*DISCLAIMER – In this article, I will be discussing the books and TV series of Sweetbitter, Sharp Objects, and You. This article contains spoilers from these books/shows as I discuss my thoughts on them. Okay, cool? Now that that’s out of the way, enjoy fellow Pop Culture Nerds.*
These days book adaptations are constantly happening. Whether it be a TV series, a movie, a stage play, books are a constant source for great material. 2018 was once again a year where tons of books got that adaptation treatment of being formed into another source of entertainment for us all.
Usually, I try to read a book before watching whatever form it gets adapted into. For me, I tend to be the regular “TV Nerd”, so TV series are my go-to’s. This year, Sweetbitter (by Stephanie Danler), Sharp Objects (by Gillian Flynn), and You (by Caroline Kepnes) are three books that were/are on my must watch for book adaptations list of TV shows to have/will watch. Sweetbitter and Sharp Objects have concluded their series run, You will be starting its run at the end of this week.
Book Adaptations can be tricky at times to pull off successfully. In 2017, we saw amazing adaptations of great books to be just as great as TV series. Such as the cases with the success of Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale from page to small screen. A lot of books have been adapted to TV series since these two. These two series were not only successful in ratings, but also got the two huge thumbs up from critics and audiences alike. Big Little Lies was so successful that with what started out initially as a limited series turned into another season slated to premiere in 2019. I, for one, am totally for that second season. I know it wasn’t intended to go beyond what was created, but honestly the characters, writing, and performances made it a series that you couldn’t help but want to see more of. So in this case, more is much welcomed!
In May, we saw the TV series premiere of Sweetbitter on Starz. This book by Stephanie Danler, was one I came away from reading pleasantly surprised by. Surprised that I really, really liked it a whole lot. Up to the point of reading this novel I had mostly been reading suspenseful mystery thrillers. Thrillers that had twists and turns behind every page you’d turn. So, I went into reading this book worried that I wasn’t going to find a book with a non-mystery thriller element exciting enough. I was wrong.
I loved it! I probably would never even of had this book on my radar if the TV show never would have come to be. I wish I could say I read to read, but I love book adaptations and I usually end up reading books that get adapted. I love to see the transition of the adaptation and see if it holds up on screen. At the end of everything, I’m still reading something and then watching something, but I read a book in the process and that’s awesome. To let your mind just wonder and imagine these characters of when reading about them in the written form and then to see them on a different platform is really wonderful as someone who is a fan of literally “Pop Culture Everything”.
Okay, back to Sweetbitter. I loved this book! It revolves around Tess, a girl in her twenties. The year is 2006. She decides she needs a restart on her life and goes to New York City. She literally just goes and leaves behind her former life to start anew. It’s literally such an amazing thing to do, really. To start over, not knowing anyone in the place you’re going and just simply start yourself over in a different direction and location. It truly takes a lot for one to do that and I so admire that. Let’s face it, at one point or another we all wish we could just pack up and move, and here Tess had to courage to just do it. The story then goes to her finding employment cause you know New York can be expensive and all. She gets a job at a restaurant. She doesn’t have extensive knowledge in this field, so she starts at the bottom and learns as she goes.
During this time, she and her fellow employees became each other’s family. Along the way, she meets Jake. A bartender who she seriously fall for, but he is someone who can never truly let all of himself go to her because of a somewhat twisted relationship with another employee, Simone. They have a long history, and to sum it up, Tess and Jake can never truly have a future cause of Simone. He just can’t let Simone get out of his head.
Sweetbitter is a book about life, about making mistakes and sometimes not learning from them. It’s a story for those who feel lost in life at times, but keep moving forward even when it’s hard to. It’s a story that I found relatable in those aspects of trying to just be sometimes, in a world where you can feel like you fell out of it along the way.
The book was incredibly good. I found the TV series to be a decent adaptation. The first season consisted of six episodes around thirty minutes each. Initially, I thought that wouldn’t be enough time for the episodes, but as the series went from one episode to the next, I found it to be just exactly the right amount of time to tell the story. The show didn’t feel overdone (cooking term, a-ha!) or stuffed with pointless plot points to fill an hour. With the story revolving around the food business of making meals, this first season felt like an appetizer. An appetizer of introducing us, the viewers, to the story and to these characters in small doses. There was a natural ease and flow of the show, that never felt overly done. It felt just right.
Ella Purnell was simply perfect has wide-eyed Tess trying to navigate her new start over in a city where everything and everyone was new. Purnell had an energy where it felt like this was a character she was meant to play. Rounding out the rest of the cast was veterans of TV and stage including Caitlin Fitzgerald (Masters of Sex, Rectify, UnReal), Tom Sturridge (of Broadway’s Orphans and 1984), and Paul Sparks (The Girlfriend Experience, Waco).
I really liked this adaptation. At the season finale, it felt like we are still just getting to know this world and these characters. I’d left finishing the finale, feeling I wanted to see where the show goes, where the story goes and how these characters might evolve in another season. Luckily for me, a season two renewal was granted to this series! This was a book, where I might not relate to absolutely everything, but at times I found to be where one could relate to this or that. Whether it be not knowing where the future may take you, being hopeful yet afraid to go for what you want or what you really want to do with your life. Life is a constant question as one gets older and I found this story to really truly understand that difficulty that one can only really get as time goes on and on.
“I was never good at the future. I grew up with girls whose chief occupation was the future designing it, instigating it. They could talk about it with so much confidence that it sounded like the past. During those talks, I had contributed nothing” – SWEETBITTER
“My amicable interviewer would ask me about my origins. I would tell him that for so long I thought I would be nothing; that my loneliness had been so total that I was unable to project into the future. And that this changed when I got to the city and my present expanded, and my future skipped out in front of me”- SWEETBITTER
“The streets seemed to be breathing, then they seemed to be disappearing. I could see them being erased. I had that feeling of never having existed at all, which I could only call me sense of morality”- SWEETBITTER
Honestly, I rarely read and see lines that are worth marking down. But these few quotes just really stuck out to to me. As someone who is at a crossroads in my life, knowing what I would like to do which is write, I found myself at a constant question mark of will it actually happen one day as a career. To wonder can be difficult, so in the meantime… Here I write away.
Moving on to a book in the completely opposite genre, Sharp Objects. Sharp Objects is a novel by Gillian Flynn. It’s an extreme dark thriller with a shocking ending that you don’t see coming. This book had everything required in a suspense mystery thriller. It had twists, it had turns, it had moments that made you say out loud, “WHAT! I mean…. WHAT!”.
The story revolves around Camille, a journalist on assignment from her editor to return to her hometown where terrible murders of children have been occurring. Camille has a sordid past with her upbringing. There was the devastating family tragedy of losing her sister, so going back home is not something she would have choose to do unless it was assigned. She never had a desire to go back home, but here she is. Confronted by her past everywhere she goes. Her mother, who she can’t help but want to not deal with and a half-sister she doesn’t even know. Demons from her past that affected her mental and physical state more than anyone could ever know. This thriller truly is the definition of a book being able to shock, surprise, and disturb you in every turning page with an ending that will truly stun.
I finished this book right before this year of 2018 had started. As with most of the books I end up reading, I started this one also because a Limited Series Adaptation on HBO was announced to be happening with the likes of Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Elizabeth Perkins, Henry Czenry (Hello, ABC’s Revenge!), along with the introduction of Eliza Scanlen as Amma. The cast alone was reason enough to gather my interest in wanting to see this adaptation.
You know when you read a book and then watch an adaptation of it on a TV series? Although, you know when you read that book like half a year earlier and remember key moments and forget the little details? That was me and watching the HBO adaptation of Sharp Objects. I was such a fan of this insane, didn’t-see-that-coming-WHAT!, thriller of a book. Although, I felt like I was at a disadvantage by reading the book so much earlier to when the series came out.
I thought the book to small screen transition was very well done. Actually, watching the show I got even more of a darker vibe than when reading the book. I guess it’s one of those things where seeing it vs. reading it makes the story more there in a way. To see the characters speak, to see how they interact with one another, to see the town, to see those visual elements of the story. All these elements just added to that darkness of the story, making it much more visual by seeing it rather than by reading it in on the page. The words on page were there, but there is an extra element when it’s visually able to be seen that adds that extra layer that sometimes only a series can provide.
Sharp Objects the book was what a great mystery thriller read is meant to be. Sharp Objects the series was an excellent, albeit extremely dark and terrifying adaption. Sharp Objects the series was at times, hard to watch because of that extremely dark, scary tone of the story. The story was not an easy one to read or watch at times because of that. But, at the same time it was hard to not continue reading or watching to see where the story was going to go.
When the show came out, you almost couldn’t talk about how exactly the story ends because it looks like you have the answers and the person responsible for the crimes that took place in this small town. Then you have that one-two punch where it looks like Camille’s mother is the one responsible for these horrible crimes and then it turns out to be her half-sister, Amma. I remember reading the ending and just being in complete shock. It was a truly shocking ending, one that I will never forget. That’s how you know what you just read is good. An ending that is so shocking and disturbing with a twist you simply just never saw coming. An ending that is imprinted in your mind, and even after you finish reading/watching it years from now it’s an ending to a story you will remember. The exact style in how the show ended, in my opinion left room for another season. It almost felt like a cliffhanger and I actually didn’t initially realize there where some extra moments after the credits. It just goes to show, you should never fast forward a show. I’ve read that there are no plans for a Season Two, but they did say that about Big Little Lies. So who knows? Come Golden Globe nominations time, I expect this show to get nominations left and right!
Lastly, there is the upcoming series of the adaptation of the book You. You by Caroline Kepnes. It just goes to show you how book adaptations can seriously introduce you to books that would never have been on your radar unless an adaptation was happening. Yet, another book that I would never even have known even existed unless it was being adapted into a TV series. I am a “TV Nerd” before being a bookworm after all. You was an incredible read. Kepnes is an amazing writer. Her writing felt smart, interesting, and new. You was a book, that despite being over 400-something pages long, never once felt dull, boring or uninteresting for even one moment. It was probably the most twisted, disturbing, creepy for days, insane book I have definitely ever read. That being said, it was by far the best thriller I’ve also ever read.
You starts off as your average story of boy meets girl. Boy becomes intrigued by girl. Then it takes a turn for the mega-weird. Boy becomes completely and utterly obsessed with said girl.
You is about a bookstore manager named Joe Goldberg (no relation to The Goldberg’s on ABC, just to be clear). One random day, a young woman by the name of Beck walks into the store. Joe is immediately intrigued by her and they chat about books and authors. He is smitten to say the least. But he keeps it cool. She pays for her purchases and is on her way. She pays in credit with a card. Joe wants to know more about her and searches for her online. He then finds out more about her by hacking her computer. He reads personal emails and everything about her. She’s one of the many out there on social media. In being in this craze that is social media, she is always letting any random anyone out there know what she’s up to at all times. She’s a writer and it turns out she’s going to be having a reading of a short story she wrote somewhere. Since, Joe has hacked her computer he knows about this upcoming reading she will be at. Joe, not letting this go, goes to hear her read. But stays at a distance, not letting her know he’s there. She meets friends at her reading, but ends up leaving alone. Alone and slightly intoxicated after, she goes to the subway to go home. She falls onto the tracks of subway. Joe sees this, but if he helps her, what would she think, why is he there? He puts those thoughts aside and goes to reach for her hand. She recognizes him and he chalks to being at the right place, at the right time. She thinks he’s her knight in shining armor. Little did she know, he knew where she was going to be the whole time.
From there, what goes from innocent wonder about Beck, Joe slowly falls down a rabbit-hole of obsession. You slowly find out this is not the first time something like this has happens with Joe and someone. What transpires during the rest of the story is completely shocking with moments that you just can’t believe are happening.
Joe goes on to do such destructive, horrible acts in the name of keeping Beck “safe”. In his mind, when he’s doing these horrendous crimes it’s to keep Beck away from others who don’t really care about her like he does. His logic on why he’s doing what he does is so incredibly twisted and insane, to say the least. If there is someone close to Beck, a somewhat boyfriend, a person she calls a best friend, Joe feels the need to protect her from these people who don’t appreciate her the way he feels she should be. Joe feels he has no choice but to do these things he does. And on and on he goes, committing unspeakable acts of crime in the name of Beck, someone who doesn’t even know what he has been doing along the way.
You shows how people can hide who they really are, wear that mask of transforming themselves for how they want others to see them. When Beck first meets Joe, he comes across as smart, interesting, different, intellectual, cute. He lets her see that version of him. He seems like any other cute guy with wit and humor, who can hold a conversation. It’s all innocent and flirty. Joe slowly transpires from all fun and casual and innocent, to deranged and insane with a side of stalker with obsession for this girl he just randomly meet one day.
On this upcoming Sunday, the series adaptation of You will be premiering on Lifetime. It’s a series adaptation produced by the great Greg Berlanti of Riverdale, Blindspot, The Flash, Brothers and Sisters, along with countless other amazing TV programs. I have known about this adaptation for a few years now, and after finally reading the book over the summer I am so ready for this show to start. The show doesn’t start until Sunday, but a few trailers for the series are out. Based on these few minute trailers, the show looks absolutely amazing! The trailer, even though only a few minutes, features key moments from the book. Key moments that have gone from that page to small screen transition that has all the feels of the words from the pages of this novel. It has all the feels that that the book provided and has just expanded those feels to screen form seamlessly.
A big part of making a book adaptation work is casting. Casting can be key for such memorably written characters. After reading the book, I can say the casting department picked such perfect actors to portray the characters Caroline Kepnes wrote of in her book. Penn Badgley (Xoxo, Gossip Girl!) has been cast as Joe. I knew of his casting when reading the book and reading how Kepens wrote the character of Joe, it’s almost like she had Badgley in mind. I could picture him saying Joe’s words, and giving Joe’s glances. Based on the trailers for the series, Badgley has become this character of Joe effortlessly. He has the voice, the look, and just that “it” quality to completely play this character perfectly. Rounding out the rest of the cast are Elizabeth Lail (Dead of Summer), Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars), Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker), and John Stamos (Full House, Fuller House, Scream Queens).
I’ve read a lot of great thrillers from The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl. You, though is by far the best thriller I have read in the last few years. It had a gripe on you as a reader where you wanted to see exactly where this story was possibly going to go and going to end. You think the craziness would stop at some point and Joe would realize the error of his ways, but that never once happened. With each page turn, the story continued to go further and further into madness. It was a book that you had to finish, had to see it through. For this story to be adapted into the form of a series has this TV Nerd so excited! I haven’t been this excited about a book adaptation since Big Little Lies. So I’m really excited to say the least, and based on everything I’ve seen and heard about You on Lifetime, I’d say we have a once again have a perfect page to small screen adaptation in the making. Apparently, Lifetime also has that confidence in the series, renewing it for a second season before season one has even premiered. Seeing how there is a sequel for the book You, titled Hidden Bodies, the material is already there for that second season!
The story of You, is also an interesting take also on social media being what it has now become. How oversharing is something that we can sometimes forget we might even be doing. It has became something that is such a normal staple in our society that as a society we forget sometimes that not everything has to be shared.
There’s the awesome side of social media such as where I can have this blog and write away my thoughts on anything I like and enjoy. It’s great being able to start a blog such as this and possibly an awesome magazine might see my work and that might possibly lead to an awesome new career as an entertainment writer (hey, one can dream, right?). Even something like Twitter can be fun, sharing appreciating with others over a favorite TV show. That isn’t the oversharing that I’m referring to, that’s such people bonding over a shared interest and that’s just plain awesome!
That possibility of oversharing that has become second nature to some forgetting that some parts of life don’t need to have that shared element to everything. A special moment of having a party or hanging out with some friends on a random Tuesday, doesn’t really need to be shared to everyone you know in a picture showing that great time you’re having. Why must that be shared with the world? Why, would some want a special moment like that in time, not to be just shared with the people in that moment? That’s the oversharing I’m referring to. In a way, You is that cautionary tale that just because we can share our lives on social media, doesn’t mean we should or need to.
If my articles have proven anything, it’s that I write too much. So thanks for sticking around and reading this gal’s thoughts. I guess that is bound to happen when a Pop Culture Nerd talks about Pop Culture. Anyways “Nerd Stuff” aside, 2018 had adaptations of many books, but these three were perhaps my favorite out of the bunch. From adapting to new life situations while making mistakes along the way (Sweetbitter), to the darkest of thrillers (Sharp Objects), to innocent flirtation gone off the rails to crazytown (You), reading books of any genre proves how powerful and insightful the written word can truly be. Book adaptations of 2018 and of future 2018, shows once again how sometimes the greatest pieces of work can start with just turning a page.