7 Times YA Books Came to the Rescue in Pop Culture

Dawn and the Surfer Ghost

While being stuck in the 1990s often trips up the titular heroine of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, sometimes her time-capsule-esque knowledge comes in handy. One of the best moments in the Netflix series comes when Kimmy uses her love of the Baby-Sitters Club to undermine her employer’s stepdaughter, sullen teen Xanthippe. While trying to fit in with her hard-partying friends, Xanthippe makes up a story about meeting a hot surfer dude…using the exact plot of Dawn and the Surfer Ghost, the book that comprised Kimmy’s sole reading material in the bunker. By threatening to reveal the truth, Kimmy is able to keep Xanthippe from succumbing to peer pressure.

Below are 6 more movies and TV shows that know books can change your life, or even save it. In each, reading a certain book—or inhabiting an entire world of them—makes the difference in being recognized for your full potential, getting one over on a scheming underminer, having a social life, saving a life, and saving the world. Maybe the next time you’re heading to a new school or job, trapped in a bunker, or participating in a high-stakes game, you’ll think twice about keeping a book handy.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Lake Bell’s writer/directorial debut In a World… depicts the tense competition among a seasoned voiceover actor, his male heir-apparent, and his aspiring daughter Carol, in an industry that doesn’t believe women have the vocal heft to narrate epic movie trailers. But when a new female-driven, YA action movie franchise called The Amazon Games—sound familiar?decides to bring back the famous “in a world…” narration, Carol has her perfect shot at voiceover stardom.

The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
The paradox-inducing tome at the center of this fantasy classic writes its own reality, drawing in reader Bastian from the mortal world as he discovers the characters in The Neverending Story reading a book of the same title that details his experience reading the book. Right before things launch into an infinite loop, Bastian must jump from mere reader to participant—just as the book intended all along.

Deenie, by Judy Blume (and so many more)
This is a vaguer example, but we think you’ll agree: On Gilmore Girls, books were Rory Gilmore’s lifeblood—helping her adjust to stuffy Chilton, something to recommend to cute first boyfriend Dean, a true bond with bad boy (but avid reader) Jess, and part of what helped her transition to young adulthood. As Rory said in her valedictorian speech, “I live in two worlds. One is a world of books.” And of the 339 books we saw her reading over the course of the series, there are quite a few YAs and/or young protagonists: Alice in Wonderland, The Catcher in the Rye, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Emily the Strange, Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective, Freaky Friday, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (also Goblet of Fire), Little Women, The Lovely Bones, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Wizard of Oz...

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
In mind-bending thriller The Game, Michael Douglas’s character keeps a revolver hidden in a copy of Harper Lee’s classic. We all knew the book was valuable, but that’s taking it to a whole nother level.

Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
Doctor Who is bursting with literary references, because of course a nigh-immortal being who travels through time and space would surround himself with well-read companions. What’s even more amusing is when Martha Jones throws William Shakespeare himself an “Expelliarmus!” in order to finish his verse and save the universe. Let’s join the Doctor in cheering for “good old J.K.!”

The Clique, by Lisi Harrison
In Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, Mavis is stuck in arrested development due in part to her job ghostwriting the catty YA book series Waverly Prep. TV Tropes compares the books to Lisi Harrison’s The Clique series, but in the case of the film, Mavis’ trap also frees her: After a disastrous reunion with her high school crowd, she’s able to finally achieve closure by writing out her teenage protagonists’ graduation and next steps.

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