I’m a huge Veronica Mars fan. But if I’m being honest, I’m not a very good fan. I LOVED the first season, really liked the second season, and was disappointed by the third season. I didn’t actually mind when the show got cancelled. I’d rather watch that perfect first season again and again than watch the show deteriorate into a pale shadow of itself.
So when we heard about the movie, I followed the press pretty religiously, but with trepidation. I didn’t contribute to Kickstarter because I didn’t know that I really wanted a VM reunion. Movies rarely work when they’re based off TV shows. Look at Star Trek. Even the Firefly movie wasn’t as good as most of the episodes.
Kristen Bell is good and all, but does Veronica Mars, adult detective, work as well as girl detective? My theory is that VM was never able to recapture the angst of Veronica trying to solve her best friend’s murder. Once that went away, the show was missing something.
But this is a book review — I’m getting there, I promise.
So the movie came out a month ago and I was lucky to be able to watch it with my two teenage nieces, who are also super-big fans of the show. We were all a little “meh” about the movie. For them, I suppose they couldn’t relate as well to the grown-up Veronica, who hates the idea of working in a law firm and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. I could relate a lot more than they could.
For me, the movie was fine but didn’t add much.
Then I found out there was a book, written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, that picks up where the movie leaves off. And the book was … everything I wanted it to be.
Why did the book work for me and the movie didn’t? I can’t say for sure but here are some ideas:
1) I’d always rather read than see something as a movie. I get to spend days with the story, not just 2 hours.
2) In the book I get Veronica’s thoughts, her perspective. More than just action.
3) The story is more interesting and more complex. Mysteries are all about the details, and books just do it better.
4) Wallace and Mac had slightly bigger roles.
5) The movie was terribly self-conscious about being a “reunion” of all the characters. Rob Thomas said this movie was about giving the fans what they wanted. The book didn’t have to go there. No awkward set-up required.
So, as a Veronica Mars fan, and a pretty critical one, I loved the book. Is it the best read ever? Of course not. It’s a mystery, and a fluffy one at that. But it brought my favorite characters back to life in a way the movie didn’t. And because it’s Rob Thomas, it doesn’t feel like someone else is trying to write these characters. It feels like you’re watching the TV show. There are catchphrases used from the show and tons of references to past storylines and characters. And it didn’t feel forced.
Like on the show, Veronica is maddeningly headstrong and impervious to danger, meaning she does some really stupid things. But she’s a marshmallow too. There’s a story line with her mother that I thought was done really well. And I liked that the mystery took a few turns I wasn’t expecting.
The Eli story has yet to be explored, and I understand there’s a two-book contract, so I’m expecting that next. Eli was definitely one of my favorite TV characters.
So you know, there’s not a lot of romance in this book, and that suited me just fine.
One small complaint, as a former law student, I’m not sure why Veronica’s choices have been framed as small-town PI or soulless lawyer. In the book she gets asked why she isn’t working for the FBI or something like that. Yes, there are other options in legal careers, especially for someone as brilliant and detail-oriented as she is. But since I myself am a lawyer-who-was-never-a-lawyer, I can’t help but think she’s made a good choice.