It's easy to understand why so many people dismiss a lot of young adult fiction as "tween trash": usually each one is an almost carbon copy of the Harry Potter formula, with less heart and worse writing. When they are inevitably picked up for a film, the results are as you imagine, the same dull fantasy that capitalizes over the obsession of the better and more successful franchises.

This was seen when the Hunger Games series came out. Despite a few large flaws, the film series was very well translated from the books, enough that you could see the darkly satirical intent of Suzanne Collins. It may have been very reminiscent of properties like Battle Royale, but ultimately the series had a lot to say to a young audience about authoritarianism. The films managed to focus on character rather than the outlandish plot and made a film series that didn't live in the shadow of J.K Rowling. In fact it cast its own shadow and the mimicking &"Divergent" and "The Maze Runner" series were born. Following the trend of dystopian world and battle arenas, without any of the heart or grace that The Hunger Games managed to provide.

But The Hunger Games is not the only young adult fiction since Harry was left at privet drive, worth a damn. In fact there has been a few, one that I hold very close to my heart is a series by Darren Shan called"The Vampires Assistant". The books Shan wrote were horror for kids and teens, not creepy campy horror like the "Goosebumps" books. But dark, challenging stories full of atmosphere.

In late 2007, it was announced that the first three books of "The Vampire Assistant" were to be adapted into a film. The excitement I felt was overwhelming; this was the first time I followed a film from its announcement to its release. What we got from such a layered, complex and brooding source material, was a campy teen vampire film, full of jokes, from the co-director of American Pie.

Tragedy. Another film on the pile of many young adult adaptations that had no respect for the original material. Take for example a scene from the book. The lead character (also named Darren Shan, played by Chris Massoglia) must fake his own death to leave his life and become a Vampire's right-hand man. He must lie in his own coffin cold and alone, waiting for the Vampire (Larten Crepsley, played by John C. Reilly) to dig him up. Which in the film is translated to an aged up Darren, sitting in his coffin playing a handheld video game. A joke.

This is the main problem with most of the adaptations. Seemingly the film studio or director decides to trim most of the claws from the book. Anything too dark is either cut entirely and replaced with jokes or toned down. Apart from the previously horrific translation of the coffin scene, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampires Assistant cut tons of the effecting scenes in the first three books. Including entire important characters. Evra Von, a snake boy from the Cirque Du Freak, is given a beanie and skateboard and played by actor Patrick Fugit as comedic relief. This and so many of the choices in these films are done to appeal to the wide "cool" youth demographic and in cutting off anything deemed threatening, the films become unforgivable messes that appeal to no one. This was done with The Golden Compass, Eragon, City of Ember and Bridge to Terabithia – which if we're counting, is another ruined franchise starring Josh Hutcherson who was also in Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire Assistant.

But a few years back, there was a hopeful announcement. Netflix was making A Series of Unfortunate Events. It would be developed by Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Pushing Daisies) and Bo Welch, the production designer on most Tim Burton films. Finally, a model for this dark fiction existed, Netflix could produce this series without having to appeal to a mass film market. A fan-made teaser for the show was released online – see it here &ndash, and increased the hype as it set out the possibility that this series could achieve the tone that dragged people to the books in the first place. But then something strange happened (and not the good strange that made the books mesmerizing), Neil Patrick Harris was cast as Count Olaf. A talented actor and performer no doubt, but could he really fill the shoes of this absurd villain who is half pathetic and half menacing?. We would have to wait until 2017 to find out.

Now it is April 2018 and the second season has just dropped on the streaming service. Let me preface this by stating that I am actually quite fond of the 2004 A Series of Unfortunate Events, catch our editor Wess Haubrich's interview with the 2004 iteration's director, Brad Silberling, here. Though seemingly used as a comedic vehicle for Jim Carrey, the film got a lot right. It had an incredible production design and for the most part retained a lot of the darkness from the novels. Though it was undercut by Jim Carrey's humour and the weird structure was constructed by (yet again) shoving three books into one movie. The Netflix series casts the story of one book over two in 45-1hr episodes. This, in theory, means they could build the world and tension of each book. The surreal darkness could be explored in full. I put on the first episode, and the credits began, a campy song, sung by Neil Patrick Harris, flexing his musical muscle. From that point, I dreaded the possibilities of what was to come.

The series has a lot of positive points. Its production design is equally as beautiful as the film, the acting from the children is, for the most part, a huge improvement over the movie and the series allowed us to go beyond the third book in the story. However, I obviously found myself bored and cringing throughout each episode. The performance from Neil Patrick Harris is a little more subtle than Jim Carrey's, but a lot of the time feels like a discount-store value version of Carrey's performance. He plays it in the same comedic vein but lacks some of the unpredictability that would make Carrey marginally intimidating. One thing he does insist on adding is painfully unfunny musical numbers. Sonnenfeld's adaptation feels like a successor to his series Pushing Daises (in part due to the similar score by the same composer) lacking any of the soul that the writers and showrunner Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Hannibal) provided.  

Yes the surreal nature of the book is in there but veiled in an incredibly predictable structure wherein each story, so much time is devoted to Olaf that he proceeds to lose all mystery and menace. In fact tons of extra scenes for Harris are added, to the point where he is like a second protagonist rather than a villain whose plans manifest behind the curtains of plot. In the books, he will almost magically show up as a new character each time the orphans thought they were safe. In the series screen time is devoted to him and his bumbling acting troupe coming up with the plan first – losing any nuance that the books conveyed.

The show has pockets of brilliance, like the bait and switch with the parents, which is something not present in the books. It also boasts occasional moments of heart, for example, the tear-inducing journey towards the Austere Academy. Patrick Warburton is admittedly a great pick for Lemony Snicket. But again all this is outweighed by meta-humor and face value jokes that fall flat with references to Netflix itself and Uber. The show feels as if there are no stakes and ends up somehow feeling more rushed than the film. The Reptile Room episodes convey more context from the books, yes. But there is more emotional depth in one 10 minute stint with Billy Connolly's Uncle Monty from the 2004 version than the entire series.

At the end of the two series that have been released, though not a complete waste of time, I found myself very let down. Again what made the series so enticing in the first place had been replaced with campy humour that for most part falls flat. There are a ton more problems that I could get into. But seemingly at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes the series is well received, so I may be in the minority here. However, despite its few strengths, it still feels like another book series on a pile of wasted opportunities to show that young adult fiction consists of more than just campy jokes.