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The book-loving moviegoer's dilemma: Should I read 'The Lovely Bones' before seeing the film?

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Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of The Lovely Bones lands in theaters this Friday, which presents me with a dilemma. You see, I’m one of those folks who really, truly intended to read Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel. (My colleague Karen Valby gave the book one of its very first raves and it’s been on my to-read list ever since.) But now I worry that I won’t have the time to do so before I see Jackson’s film adaptation, which stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), Rachel Weisz, and Mark Walhberg.

Sure, there have been plenty of movies I’ve seen without having read the book first. And many instances when I’ve gone back and read the source material afterwards (Sideways, The Sweet Hereafter). But seldom have I done so with a book as popular as The Lovely Bones. I know that there will doubtless be plotlines (and perhaps even characters) who will be missing from the movie. I know, too, that the book will invariably be better (as the book almost always is in these book vs. film showdowns). But I fret about all the other ways that the movie might color my impression of Sebold’s work. Will I envision the characters as the actors who play them — despite how Sebold might describe them? I know that I couldn’t help but picture Daniel Radcliffe when I was reading the later Harry Potter titles.

What about you? On book-based movies like The Lovely Bones, do you prefer to read the book first or let the movie serve as a long trailer for the story’s truest form, on paper (or Kindle screen)?