Tag Archives: young adult books

Create Your Dream Cast – Vampire Academy Series

A few months back, I became absolutely obsessed with a little book called The Hunger Games by groundbreaking author, Suzanne Collins.  Upon hearing that Lionsgate had purchased the film rights to the book, I decided it might be fun to create a sort of “dream cast,” of actors I would “hire” if I had the opportunity to do casting for the film.

Writing the post was a ton of fun for me.  Plus, a lot of people really seemed to respond to it. 

So, now it’s a few months later, and I find myself obsessed with a brand new Young Adult book series.   In many ways, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is the anti-Twilight.  On the surface, yes, like that other series, Vampire Academy is about a girl in her late teens who is enmeshed in a world of supernatural creatures, most notably, vampires.  However, Rose Hathaway, the main protagonist who narrates the books, for lack of a better phrase, kicks ass!  She is a dhampir.  A half-human, half-vampire amalgamation, who is training to become a guardian of vampires.  That’s right, boys and girls, she protects vampires, as opposed to being protected by them! 

While these books definitely focus MORE on action and less on the romance, there are enough longing looks and steamy scenes in these novels to sate the desires of even the most sappy of romantics.  And don’t even get me started on these dhampir and vampire men . . .  (swoons and faints).

Even though there are currently no plans to convert the Vampire Academy books into a film or television series (SERIOUSLY?  What are you WAITING for, Hollywood?), I thought it might be fun to return to the casting couch, and select who I would cast in a hypothetical film or television show based on these books.  

I plan to try EXTREMELY hard not to inadvertently spoil any of the main plot points of these books, in the context of explaining my various “casting” decisions.  However, there ARE lots of jaw-dropping twists in this series, particularly in the first novel, that impacted my ultimate decisions as to which actors should play these characters.  So, if you are a MAJOR spoiler-phobe, please tread lightly.  And don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .

Rose Hathaway:

My pick: Nikki Reed

Why I think she’d make a great Rose:  In many ways, Rose is the toughest character to cast in this series.  After all, as the series’ protagonist and first-person narrator, her likeability and relatability will drive the entire story.  Rose is a fairly complex gal.   On one hand, she is tough-as-nails, extremely brave, and fiercely loyal.  However, she can also be prone to impulsive behavior, moodiness, icy sarcasm, and intense bouts of rage.  To top it off, at the start of the series, Rose is quite the popular party girl, one who has a reputation, whether deserved or not, for being “more than friendly” with many of the guys at her school.

In terms of Rose’s physical characteristics, Nikki Reed meets them to a tee!  In the novels, Rose is described as being of medium height, muscular, and slightly curvy (at least in the chest area).  She also has lightly tanned skin, dark eyes, and long dark brown hair.  Additionally, as an actress still in her very early 20’s, Nikki will have no trouble passing for a 17-18 year old girl, particularly one as mature beyond her years, as Rose.

Of course, ideal physical characteristics alone do not make a perfect casting choice.  Undoubtedly, many of you likely remember Nikki as the blond and beautiful, but slightly bitchy, Rosalie Hale in the Twilight series . . .

However, what you may not know is that Nikki Reed has been acting in films and writing screenplays LONG before Twilight was even written.  Nikki was not even 15-years old when she wrote, and starred, alongside Evan Rachel Wood, in the heartbreaking and highly disturbing film Thirteen, about two young teens who find themselves falling into an unforgiving world of drugs, crime and sex.  The film was critically acclaimed and even received an Oscar Nomination.

Aside from “looking” right for the part, I think Nikki Reed has the acting chops, intelligence, physicality, and natural sex appeal to pull off a role as multi-faceted as Rose Hathaway.

Lissa Dragomir

My pick: Julianne Hough

Why I think she’d make a great Lissa: In the novel, Rose’s best friend, the vampiric Lissa Dragomir, is described as being tall, thin, and pale-skinned, with blonde hair, and piercing green eyes.  In terms of personality, Lissa and Rose are almost polar opposites.  While Rose, is loud, and tough, and brash, Lissa, a descendant from a long line of royal vampires, is more reseved, a bit more fragile, and a lot more graceful and sophisticated.  She also excudes a certain innocence, and charisma (part natural, part magical) that draws others to her, making her extremely well liked at the Academy where she and Rose study.  On the other hand, whoever took on the role of Lissa, must be able to display intense emotionality, as certain things happen during the course of the series that cause Lissa to lose her characteristic cool.

Most people are familiar with Julianne from her role as a dancer on Dancing with the Stars

In that capacity, Julianne’s grace, innocence, likeability, and natural charisma practically leap of the screen.  The question is, “Can she act?” 

I would be inclined to say, “yes.”  Hough has already been slated to play the female lead, Ariel Moore, in the upcoming remake of the popular 80’s musical film, Footloose, which originally starred Kevin Bacon. 

 The role of Ariel in that film is a fairly meaty one, particularly for an actress making her big screen debut.  For the producers of the movie to cast Julianne in that role, she must have shown them something truly special at her audition.  If Julianne can pull off Ariel Moore, I have no doubt that she would also be able to pull off Lissa Dragomir.

Dimitri Belikov

My pick: Channing Tatum

Why I think he would make a great Dimitri: As Rose’s mentor, and main love interest throughout the series, 24-year old guardian, Dimitri Belikov is arguably the most important male role to cast in a film or television show based on this series.  In the books, he is described as being extremely tall, and impressively buff, with dark eyes and brown hair. 

Dimitri is basically every girl’s dream.  On one hand, he’s strong and amazingly tough.  He described as a “god” by many at the Academy.  And yet, he is also stern, secretive, and sensitive — a natural born-caretaker, one constantly torn between doing his job well and giving in to his desires.

Having starred in films like G.I. Joe and Step Up, we know that Channing Tatum has the physicality necessary for this role (And have you seen those abs?  WOW!).  Yet, Tatum has also had the opportunity to prove himself capable of taking on the role of romantic lead, as evidenced by his portrayal of John Tyree in the recently released chick flick, Dear John.  I’m just hoping he can fake a Russian accent . . .

Christian Ozera

My pick: Ed Westwick

Why I think he’d make a great Christian:  As Lissa’s main love interest throughout the series, Christian is probably the second most important male lead to cast.  The character is described as being tall and lean, with dark hair and pale skin.  Christian begins the series as a loner and an outsider, due to a questionable family history.  He has a dark sense of humor, a biting wit, and is not afraid to challenge authority.  Christian also can do very cool things with fire . . .

I chose Westwick, mainly because, aside from him being an amazing actor, I felt Christian’s relationship with Lissa, at least as it was portrayed in the first book in the series, dovetailed nicely with Westwick’s character Chuck’s relationship with Blair, during the early seasons of the CW series Gossip Girl.

In both relationships, the male lead is instantly sure of his feelings for the object of his desire, while the female will ultimately take a bit more convincing.   Like Chuck and Blair, Christian understands Lissa in a way that nobody else does, not even Rose.  To win her heart, he uses his intelligence and wit, as opposed to any sort of brute strength or macho bravado.  Christian’s and Lissa’s relationship has a fun, and undeniably sexy, push and pull, in its early stages, that I would love to see play out screen.  And who better to exemplify the “push and pull” of young love than Chuck Bass?

Mason Ashford

My pick: Douglas Smith

Why I think he’d make a great Mason:  As Rose’s best guy friend and fellow guardian, who just so happens to harbor a not-so-secret crush on Rose, Mason doesn’t play a particularly big part in the first book of the Vampire Academy series.  However, he DOES play a major role in Frostbite, its sequel.  In the books, Mason is described as being tall (Am I the only one noticing a pattern here?), and red-headed, with boyish good looks.  In casting Mason, it is important to find a guy who is likeable and fun enough, to function as a reasonable, if not exactly heart-stopping, alternative to Dimitri, to fulfill the role of Rose’s boyfriend.  Douglas Smith’s portrayal of Ben Henrickson in the HBO series Big Love is so genuine and inherently likeable, you almost want to reach through the screen and give him a hug.  Yeah, that’s our Mason!

Mia Rinaldi

My pick:  Ashley Benson

Why I think she’d make a great Mia: Every high school series needs a mean girl.  And, in the Vampire Academy series, those shoes are filled, at least initially, by Mia Rinaldi.  Rose’s and Lissa’s nemesis, Mia, is one year younger than they are.  She is described as being short (YAY!  FINALLY!  Short people represent . . . too bad it had to be the bitchy one . . .), with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a childlike cherubic face that belies her catty and manipulative nature.  And yet, there is also a vulnerability to Mia.  Behind that cold facade, Mia hides a few dark secrets, ones that make her actions, if not necessarily justifiable, at least understandable.

Best known for her role as Carson in the fourth installment of the Bring it On film series, and for her upcoming turn as Hanna in the new ABC Family teen drama, Pretty Little Liars, premiering this summer, Ashley has plenty of experience playing the girl you love to hate.  And yet, there is always a soft-side to her portrayals — one that allows the “love” part to dominate just a bit more than it would otherwise . . .

Natalie Dashkov

My pick: Tina Majorino

Why I think she would make a great Natalie: In Vampire Academy, Natalie is more or less described as a plain-jane.  Natalie is the quiet, sweet, and socially awkward friend of Rose’s and Lissa’s.  Unlike the others, she seems to care little about the politics of high school.  The actress who plays Natalie must be sweet and inherently likeable, but have sufficient acting chops to pull off a major dramatic turn toward the end of the first installment of the series.  Majorino’s recent portrayals of Heather in Big Love and Mack in Veronica Mars, have shown her to be precisely the right girl for the job.

Jesse Zeklos

My pick: Michael Trevino

Why I think he’d make a great Jesse:  In the novels, Jesse is described as being a tall, dark, and handsome, spoiled rich kid.  He is popular, D-baggy, manipulative, and rumored to have slept with multiple members of the cast.  Now if that doesn’t SCREAM Tyler Stratton from CW’s The Vampire Diaries, I don’t know WHAT does!

Eddie Castile

My pick: Chris Lowell

Why I think he’d make a great Eddie:  Admittedly, at the start of the series, Eddie is little more than Mason’s friend and sidekick, and, therefore, a sort-of adopted member of the novels’ “Scooby Gang.”  However, by the second and third installment of the series, Eddie comes into his own, as a loyal friend and strong protector of those around him.  In casting Eddie, the producers would need someone relatable, who has a sense of humor, and isn’t afraid of getting knocked around a bit (and bitten?).  Seeing as Chris Lowell’s character Dell on Private Practice recently died of a brain hemorrhage, I’m thinking the actor’s schedule is WIDE open . . .

Adrian Ivashkov

My pick: Jason Dohring

Why I think he’d make a great Adrian:  OK, this is sort of cheating, seeing as Adrian doesn’t appear AT ALL in the first book of the series.  However, the character plays such a major role in the subsequent books, I just couldn’t resist trying my hand at casting him.  The novel describes Adrian as tall and fair haired with penetrating eyes that see EVERYTHING.  He is more muscularly built than most vampires, but leaner than super-buff dhampirs, like Dimitri.  At first glance, 21-year old Adrian might appear to the casual reader as just another spoiled rich vampire — a hard drinking, heavy smoking, womanizing, cad, with too much money and time on his hands. 

However, as we get to know Adrian throughout the series, we see that he is much more than that.  He is smart and often scarily perceptive, instantly knowing things about Rose that she might not even understand about herself.  Adrian can also be surprisingly generous with his money, his time, and his soul.  He quickly develops a friendship with Lissa, and harbors an as-of-yet unrequited MAJOR soft-spot for Rose.  More so than Mason, Adrian could wind up being a major contender in the battle for our main protagonist’s heart.

So why Jason Dohring?   Basically, a few years back, I fell in LOVE with a character by the name of Logan Echolls!  On Veronica Mars, he too was a spoiled womanizing rich kid bad boy.  Or, at least, he started off that way.  That was before he fell in love with Veronica Mars, who like Rose, was a kickass, hardcore, take-no-prisoners, protagonist, who began the series, despising Logan. 

In my opinion, Veronica’s and Logan’s relationship remains one of the hottest and most compulsively watchable couplings in television.  Please forgive me for wanting to see my Logan again, even if it has to be with another leading lady . . .

So, there you have it, my Dream Cast for the Vampire Academy film and/or television series.  Now we just have to find someone willing to buy the media rights . . . Any takers?

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Filed under Book, casting, Vampire Academy

The Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins – They’re BAAACK!

The Summer Before, a prequel to the critically acclaimed (not to mention AWESOME) Babysitter’s Club series is now available in bookstores.  The first four books in the original series are also being updated and re-released.

Sweet Valley Confidential, a book that chronicles the lives of the gorgeous and popular Wakefield twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, as they enter their late 20s and early 30s, should hit bookstores around February 2011.

Upon reaching the ripe old age of seven, I unilaterally decided that I was TOO OLD to read picture books.  And so, after pleading my case to my mother one weekend, the two of us hit the library, in search of “Big Girl Books.”  Holding my mother’s hand, I steered her clear away from the Children’s Book section, and headed determinedly toward the section containing books for “Juveniles and Young Adults.” 

Two series immediately caught my eye, based on the sheer volume of related books to choose from.  Both sets of books offered “pretty” covers, featuring enviably attractive “Big Girls,” who appeared to be significantly older, wiser, and cooler than myself.  (Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover?)  The names of the two series?  The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins!  I grabbed the first two books of each series off the shelf, and was on my way.  And so began my long-term childhood friendship with a motley crew of babysitters, and two twin girls with vastly different personalities . . .

For the uninitiated, The Babysitters Club was initially comprised of four girls.  Bossy Tomboy Kristy, Shy and Sensitive Mary Anne, Boycrazy New York Native Stacey, and the Artistic, but Academically Challenged, Claudia.  In later books, the Club expanded to include Vegetarian California Girl Dawn and junior members – Bookish Horse lover Mallory, and Graceful Ballet Dancer Jessi.  Most of the books would focus on the adventures of one particular club member, while using the babysitting experiences of  her friends as subplots.  As for me, I was probably most like the  Mary Anne character, but WANTED to be most like Stacey, because she was BLONDE,  POPULAR, GOOD AT MATH, and all the boys liked her.  Sure, Mary Anne had Logan as a boyfriend, but honestly, he seemed pretty lame.  (I’m sorry, but how many manly middle school boys do you know that actually ENJOYED babysitting?)

“Think she’d notice, if I closed my eyes and pretended she was a DUDE?”

I absolutely ADORED these books.  And spent WAY too much time fretting over the lives of the aforementioned characters.  (“OMG!  Kristy is moving into a mansion!  She’s so lucky!”)  (“WOW!  Dawn and Mary Anne are stepsisters now.  FUN!”)  (“WTF!  Stacey is moving away!”)  (“OH NO!  Claudia thinks she’s ADOPTED!”)

In addition to reading the books, I also owned a Babysitters Club wall calendar, postcard book, and diary. 

I saw the movie (which wasn’t nearly as good as the books).  And watched the television series (which ALSO wasn’t as good as the books).  The TV series, in particular, had some pretty crap acting.  For an example, check out this old clip I found on YouTube.  It just may feature a familiar face . . .

Some of my friends and I even attempted to start our own babysitters club.  However, since the oldest of us was 9 at the time, we didn’t get many clients . . .  For a time, I even tried to draw little hearts over my “i” s when writing in school, like the Stacey character did in her babysitting journal entries,  but that didn’t stick either . . . 

Ann M. Martin wrote literally hundreds of Babysitters books.  The original series ran from 1986 through 2000.  And you know what?  In all that time, the kids NEVER AGED!  By the time the series ended, these characters seemed more like kids that I would babysit, instead of the other way around.  I have a theory as to why this is, but I’d rather keep it to myself, if you don’t mind . . .

And now, after nearly a decade away, it appears that the girls are about to get even YOUNGER! Age discrepancies aside, when I heard that Ann M. Martin was writing a prequel to the series entitled, The Summer Before, I was super psyched!  I don’t care that I’m too old, I am TOTALLY reading this book.  The seven-year old inside of me demands it! 

Of course, part of me wishes that Martin had chosen to write a sequel, instead of a prequel, so that I could finally find out whether my babysitting pals ever actually graduated the eighth grade . . .  But until that happens, at least I will be able to check in on my OTHER friends, the Wakefields.

If The Babysitters Club were the fictional girls that I most wanted as my friends, the Wakefield twins were the fictional girls I most wanted to BE!  It was as if Francine Pascal, took the super cool Stacey character from The Babysitters series, transplanted her to the West Coast, cloned her, and gave her a book series all her own!  Elizabeth was the smart, conscientious one — an excellent student, and class newspaper editor, with designs on a future career in journalism.   She was kind of a goody-goody, and a tad boring, most of the time.  So, of course, I related to her the most (even though I didn’t really want to) . . .

Jessica was a Total Bitch!  Your classic mean girl.

She could care less about school or grades.  And was only interested in boys and popularity, and her snooty “elite” club called The Unicorns.

Really, Francine Pascal?  This was what you chose as your “Cool Girl” Mascot?

Throughout most of the series, Jessica took advantage of Elizabeth and generally treated her like crap.  But, like any abusive relationship, she always apologized during the last few pages.  So, Elizabeth, a glutton for punishment, took her back.  And for some reason, despite all her evilness, us readers liked her anyway . . . (We even liked her more than we liked Elizabeth, although most of us didn’t want to admit it . . .)

Unlike The Babysitters Club series, which focused exclusively on the characters’ middle school years.  We got to watch Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield throughout their childhood, and up through young adulthood.  In fact, before the first book in the  Sweet Valley Twins series was even released, there was Sweet Valley High, which detailed the highschool adventures of the Wakefield twins.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason (she never told me why), my mom wouldn’t let me read these books.  I eventually read the first few when I was a bit older.  And they WERE surprisingly risque, especially considering the time during which they were written.  Upon turning 14, Jessica Wakefield went from just being a bitch, to being a bitch AND a slut. 

In addition to these two series, Francine Pascal went on to release Sweet Valley Kids, which featured the twins in second and third grade . . .

Sweet Valley Senior Year (self explanatory), and the Sweet Valley University series.  Oh, and of course, there was a TV show . . .

 . . . which I never watched.

After taking a few years off, it appears that the Wakefield twins are back in action.  In addition to the new Sweet Valley Confidential book (or, as I like to call it, Sweet Valley Adults), Juno writer, Diablo Cody, is also, apparently, in the process of penning a movie featuring the girls.

 . . . although something tells me, were they actually to exist, Elizabeth and Jessica wouldn’t exactly be buddy-buddy with Diablo.  Those tatts alone would send the prissy Wakefields running for the Hollywood Hills.  Now THAT’S something I’d like to see on the big screen!

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Filed under Books I loved as a kid, nostalgia, Novel, Sweet Valley Twins Series, The Babysitters Club Series