The first thing you need to know about book adaptations — be it to film or television or online platform — is that the author has no control. Zero. None. Once you sign away the rights to your work, the studio that bought those rights can do whatever they want with it. That is, unless the studio gives the author some control in the process.
There are examples of authors being closely involved on projects, including Suzanne Collins, who was an executive producer on The Hunger Games film franchise. Typically those are the adaptations that feel the most authentic because the creator has a lot of input and the studio listens to them. The fans, after all, are your core target. The author, after all, has provided you with the source material needed to cater to those fans and bring in revenue.
But then you have examples of authors being excluded from adaptations, including Cassandra Clare on two occasions: the film adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and the TV adaptation, Shadowhunters, which was recently cancelled due to poor ratings and lack of financial backing. All of that comes back to shunning the original book fans, who should’ve been your target audience. Typically, those are the adaptations that feel inauthentic and completely unlike the story that readers fell in love with. Basically, Constantin Film messed up not once but twice. All they had to do was involve Clare and use the books at their disposal. Sounds easy enough, but studios seem to struggle with that.
Again, it bears repeating that when it comes to faithfully adapting a book to a different medium, it’s about maintaining the essence of the source material. If the book’s heart is the characters, make it about the characters and not the possibility of multiple action sequences. Of course fans would like to see scenes from the book on display, as well as the general plot, but that goes without saying. That is the story that these studios are buying. But fans don’t need every single scene, word-for-word to feel satisfied. Just do justice to the story and what makes that heart beat, and you’ll be fine.
So when it was announced that The Darkest Minds had been optioned, I felt a wave of excitement immediately followed by the dawning reality of: Oh no, they might just eff this up. And in a world of YA adaptations, the odds of messing it up are on the high side.
So naturally I had to ask Bracken her thoughts on The Darkest Minds film. Because if she genuinely loved it, I know that I will love it. The verdict…
“Oh, they nailed it,” Bracken said.
Nailed it. Not just “it was good” or “it was great” but “They nailed it.” I’ll take that as an encouraging sign.
Now, naturally there are going to be things that any book fan or Bracken herself might not be a big fan of in the movie. That’s just human nature. For example, Bracken pinpointed two changes that she wasn’t a big fan of, during her BookCon panel last month. They’d elected to make the kids’ eyes glow the color of their power when they used their ability. And they’d also changed Chubs from a Blue to a Green. They were minor things, in the grand scheme of things, that Bracken admitted that she got over. But when we love a story so much, it’s only natural to compare the two mediums.
“There are two completely different mediums,” Bracken told us. “So something that works well in the book doesn’t necessarily work well on screen and vice versa.”
Bracken recalled her reaction watching The Darkest Minds movie saying she was nervous about watching the film and not being able to control her facial responses.
“It was so funny,” Bracken said. “I was so nervous to see the movie because I was like, I hope I can sit in the theater alone because — I’m not an actor — I cannot control my facial responses, and it’s like once I finish a book I never go back and reread it. So I was like, is this, is this like the author equivalent of an actor seeing themselves on screen and being like argh, I wish I could have changed something.”
But The Darkest Minds film certainly got the author’s stamp of approval, which gives me hope for this adaptation. Because if the author loved it, fans certainly should.
“It catches you right from the start, and I just like relaxed into the movie and just had the best time,” Bracken told us. “It’s such a good popcorn movie, and it has such a strong beating heart and so much emotion. I was trying to describe it to someone. I was like, ‘Well there’s romance, there’s action, there’s drama. Like there’s some actually scary, intense parts that I was caught off guard where I was like, Oh my God, I have the darkest mind. It’s me.’ So I loved it.”