Good Adaptation

  1. Such a good list – definitely agree with everything you said! Also, I am also obsessed with To All the Boys – I’ve watched it twice and I think I’m ready for a third time haha!

  2. Such a good list. I’ve watched TATBILB twice now and it gets better each time! It’s all about the actor for sure, great representation is a must!

  3. Oh, boy that would’ve been awful if To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was white-washed. 😶🙈 I’m not surprised they wanted to, though. I can’t picture anyone else than adorable Lana Condor as Lara Jean now. 💗 I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who already watched TATBILB at least five times. 😂 (Still counting!) I laughed so hard when Lara Jean chased after Kitty with her unicorn. That’s a good summary of what is like to have siblings! And that pocket-spin. Iconic! 😍

    I want to see Love, Simon. I’m not head over heels in love with the book, but I think I’ll love the movie better. Also, Crazy Rich Asians! And, I’d be totally in if they turned The Amateurs by Sara Shepard into a series.

    I read a few light-years ago a book that had a ”soundtrack”, of course, not embedded in the paper but it was so cool!

  4. This was such a great article, Sarah! This is an extremely relevant right topic right now, especially since the release of TATBILB and Crazy Rich Asians. I’ve seen the first, but I’m still waiting on seeing the later.

  5. :O Sarah, I have the Love, Simon soundtrack on repeat for months now! There have been amazing film adaptations this year as you have mentioned. I appreciate the diversity in representation as well 🙂 I can’t wait to watch Crazy Rich Asians ^_^ Usually I like to read the book before watching the film as I think it makes seeing the characters and scenes/stories come alive that extra special. What do people think?

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