Book or Movie Review Eastern Region Society Wide

English Major Gone Wild: An Experiment into a World Past the Classics

Kaila Cummingsby Kaila Cummings
Eastern Associate Student Representative, 2013-2014
Westfield State University, Westfield, MA

$9.99 at Walmart. “You know what? Why not?” Granted, I didn’t want anyone I knew to see me, but I decided to buy The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. What sparked my interest was a class I’m taking this fall called Film as Literature, which involves comparing books and their movie forms. There are so many adaptations. Just this year the classic The Great Gatsby was made into a movie yet again, along with several other books, including City of Bones. And everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion about adaptations, one way or the other. As English majors, we become so passionate about the classics. Movie adaptations of our favorites can move us to cheer, or to bawl our eyes out.

Could I become this passionate, however, about a book that I didn’t want to read in the first place? This was an experiment.

City of Bones cover
City of Bones cover

I began the book on a plane, sitting next to an older man reading a Dickens’ novel. Naturally I hid the title of my book, almost embarrassed by what I was reading. I could hear my fiction writing professor’s voice in my head, all of the critiques he would have given it already, not even two pages in. I kept reading.

Thirty pages in, I began to question myself. Can I really like this? Do I tell anyone? Am I really getting upset about events in this novel? The answer was yes. I do like the book. I want to read the rest of the series. I love that for once I didn’t flag pages, highlight passages, or try to analyze events (although I do really enjoy those things). I just read, something I haven’t done in a while. And because I let myself relax, I got into the novel, despite the fact that I wanted to pass it through a workshop class.

The novel is ultimately about a girl named Clary who’s mother gets kidnapped. Through this event she finds out that she’s a shadowhunter, a person who kills demons. She is introduced to a magical world with unforgettable characters.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie poster
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie poster

I didn’t quite realize how much I enjoyed it until I went to see the movie adaptation. Of course, no one would go with me, so I told my mom I’d take her out to dinner if she went. She asked what the movie was about and I told her it was best if she didn’t know.

Perhaps I should have been honest and told her. Perhaps I should have told her that it got a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Donald Clarke of the Irish Times said, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is such a pathetic mess you end up feeling a little sorry for the poor mite.” But, I didn’t.

Within the first ten minutes I felt distress. By the middle I was upset. At the end I was devastated by the movie and surprised by my reaction. They completely changed basically every scene in the book, especially my favorite scene (in the Vampire Hotel). Within the first five minutes alone, they changed the opening scene, cutting the whole conversation between Clary and Jace in the room in the club. It was terrible. The only thing the movie had going for it was the good looking cast.

Although I was very reluctant to read the book, it was definitely better than expected, and I ended up getting more into it than I would have imagined, which made the movie adaptation even more of a let-down. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it seems you can judge a movie by its Rotten Tomatoes score.