YA Weekend: The 100 by Kass Morgan

the 100The 100 by Kass Morgan

“Although the astronomical event of a lifetime was playing out right before his eyes, he was looking only at her.”

Genre: Science fiction, post-apocalyptic, young adult, romance

Series: The 100 #1

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 2013)

Author Info

Wendy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn’t bother with CW’s The 100 because I am a YA snob and didn’t want to watch a show that reduced young adults to the sum of their private parts with a dash of Lord of the Flies drama, but reviews from reliable sources prompted me to change my mind. It started out proving my fears to be reasonably well founded, but, as the story of 100 young adults sent to a ruined earth to see if it was survivable progressed, the kids started to put their big boy and girl pants on. Moreover, it wasn’t just about the kids on the ground. It also focused prominently on the adults above, and later below, and how they all deal with this new world together–or apart.

Lost meets Battlestar Galactica is the easiest way to describe the show (it even features actors from both, which made me overlook my initial frustrations), with an excellent concept at its base: three generations after a nuclear winter, the survivors of the cataclysm have found that their orbital home, the Ark, is dying. Air is precious, which is why criminals over the after of 18 are punished with immediate death by “floating” out into the cold, cold vacuum of space. 100 juvenile delinquents are sent to earth wearing life monitoring bracelets to determine if the earth is ready for its spacebound children to return. The 100 are canaries in the mine.

I learned that the show was based on three books. I also learned that the books weren’t that great. Not surprising. Sometimes poorly written books with a great idea behind them make for the best kind of viewing entertainment. But then I learned that there was more to it. The concept, starting with the title, was brewed up in a think tank at Alloy Entertainment. A manuscript by Morgan was set in play and eventually a publishing deal with reached for two books. Meanwhile, the idea was also pitched to Warner Bros as a pilot that was immediately snapped up even before the books were done.

“In the beginning the novel informed the TV writers about the world, the characters, and the story. But they are full steam ahead in the writers’ room for the show. I’ll continue to work with Kass on our stories, and details will be threaded into the show, but there will be differences; we’ll see how much it parallels.” [X]

To me, having watched the show and now read this book, it feels like the two groups were given point form notes on major plot points surrounding the characters Morgan created, and then went their separate ways. In my mind, the result goes something like this:

Script writers: In this scene, we can use this, this, and this to build various societies on the earth and deal with the issues on the Ark and bring that down to the earth, oh and maybe we can get rid of these characters here but expand on these characters and make this one way more useful and…


Morgan: In this scene, I can make people kiss, kiss some more, or at least think about kissing.

The 100
The latter seems to be all well and good for some people who like the book, most of whom are deeply invested in the show’s various romances. And certainly, there are romances, and many of them are great. But that’s not what the show is about. The book on the other hand, centres every scene around romance, with one character actually risking everyone’s lives to do a thing for the girl he loves. And it makes that particular character and his utter lack of development beyond this plot point just… ugh. Not that any of the other characters develop much either — “Except, unless of course, you consider falling in love a character development,” writes one reviewer, which seems to be the consensus for those of us who dislike the book, whether or not reviewers have seen the show. The book takes such a superficial run at this amazing concept, focusing instead on scenes that rarely stray away from who wants to make heart eyes at whom, jealousy, and occasionally applying bandaids to wounds or going hunting in order to actually achieve that survival thing they were sent to earth to do.

I almost feel bad for Morgan and the apparent fact that she had no contact with the script writers to compare notes, leaving this all to the gods of “We’ll See” to see how things match up. Understandably, the show has to pad things out to fill a 13-16 season ark based on just a concept, but the book ought to have done the same. Instead, there was no world building, no character development for the four protagonists it follows, no dramatic conflict, sparse descriptions…

But hey. Ballarke fans can rest happy on their ship. Who cares about plot and purpose.
2stars

Wendy 2

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13 Comments on “YA Weekend: The 100 by Kass Morgan

  1. I love your definition of “YA snob”! 🙂
    I stumbled on the first season of the show before becoming aware that its core theme derived from a series of books – and YA books at that – but still I was not captivated by the story or the characters. Apart from the heavy accent on romance (which seemed more important than survival in a hostile environment!!!!), there were a few glaring inconsistencies that shattered my suspension of disbelief: for example, the young people grew up in a confined environment, and yet none of them exhibited even the slightest sign of agoraphobia once they landed on Earth. Seriously? Not for me, thank you very much…

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    • haha yes there are definitely some technical elements that require better explanation or representation. The romance aspect though, that dials down significantly at around episode 5 when the true realization of what is at stake hits them.

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    • I’m not a CW fan either. The main characters are the typical CW type but I appreciate that they’ve introduced some other characters who play significant roles but aren’t your typical beautiful kid.

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  2. Oh bummer. I decided to watch the show a year or two ago and thought it wasn’t too bad all things considered. And thought why not read the books? I haven’t yet, though I did buy them. But wondering if I made a mistake there. I hadn’t heard many opinions on the books themselves, but now I am feel buyers remorse…add to the fact that I have like 200+ unread books to read and thinking about slipping those 3 out, doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

    Nice honest review all the same! It’s definitely given me something to think about!

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    • Alas, how could you know the books for a show you enjoy would be so poor, especially since the background on how the books versus the show develop is not widely known. We all make bad book buying decisions from time to time. At least now you know you can move on to the good book buying decisions you’ve made instead 🙂

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  3. The show definitely seems really popular but I’ve read mostly negative things about the book – which is why my arc remains untouched. I might read it eventually because it’s so short but I’m not holding up much hope…especially after what you described here :\

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    • I listened to the audiobook, actually, which factored into my decision to read it even when I had heard that it was not great. The audiobook narrators were good enough to make the whole process tolerable, but I definitely can’t recommend the book to anyone but Bellarke shippers.

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  4. I have been going back and forth about picking up this series because I love the show but I it’s always dicey. So…um…thanks for braving those waters for me:). I think your review convinces me to take a pass (especially the background of how the books and show are related) on the books and just enjoy the show.

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    • Yup, definitely keep your distance. The grounders don’t even show up until the end of this book. Maybe the second is better with them there? But I doubt it… The key to the show for me and for me convincing people to watch it is that the kids really grew up the moment they understood the stakes and started making some really adult decisions that didn’t directly relate to who they wanted to make heart eyes at. I don’t see any prospect of that in the books.

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