Apparently Dan Brown’s popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, is being adapted into a YA friendly version. According to Publisher’s Weekly the book will be abridged and will have content more appropriate to a teen audience, while maintaining the original plot.
Now I’ll start this brief rant by saying that I have never read The Da Vinci Code and have no particular judgment as to its quality one way or another. It is a very popular book which means that it might also be a good book. My quibble is with abridgments and “audience appropriate” books.
For children I kind of get these sorts of books. Series like the Illustrated Classics series, or abridgments of classic old works like Don Quixote and The Three Musketeers give children a general sense of the story without having to deal with some of the archaic language. I am someone who grew up with Wishbone after all. Children’s versions are a good way to teach children that old stories can be just as entertaining as newer material. But even in elementary school we were reading original versions of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Sherlock Holmes mysteries and all sorts of other books.
One of the weird anachronisms of Peanuts that somehow survived to the most recent film was having a character read War & Peace. The age of those kids isn’t firmly specified, but we’re talking an 8-10 year old reading a book with over 1000 pages. These jokes started early on in the strip’s life, and it makes me wonder if kids in the fifties and sixties were held to a higher standard than kids of today. Then again, Schulz had characters often giving Snoopy chocolate, so he’s not a perfect guide. But I think the basic idea holds up, kids are capable of dealing with the original and are more mature than we might give them credit for.
And we’re talking about YA which is aimed at an older audience (and is in fact read by many adults). A lot of YA content deals with violence and post-apocalyptic worlds, so my suspicion is that the only edits for content in The Da Vinci Code have to do with some of the weird sex stuff. I’ll admit that’s a guess, but I bet I’m right. The only abridgment I “enjoyed” in high-school was Les Miserables, and only because it meant that I didn’t have to slog through the full text of a book literally titled “The Miserable.” Most high-school students don’t like to be talked down to, they like to be treated like adults.
The YA version of the Code is being written to inspire young people to an interest in history, but I wonder why Brown (or his publisher) assumes that such an interest can’t be inspired by reading the actual book? I could equally understand taking on a new project, targeted at a YA audience that hits on many of the same themes, but has a unique storyline more “appropriate” to its audience. But instead, he’s rewriting a book he wrote over 13 years ago. One wonders why.
Honestly, I think the YA book is just an attempt to cash in one more time on the brand and I doubt the book brings anything new to the table. I’m sure it will sell, and that people will read it. But if my hypothetical child is interested in The Da Vinci Code, or books like it, I think I’ll stick to the original. Or War & Peace, that’ll keep the kid busy for a while 🙂