PENELOPE the novel written by Marilyn Kaye was published on March 20th 2007 by St. Martin's Griffin. The book was an adaptation of the screenplay of a movie already showing in other countries than the USA by the same name, starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, and Reese Witherspoon.
PENELOPE is a fairy tale.
Penelope Wilhern has everything a girl could want: A wealthy, socialite family, an enchanted bedroom and some of the coolest clothes around. There is only one problem: She was born into a cursed family and has the face of a pig.
Hidden away from the world, Penelope now finds herself subjected to a string of snobby, blue-blooded bachelors in a desperate attempt to find her a husband in order to break the curse. Though she yearns for something greater, what?s a girl to do when faced with a determined mother and her matchmaking sidekick? Hoping to snap a photo of the mysterious girl, mischievous tabloid reporter Lemon hires down-on-his-luck Max to pose as a prospective suitor and infiltrate the family. But when Max finds himself truly drawn to Penelope, he can?t bring himself to expose and disappoint her, so he just disappears. Fed up with this latest betrayal and determined to live life on her own terms, Penelope decides to break free from her family and go out into the world in search of adventure. Hiding her true identity with a scarf, Penelope discovers a wondrous world where freedom opens her eyes to possibilities she never knew existed. Making new friends along the way, she discovers happiness in the most unexpected places.
I saw the movie long before I read the book. But it was also the first book I had read based on a screenplay and not the other way around, so I thought I would review both for you side by side, in the order that I experienced them (because those who read the book first, tend to have a different reaction -- which I think is equally interesting!).
I love this movie! Honestly I think it is adorable. The characters are funny James McAvoy is captivating and Christina Ricci is the prettiest "pig faced girl" one can imagine. I laughed at the situations, felt a pang in my heart for Peneleope and just really enjoyed this movie! I wish it had had better distribution because it has such an amazing message for everyone, as we all have insecurities.
If you have not seen this movie, see it! If you have teenage daughters make them watch it with you. It really was great.
Oh and all I can say is James McAvoy has those EYES and that LOOK and that KISS. Oh man. I skip back and watch that scene a hundred times in a row and never get sick of it!
Placement in the Pile: Middle of the Stack
PENELOPE the novel was an interesting read for me. It really felt a lot like she took the text of a screenplay, put it in paragraph form and added a little.
A few chapters in I realized one reason why reading it "felt" so strange. The book switches perspectives from Penelope to others at chapter breaks. This isn't unheard of for a book, but what was VERY strange was all of the Penelope chapters were in first person and all of the other chapters were in third person. It really felt strange. I kept thinking..."can authors do this?" The answer I came up with is "they shouldn't". It really kept pulling me out of the story every time my brain had to switch gears.
Some of the character developments were a little more in depth, but other than that it was a very similar experience to watching the movie. In the end I think Marilyn Kaye could have done so much more with the story and really delve into the characters, their backgrounds and their motivations more. It just fell a little flat.
Although after reading the book, I can see how people who read the book first would think the movie fell flat, as it doesn't develop some of the backstory in minor characters that the book does expand.
In the end it's a two edged sword. The book took about 3-4 hours to read for most of the girls in my reader's group and the movie is just under 2 hours. Either way, it is a really really cute story so I highly suggest it to all who have not read/watched it.