Literary Event: First Draft Book Club| Patricia Engel’s “Infinite Country”

Join the First Draft Book Club as they virtually welcome USA Today Books Editor, Barbara VanDenburgh to discuss May’s Changing Hands staff pick.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel is a New York Times bestseller that follows Talia, a young girl being held in a Colombian correctional facility.

Against a ticking clock, Talia must devise a plan to meet up with her father, where their departure to the United States will bring renewed hope and safety for their family. Weaving Talia’s current story with the events of her parents Mauro and Elena’s lives, Infinite Country brings together various timelines against a backdrop of civil unrest and the reality of undocumented life.

Register for the First Draft Book Club here.


Location: Online

Date: Saturday, May 29th, 2021

Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Price of Ticket: FREE

Book Review

Staff Writer Book Club

Publisher: Ember
Genre: YA Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Pages: 320
Format:
Paperback
Buy Local
Staff Rating: 4.5/5

This semester, we opted for safety and continued to hold our social event over Zoom. Last month, we all read E. Lockhart’s novel We Were Liars and then got together to share our reactions! We discussed the novel at length and wanted to share our thoughts with you.

Summary

Despite being published seven years ago, We Were Liars has been sweeping the internet these last few months. From the point of view of the protagonist, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, we are whisked into her world of summers on her grandfather’s private island. There, she joins her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and family friend, Gat for the perfect summer. But with the aunts fighting and kids being stuck in the middle, it is anything but the idyllic summer they were hoping for. Without giving too much away, we can tell you that everything is not as it seems on this island in paradise.

Thoughts

This novel was full of surprises and we couldn’t wait to go through all of them. While, for some of us, it wasn’t the first time reading it, we all found ourselves shocked at the turn of events. Those of us who had read it before pieced together the clues until our memory was jogged, and for those of us who didn’t know what was coming, it was mind-blowing. Our Staff Writer, Lauren said that while she was reading it for the second time, she “really appreciated how much the narration influenced the story and how events are revealed.” Personally, I hadn’t read the novel before and it was one of those moments where you have to stop reading and close the book because you can’t believe it.


Aside from the gripping storyline, the way Lockhart describes people and scenes is mesmerizing—her word choice truly carries you through the novel. We discussed some of her attention to detail in depth and something we pinpointed was that she very thinly walks the line of literal and metaphorical, so much so that there are spaces where the events feel real but with further context turn out to be metaphorical. Our Managing Editor, Jade, explained that she “loves the way that Lockhart explains the characters with the same symbols every time and how the repetition plays so heavily into the plot.” Lockhart truly has a way with words which couples beautifully with unfolding of the plot.


It’s hard to say specifics without giving away the plot, but know that you’re in for a treat if you pick this novel up.

Staff Book Spine Poetry

Be brief, be buoyant, and be brilliant.

– Brander Matthews, American Poet

What started out as an antidote for not being able to gather for a social event in 2020, has now become a tradition in 2021! Spine poetry (compiling a piece of poetry through stacking books) is a great way to flex your creative muscles, and perhaps even discover some forgotten favorites. Taking inspiration from our own bookshelves, some of our staff writers have created some beautiful and inspiring works of visual and literary art. Enjoy!


Sharon, Editor-in-Chief

Where'd you go, Sharon
this one summer
a woman alone
Paris postcards

Ever since I have had to hunker down at home, I have been dreaming of the day that I can take off on an adventure. I looked for travel inspiration on my bookshelf and found quite a few titles that would work (apparently wanderlust is part of my genetic makeup). These titles in particular I found to be engaging, and got me daydreaming about a summer all alone in Paris, writing postcards back home as I people watch from the park, or a cafe. Here’s to all the wanderers out there—may we have the opportunity to adventure soon!


Jade, Managing Editor

A Brief History of Time:
Wild embers, a thousand splendid suns,
turtles all the way down.
Outliers, chasers of the light:
Decoding the world.

This book spine poem was largely influenced by the first book in the list, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The rest of the poem became a bit of an ode to science and discovery, as well as some of the elusive mysteries of the universe. It’s also a love letter to scientists and discoverers, the eccentric thinkers whom we have to thank for so many of today’s inventions and theories.


Roxanne, Communications Coordinator

The Fault in Our Stars,
Envy
The Innocent -
We were liars,
dangerous girls
in all the bright places 

My inspiration behind this book spine poem came from staring at my bookshelf looking for inspiration. I stumbled on The Fault in our Stars and decided to look for books that could be descriptions of what those faults are that could then end with All the Bright Places. This resulted in me frantically grabbing the rest of these books and stacking them in various ways until I decided this order fit really well. I really like the variety in the book genre and am happy with how it turned out!


Paul, Staff Writer

The deep shadows beneath grass:
Invisible cities,
Tender stories of your life and others.

This is a poem about ants. My favorite author, Ursula K. Le Guin, once wrote a science fiction story about future linguists who learn to translate the literature of animals. It is titled “The Author of the Acacia Seeds. And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics,” and contains poetry written by an anarchist ant (quite a rarity in ant society).

Another of my favorite writers, Ada Palmer, wrote of ants in her book Seven Surrenders: “Humanity is forever boasting of its ‘unique’ achievements: humans are the only creatures who build cities, use agriculture, domesticate animals, have nations and alliances, practice slavery, make war, make peace; these wonders make us stand alone above all other creatures, in glory and in crime [. . .] Except ants.”


Rikki, Staff Writer

Living A Feminist Life,
this is an uprising,
emotional intelligence,
ethical slut,
period power!
When We Fight We Win.

I created this book spine poem from a feminist orientation using books from multiple genres. Taking inspiration from Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life —as well as using it as a first line in the book spine poem—I wanted to highlight some of what radical and intersectional feminism creates or privileges as possibilities and strengths of the movement. What’s political is also personal and what’s personal is also political, including our emotional states, our sexual expression, and our acts of/for social change: “when we fight, we win!” 


Hopefully, our art has inspired you to create your own!

A Childhood in Books and the Importance of Local Libraries

“A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it.”

– Neil Gaiman, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Opening Pages

My first memories of reading come from when I was about four or so. My dad sat me on his lap and pulled out an illustrated edition of The Hobbit. I can still picture the wonder on the faces of the elves as little Bilbo (about the same size as I was) held up the Arkenstone for them to behold. When we’d finished I asked to start again.

But my first memories of reading by myself come from the library. We moved within biking distance of Red Mountain Branch Library shortly before my eighth birthday.

I remember walking into the building, the sweat from cycling up the long climb of Adobe Street in the summer sun cooling in the blast of the air conditioning. And just inside and off to the left of the entrance was a big archway of yellow, orange, and green blocks. The neon sign above it read “Children’s Library.” I took the sign literally: this was the part of the library that belonged to me.

The children’s library had its own desk and its own librarian. This meant I didn’t have to stand in line with a bunch of adults to ask my questions. And boy did I have a lot of questions.

They let me sign up for my own library card, highlighter yellow with my name scrawled across the back in illegible chicken scratch. The limit was 35 books at the time (a limit I knew because I regularly hit it). I checked out every book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, went home with a bulging backpack, and by the time they were due I was ready for a new series.

Middle Chapters

By the time I was thirteen, I was far too cool to be seen near the children’s section. I was a teenager, which to me meant getting a stool and grabbing something from the top shelves (though I’d often sneak back to children’s section when no one was watching to nab the latest installation in Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series).

In 2013, Red Mountain Branch opened a new wing called THINKspot: a place full of sewing machines and 3D-printers and cameras and computers. Most important to me, it had a conference room anyone could sign out for a couple hours if they wanted to hold a meeting. This allowed me—a self-conscious teen who hated having people at his house—to host a writing group. I’m sure we were annoying, a bunch of loud fifteen year-olds who spent half the time watching YouTube videos on the conference room monitor. But no one ever told us we couldn’t be there.

That’s what meant the most to me about Red Mountain Branch. It was a place I could go without getting kicked out for being a kid or not having any money. Mesa has always suffered from a paucity of community-oriented spaces, which made the library that much more valuable. It was unique. It taught me what a community space could and should look like.

The Ending or New Beginnings

In 2019 it had been a couple of years since I’d last been to the library. But as fortune would have it, I moved back to Mesa and found myself living once again within biking distance of Red Mountain Branch.

In my absence, they’d opened a miniature bookstore where they sold off old books that were going out of circulation. Thumbing through the stacks, I found the exact (somewhat beat-up) copy of the first collection of Ray Bradbury stories I’d ever read. It cost two dollars. Holding it, I felt like my life had closed a circle.

On that same visit, I got a new library card. As I signed the back, I realized that when I got my last library card was the first time I ever signed my name.

Epilogue

On March 16, 2020, Red Mountain Branch temporarily closed its doors due to Covid-19. They would remain so for an entire year. During that year, librarians staffed the CARES call center—a City of Mesa initiative to inform residents how to petition the city government for funding for their small businesses, rent, or utilities if their ability to pay had been impacted by the pandemic.

As of April 2021, the branch has reopened for business. They had planned to debut a new monarch garden and reading sanctuary last year, but had been delayed (for obvious reasons). This sanctuary is now open, just in time for the Arizona’s monarch breeding season (March – June).

I encourage any readers who live in Mesa to go show the library your support as it reopens. A list of library events and updates can be found here. If you don’t feel comfortable going in-person, you can get books from the library online at phoenix.overdrive.com.

The author would like to express thanks to Joyce Abbott, the manager of Red Mountain Branch Library, for answering his questions regarding the library’s history and programming.

Amazon vs Local Bookstores

This past winter I visited my friend and while walking in the downtown area we approached a local bookstore. Upon grazing the shelves for about an hour I stumbled on a small roughly twenty page pamphlet titled How to Resist Amazon and Why by Danny Caine.

What I was presented with was a whole world of which I was previously unaware. While I am sure most people have some awareness of Amazon’s tragic effect on local businesses, consumers, and employees, I found Caine’s pamphlet to be an invaluable resource related to their impact on my personal favorite retail outlet—bookstores. However, this pamphlet isn’t the only resource highlighting the difficult relationship between Amazon and local bookstores. The fact that Amazon is harmful to local booksellers has been well documented by a plethora of news sources, including a New York Times article detailing how counterfeit books are often sold and promoted involuntarily on Amazon (Streitfeld, 2019), and an article in Forbes describing the new company Boohshop.org that provides local affiliate bookstores a 10% commission compared to 4.5% commission (Verdon, 2020).

Most people, myself included, are attracted to Amazon for their low prices, fast delivery, and availability of a wide selection of books. However, I never thought about why these books are so cheap. As Danny Cain articulates in his pamphlet, bookstores receive a particular discount when ordering from a publisher and if they sell these books for roughly the same amount they purchased them, they wouldn’t be making enough to sustain their business (Caine, 2019). Your local bookstore can’t afford to sell books at a loss, but Amazon—a very wealthy company—can afford to sell books for the amount they purchased or below because they can afford to lose money on this product (Caine, 2019). It isn’t necessarily a matter of Amazon being the evil villian—it is more that these bookstores simply can’t compete because their business reality is much different than that of Amazon’s. Bookstores are a local business that provide much more than just a book to the hands of consumers: these stores offer an environment, a community, and promote local artists and authors. However, because Amazon is the behemoth that it is, many of these beloved local shops are suffering. Hence the dire need to promote and sustain such a vital aspect of so many communities and the literary world.

But what if you really don’t care about the bookstore and just the book? Farhad Manjoo (2011) of Slate actually advocates for Amazon’s prominence as a bookseller stating that “no company in recent years has done more than Amazon to ignite a national passion for buying, reading, and even writing new books” (Manjoo, 2011). Manjoo (2011) then proceeds to critique the consumer experience at local bookstores, essentially considering that Amazon is the best means to purchase your books. However, even if you don’t care about any of these community benefits, perhaps consider that shopping local—whether at a farmers market or a bookstore—prevents economic leakage and promotes local self reliance within your community. Economic leakage, according to Roseland (2012), “occurs when community members travel outside the community to spend their locally generated income on non-local purchases, or when residents make purchases within the community on products that were originally purchased or manufactured elsewhere” (p.218). This money moves outside the local economy and doesn’t promote economic development within the community (Roseland, 2012). In working with local bookstores, or local shops in general, individuals promote local self-reliance—which is about creating a more sustainable community focused on local needs, cohesiveness, and a reduction of waste and beneficial trade practices (Roseland, 2012, p. 217). In order to bolster this foundation of economic development individuals must “where possible, invest in the local economy by substituting locally made products” (p.217). This promotion of the local economy includes bookstores.
I know this isn’t your typical light-hearted post about charismatic books and authors we all love but I, and The Spellbinding Shelf, wanted to bring attention to those booksellers who are the backbone of not just our community, but our favorite authors and novels. If you are interested in learning more about how and why to resist Amazon, or even about supporting local bookstores, I suggest Danny Caine’s How to Resist Amazon and Why. Bonus—it is also available at Changing Hands (our favorite local bookstore)!

Caine, D. (2019). How to resist Amazon and why (2nd ed.). Microcosm Publishing.

Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanverdon/2020/02/14/advocate-for-local-

bookstores-takes-aim-against-amazon-with-new-website/?sh=471363043407

Manjoo, F. (2011, December 13). Don’t support your local bookseller. Slate.

https://slate.com/technology/2011/12/independent-bookstores-vs-amazon-buying

-books-online-is-better-for-authors-better-for-the-economy-and-better-for-you.html

Roseland, M. (2012). Community Economic Development. In, Toward Sustainable 

Communities: Solutions for citizens and their governments (pp. 209-228). New Society 

Publishers.

Streitfeld, D. (2019, June 23). What happens after Amazon’s domination is complete? Its 

bookstore offers clues. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/

2019/06/23/technology/amazon-domination-bookstore-books.html

Verdon, J. (2020, February 14). Local bookstores have a new weapon in the fight with Amazon. 

Book Review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Buy Local
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

In Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, she details the story of Miss Eleanor Oliphant, a 29-year-old intelligent, witty, and independent woman living in Glasgow, Scotland. Eleanor sees the world, and her very existence, as a very private routine that—if kept in order—would allow her to maintain an acceptable and satisfactory life. But Eleanor’s idea of normal quickly crumbles away when she meets her new best friend, Raymond, and experiences human connection like never before.

With every new social interaction comes a fresh internal perspective for Eleanor. Experiences that may seem trivial to the more extroverted person push Eleanor outside of the emotional and physical boundaries that have bubbled around her for so long. These moments test the initial beliefs she held about her life habits and the constructs of her own identity. Seen as a modern Jane Eyre, you will at the very least come to admire the beautifully raw character that is Eleanor Oliphant.

Thoughts

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine proved to be both an entertaining and heartfelt novel that puts you through a rollercoaster of emotions. You will encounter sweet and charming moments contrasting with painful awkwardness, topped by a heart-aching sadness for Eleanor’s history and struggling emotional state.

At first read, you might find Eleanor to carry a distant persona with her unique family history and perspective on life. Yet, as you get deeper into the story, you will empathize with the darkest bits of fear, doubt, and shame that in reality is not easily or regularly voiced to others, but ultimately proves to be a big part of Eleanor’s existence.

Gail Honeyman offers an authentic angle on the realities behind trauma, solitude, and friendship through a narrative laced with unspoken grief. She reflects on what it is like to live in a time where an individual can be surrounded by hundreds of people, either physically or online, and still feel overwhelmingly alone. Honeyman illuminates how this loneliness can be overcome with the support of friends or family and a strong individual will to not just survive, but live freely and with an open heart.


Guest post courtesy of Adrianna Ortero

Literary Event: Write Here, Write Now | Lynn Melnick: “Writing Truth from Memory”

Independent Bookstore Day is April 30! What is a sufficient way to celebrate all the bookishly amazing qualities of the independent literary community? Besides visiting your local bookstore, you can attend Changing Hands Bookstore’s online writing workshop.

Changing Hands offers a monthly writing workshop online called “Write Here, Write Now” in partnership with Phoenix College and ASU’s Piper Center for Creative Writing.

This month’s session “Writing Truth from Memory” focuses on the use of our memory as a means to tell stories, how we can harness and change our memories in storytelling, and how memories ultimately contribute to our work. The session includes poetry readings from Shane McCrae, Danielle Pafunda, and Adrienne Su to demonstrate the role of memory within writing and how we can utilize it in telling the truth.

Additionally, the event includes a 30-minute crash course on creative writing—including a writing prompt and dedicated time to write and read your work to the group. 

Let’s celebrate Independent Bookstores Day in style by exploring our creative side and taking the role of author; to register, click here.


Location: Online

Date: Monday, April 26, 2021

Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Price of Ticket: $5.00 (+$1.24 Fee)

Book Review

Revisiting ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Publisher: Anchor
Genre: Horror
Pages: 672
Format: Paperback
Buy Local
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

‘Salem’s Lot is still a popular horror novel, despite being published in 1975, a fairly long time ago. For that reason, I believe that it’s appropriate to write a review and revisit this renowned novel that Stephen King regarded as one of his favorites. I hope it inspires you to either read this classic for the first time, or—if it’s been a while since you’ve read it—to dust it off and dive back in. 

At its most basic level, ‘Salem’s Lot is a horror novel about vampires. It takes inspiration from vampire stories such as the infamous Count Dracula, but is far more modern in terms of writing about vampires as they infiltrate regular society, largely inconspicuous until the living start to pay closer attention.

However, upon a closer glance, the novel all is not what it seems on the surface. In fact, vampires aren’t even suspected for at least the first 100 pages. Instead, the focus is on the introduction and development of the characters. Their stories are what carry the novel and make it important and a worthwhile read. As King often does in his books, there are underlying themes woven intricately into the subplots and characters that require closer attention from the readers—mirroring the relationship between the vampire, Kurt Barlow, and the protagonist, Ben Mears (joined by the townspeople). As Mears and some of the townspeople join forces to defeat the vampire infestation, much is learned about the characters and their pasts. 

Even though the vampires are supposed to be the antagonists of the story, it could be argued that the real antagonist is the pressure of living in an idyllic town, and the damage that can be done by burying some of the traumas that the townspeople feel are better left unsaid, due to the importance of maintaining the town’s ‘squeaky clean’ image. 

That being said, there is a reason King is regularly associated with the horror genre. While there are more tender, human, components of the novel, the concept of the undead comes alive within the novel, and it is equally engaging. King stays true to traditional vampire lore, complete with nods to garlic and holy crosses. However, pairing these stereotypes with a rural North American town setting make it both modern and haunting.

With everything from scares to keep you up at night to well developed characters you’ll fall in love with, ‘Salem’s Lot is, without a doubt, a novel both worth reading for the first time or dusting off after a long hiatus.

6 Book Series to Get You Back Into Reading

Are you looking for a new series to transport you back to the glory days of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games? Trust me, I’ve been there—worrying I’ll never find anything as good as the adventures I went on with Tris Prior and Percy Jackson. Procrastinating buying that new book in the bookstore because it could never give you the same feelings of nostalgia of reading Twilight for the first time? I get it, but it’s time to move on. There are bigger and better books out there; just as there are more characters to grow with and tropes to fall in love with. I promise. And with everything going on right now, a series is just the heavy duty escape into a magical world to occupy you for more than a few days. So, here are five book series to get your reading mojo back—adding a book to each series the further you read on.


Six of Crows—Leigh Bardugo. Starting off with this duology, Six of Crows introduces a slew of characters for you to meet: a witch hunter, sharpshooter, a former servant with a talent for stealth and knife-wielding, and many more. This character-driven plot consists of heists and cons against the Ice Court, wealthy merchants, and crime bosses. With only two books, it’s an easy way to ease back into reading.

This series is part of the Grishaverse, which means there is a separate series called The Shadow and Bone trilogy that you can read after! This series is also coming to Netflix April 23.


Caraval—Stephanie Garber. This is the first trilogy I read after my three year slump of reading, and it totally kick started my reading addiction again. These three books follow the two sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna as they find themselves at Caraval, an exclusive once-a-year performance in which the audience gets to participate to win a special prize. Things take turn, however, when the sisters end up in a sinister game fighting for love and family.

As you dive deeper into the series, you discover mysterious forces and secrets that go back to before they were even born—all orchestrated by the anonymous ringmaster and the all-powerful Fates.


Crave—Tracy Wolff. A great recommendation for all vampire lovers, Wolff’s series takes place at Katmere Academy: a school full of shapeshifters, witches and vampires. For Grace, this is the last place she wants to be…that is, until she meets Jaxon, a charming vampire with deadly secrets. This young adult series is the next series to sink your teeth into.

The fourth book of this series comes out September 28th, 2021—plenty of time for you to catch up on this series full of twists, romance, and deep fantasy lore; so sit back, relax, and read as slow as you want to.


The Heroes of Olympus—Rick Riordan. If you took quizzes to see who your godly parent was, this five-book series is for you. Chances are, if you’ve already read the original (beloved) Percy Jackson series, then you’ve already heard about this series. Whether you brushed it off or thought it wouldn’t live up to its hype, this is your sign to finally read them. It mixes familiar faces from Camp Half Blood and introduces new ones from Camp Jupiter to unite seven half bloods to fulfill another prophecy and save the world.

The Heroes of Olympus series expands on the mythological world and gives the characters from the original series another chance to continue their story, set a couple months after The Last Olympian.


A Court of Thorns and Roses—Sarah J. Maas. Sarah J. Maas is taking the world by storm with her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. This is the first series in a long time where I’ve stayed up until two in the morning just to finish reading. Classified as a “New Adult” genre, this series can be described as Beauty and the Beast meets magical kingdom of faeries. If you’re into amazing world building and obsessing over characters, I highly recommend it, 11/10. While only four books are out on the market right now, Maas is under contract to write two more, ensuring the perfect amount of satisfaction and anticipation in a series. 

P.S. If you like this series you can level up and go for Sarah J. Maas’ seven book series, Throne of Glass. Psst…this series is completed. Yay!


The Stormlight Archive—Brandon Sanderson. Last but not least, we have Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive series. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re not afraid of commitment, I highly suggest it and I applaud you for diving head first into reading again. Although there are only four books out, there are ten planned.

So, if you’re ready to invest six to ten years on a series, this one is perfect to get you back into the reading saddle. Happy reading!

Chaos Walking: Book-to-Movie Adaptation

When I first heard that The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness was going to be made into a movie, I was cautiously optimistic. This book seemed like an odd choice for a movie adaptation, as it was filled with dark themes and had a very complicated setting that would be hard to translate into a movie. However, if done right, I could absolutely see this adaptation becoming something like The Hunger Games, where the dark themes and complex world were translated almost seamlessly to film. And seeing as they cast two of my favorite actors to play the leads, Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, I knew that I at least needed to give this movie a chance. However, after finally getting to watch this adaptation, I have to admit that I am disappointed. While it was by no means terrible, the movie sanded down a great deal of what I loved about this book, leaving behind a movie that just felt underwhelming. In this reflection I will detail the things I enjoyed, and the things that let me down, in Chaos Walking.

Before I begin, however, a quick spoiler warning. Since I will be comparing the book and the movie, there will be spoilers for both. If you wish to view either of them unspoiled you can find the book here and showtimes for the movie here.

The Good

First off, what I enjoyed about the movie. One of the areas where I was most skeptical when it came to adapting this book to a movie was the concept of the Noise. Basically, in the book, the humans live on a planet where the men are all able to hear each others thoughts all of the time, an ability which they call the Noise. This would obviously be very difficult to do in a movie, as the voices would eventually become overwhelming. Much to my surprise, however, the movie actually managed to portray this not only in a way that didn’t overwhelm the viewer, but also led to some of the best moments in the movie. The Noise is portrayed as an iridescent fog that whispers, which allows for the viewer to differentiate between spoken and thought dialogue, and only gets louder when it’s necessary for the scene. My favorite scene where this occurs is when Todd, the main character, learns that the town murdered his mother and all the other women in the town. Todd’s panic and his subsequent struggle to hide his thoughts leads to a wild hurricane of competing voices that expresses the turmoil of the scene perfectly. I would even argue that this was better than how it was handled in the book.

Another way the Noise is improved from the book is its ability to create illusions. In the book you can only hear the disembodied voices, but in the movie the Noise will periodically take the form of people and things that look real enough to fool several characters. This is used in my favorite scene in the entire movie, where the main antagonist is fooled into thinking that the ghosts of all the women he killed are confronting him. It creates a powerful moment where the movie finally addresses the darker themes of the book in a direct way, and if the movie had featured more moments like this I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Instead, the movie shied away from these themes, so I’m only left with a small handful of moments that I remember fondly.

The Bad

Sadly, the occasional good scene wasn’t able to save this movie—and for every good choice the movie made there were far more missteps that just didn’t work.

The first misstep in Chaos Walking was the age of the characters. The two main characters were 13 years old in the book, but in the movie their age seems to be somewhere in the 18–19-year-old zone. While I understand why movies age up characters, especially when the movie is rated PG-13 and contains a great deal of swearing and violence, this change damages a large portion of the movie. Todd, the male lead, is often treated like a child and behaves in a manner that would make sense if he was 13. He is also treated like a child by the adults in the movie. However, while Tom Holland is an actor that can often play younger characters, he’s still too old to fit in with the attitude and the treatment he receives. This problem also happens with Daisy Ridley’s character. She is treated and behaves like a frightened little girl, but she still comes off as a young adult and it creates a jarring disparity that is never really addressed. As much as I love Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, they weren’t the best pick for a story about children, and the confusion over their age and the way they behave follows them throughout the entire film.

The movie also removed Todd’s entire character arc—his struggle with what it means to be a man. In the book, Todd is repeatedly taught that in order to be a man he must be able to kill, and when he finally leaves his town, he is confronted with many opportunities to do so, some more justifiable than others. Todd struggles with his desire to prove himself a man to his society and his innate humanity, inevitably questioning what it even means to be a man and if he really wants to be one. This arc is helped by Todd’s age, as he is regarded by his entire town as a child whom they don’t take seriously, and he is frustrated over this treatment. This is completely absent in the movie. Todd has no hangups about killing; he says one line about being a man in the beginning but it never comes up again, and for all intents and purposes he doesn’t struggle at all with his identity. This wouldn’t be an issue if the movie added another aspect of Todd’s character to replace it, but instead Todd is just portrayed as a doe-eyed kid with very little substance to him. This is a shame, because his struggles with manhood would’ve been an unique arc, but instead Todd is left a very bland character.

Where the movie really drops the ball, in my opinion, is the removal of the religious themes. The main focus of the book was how religious extremism can lead to violence and evil, especially when faced with the unknown. This is shown in two ways: first, how the humans treat the natives of the world, known as the spackle; and how they treat women. Without giving too much away, The Knife of Never Letting Go shows just how dangerous fear of the unknown can be, and how opportunistic people can use fear combined with religion to manipulate the masses for their own selfish ends. However, this is not the case in Chaos Walking. While religion does occasionally make an appearance, it is limited to one character who is generally dismissed by others. The power that fear has is glossed over entirely, with only slight moments where people behave irrationally. The violence and death driven by fear is completely dismissed as well. The animosity between the humans and the spackle only makes one very brief appearance, and could honestly have been left out of the movie entirely. While the movie does address how they subjugated and murdered all the women, it is only focused on occasionally, and the movie pins most of the blame on two men (rather than acknowledging that it was done by the entire town). At times it feels like the movie is afraid to delve too deeply into these ideas and risk alienating movie watchers, which is a real shame seeing as, like I said before, the times where this movie shines is when it embraces the themes of the book. If Chaos Walking had taken the risk and addressed these themes head on, it would’ve been a much better movie, but instead it only went halfway and left a lot to be desired.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I was pretty disappointed by this movie. I don’t necessarily blame anyone involved in the film, because this book was bound to be hard to make into a mainstream movie. It’s a book that is jam-packed with themes and ideas, and the movie struggled to include them and ended up feeling incomplete. As someone who read the book, I can’t say whether someone new to the story would enjoy the movie. I did watch this movie with my father, who hasn’t read the books, and he was often lost and confused, so I can’t imagine this movie being a good introduction the the world of The Knife of Never Letting Go. That being said, I can’t say that I completely regret watching it. The scenes where the movie really embraced the original story, though few and far between, were incredible to watch. Ultimately, I don’t see myself watching Chaos Walking again. It just lacked the spark I felt when reading The Knife of Never Letting Go that made me fall in love with the series.