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Celebrate the Disney+ Launch with These 15 Disney Channel Original Movie and Book Pairings

by  | November 11

The imminent launch of the much-hyped Disney streaming service, Disney+, has touched off many a nostalgic conversation here at Get Literary HQ. We cannot WAIT to dive into all the new programming that Disney plans to debut exclusively on the platform, including Avengers and Star Wars spin-offs. But if we’re being honest, we’re almost MORE excited about the library of classic content it’ll host, like nearly 100 Disney Channel Original Movies, a.k.a. DCOMs. (You can see the impressive full list here.) As 90s kids who grew up alongside these good-natured movies, we’re stoked to know we’ll soon be able to revisit them whenever the mood strikes. In anticipation of launch day (November 12), and because we’re bookish people through and through, we’ve compiled our recommendations for what to read after rewatching your favorite DCOM on Disney+.

Avalanche

Avalanche

by Melinda Braun

Molly’s Pick #1: Johnny Tsunami

Picture this: Johnny Kapahaala, needing a break from his strained relationship with his father, embarks upon an adrenaline-filled ski and snowboarding trip with the Skies and Urchins. An avalanche descends—burying, injuring, and even killing some of their group. Johnny, harnessing the courage and skill it took for him to win the Tsunami Medal, begins a rescue mission, battling the elements, predatory wildlife, and the unknown. The book equivalent of Johnny Tsunami’s extreme, survivalist experience is Avalanche by Melinda Braun. It’s a harrowing adventure tale about grit, perseverance, friendship, and adapting to new environments—some of my favorite aspects of Johnny Tsunami (although I will admit that Avalanche is severely lacking a mid-book trip to Hawaii).

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Love & Gelato

Love & Gelato

by Jenna Evans Welch

Molly’s Pick #2: Cadet Kelly

In both the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly and the charming YA novel Love & Gelato, the protagonists are forced into new environments and must adapt to new family situations. Sure, one is sent to military school and the other to spend the summer in Tuscany…but you get the idea. I love Hilary Duff’s Kelly because she is spunky, clever, and more than meets the eye. When her mom remarries a military man, Kelly struggles to adjust, but ultimately overcomes superficial differences with her classmates and embraces her new blended family too.

In Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch, Lina adheres to her mom’s dying wish and moves to Tuscany to live with her mother’s friend Howard—a man she never heard of before the end of her mom’s life (and who might actually be her father?!?). Lina is quieter and shier than Cadet Kelly, but she’s similarly adventurous, brave, and strong. Through reading her mother’s journal, Lina uncovers details about her mom’s own time living in Tuscany and how those experiences affected the rest of her life—and Lina’s. In the midst of grieving her mom, Lina finds a new family unit to love and support her.

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SLAY

SLAY

by Brittney Morris

Nicole’s Pick #1: The Color of Friendship

My long-term memory is...not the greatest, but for some reason I can clearly remember sitting down to watch The Color of Friendship. I was 13 when the movie premiered, and I could relate to the idea of developing friendships with people who were very different from me. The movie takes place in 1977 and follows two girls, Piper and Mahree, through the ups and downs of their new friendship. Piper is black and lives in Washington D.C., where her father works in government to oppose apartheid in South Africa. Mahree is a white South African exchange student who comes to stay with Piper’s family. Both girls are forced to confront the ingrained prejudices and stereotypes they hold during a time of racial upheaval. The themes and lessons in The Color of Friendship are also front and center in SLAY by Brittney Morris. Both have so much heart and show how it’s possible to forge friendships in spite of our differences.

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The Interestings

The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer

Nicole’s Pick #2: Lemonade Mouth

“Everything changes but one thing is true, understand, we’ll always be more than a band.” This is just one example of the lyrics you’ll find on the soundtrack to one of my favorite DCOMs, Lemonade Mouth. Before Hayley Kiyoko was dubbed “lesbian Jesus,” she played a member of the band formed by a group of high school students who met in detention. So basically The Breakfast Club, but slightly more kid friendly and with 200% more original music.

Much like Lemonade Mouth, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings includes a group of young people who meet in unexpected circumstances, but for them it’s at a summer performing arts camp. Whereas Lemonade Mouth focuses on adolescence, The Interestings shows what happens to a group of kids once they grow up and move past the ideals and talents they clung to in their childhood.

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Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart

by Rachael Lippincott

Holly’s Pick #1: Miracle in Lane 2

Early Disney Channel Original movies know just how to hit someone right in the feels–and when the movie is based on a true story? Well, I hope you have your tissues ready. Miracle in Lane 2 stars the popular child actor Frankie Muniz (how much more classic can you get?) as a disabled soapbox racer. As his character, who used a wheelchair after being born with spina bifida, overcame life-threatening obstacles and defied physical expectations, my elementary school heart cheered him on the whole way.

If you’re looking for a book to tug on your heartstrings much like Miracle does, look no further than Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott—but trade the love of soapbox racing for teen romance. Bound by the constraints of their cystic fibrosis, hospital patients Stella and Will can never be closer than six feet apart. But the teens quickly find out that it’s not so easy to stay away from the one you love, despite a life-threatening illness standing in the way.

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Sorted

Sorted

by Jackson Bird

Holly’s Pick #2: The Thirteenth Year

While Disney Channel Original Movies eased some of our growing pains, the hardships of adolescence were still oh-so-present. In The Thirteenth Year, Cody Griffin is going through a new kind of puberty—one that involves fins and a tail. On his thirteenth birthday, he realizes he is turning into a merman.

This movie encouraged kids to accept who they are, no matter how different they may be. If you loved this DCOM and all the positive life lessons surrounding it, pick up a copy of Sorted. In Jackson Bird’s memoir, he recounts the many obstacles he navigated as he transitioned into a transgender man. Educational bits matched by humorous commentary makes Sorted the perfect book to reaffirm the value of being yourself—even if you’re still trying to figure out who that is.

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The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

by Sarah Miller

Erin’s Pick #1: Quints

If you’re a grown-up fan of this early Disney Channel classic, you may be fascinated to learn about the real set of quintuplets who inspired Quints. In 1934, the Ontario government took custody of the Dionne quintuplets under the guise of protecting them from sideshows and showmen, but what started as an attempt to keep them from being abused turned into a tourist hot spot known as “Quintland” and an ongoing saga of exploitation that would haunt the siblings into adulthood. Sarah Miller’s The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets is a work of gripping narrative nonfiction that tells their full story.

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When We Were Magic

When We Were Magic

by Sarah Gailey

Sara’s Pick #1: The Cheetah Girls

Everyone knows that the Cheetah Girls were squad goals before squad goals were a thing. Dorinda, Aqua, Galleria, and Chanel formed the cutest girl group in animal print, and they faced the challenges of life, love, and friendship together. If you're looking for more of that epic female friendship magic, you’re going to want to mark When We Were Magic as To Be Read ahead of its publication in March 2020. A little bit more of a grown-up version of a squad, these witches are one tight coven, and Alexis wants it to stay that way. But there are forces at work to split them apart, like a dead boy, failed magic, and unrequited romantic feelings. A great LGBTQ+ read that celebrates complicated friendships and comprehends that even the best of intentions comes with consequences.

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Ready Player One (Media Tie-In)

Ready Player One (Media Tie-In)

by Ernest Cline

Sara’s Pick #2: Phantom of the Megaplex

A mix of thrills, chills, and massive movie nerdiness, Phantom of the Megaplex holds a special place in my heart. Pete is an assistant manager at the local megaplex, and he’s as enthusiastic about his job as he is about movies, something he shares with his younger siblings, Karen and Brian, who help him catch the titular phantom. So what better read to tap into that sense of adventure and unabashed pop culture geekery than Ready Player One? Ernest Cline's hit book follow Wade Watts, a teen who lives in a world where just about everything is done through virtual reality, including school. Wade's favorite pastime, playing the video game OASIS, soon becomes an epic quest after it becomes known that the game's creator hid an Easter egg in the virtual world that will allow a player to inherit his fortune and ownership of the game. And what does this quest require? An extensive knowledge of retro movies, TV, music, and video games of course. The perfect fit if you love a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of insider references.

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The Sisters of Alameda Street

The Sisters of Alameda Street

by Lorena Hughes

Sara’s Pick #3: Gotta Kick It Up!

You've got to hand it to Disney: they clearly wanted to make their own version of Bring It On and gave us the iconic Gotta Kick It Up!, which follows a middle school cheer/dance team. The girls are all Latina, but they come from different backgrounds and in different sizes; the dances they do incorporate Latin moves, and surprise! None of them are "the fiery, spicy one." You even get to see young America Ferrera dance. So if you're digging Latinas embracing themselves and their culture, check out The Sisters of Alameda Street. In 1960s Ecuador, Malena Sevilla discovers, after her father’s tragic suicide, that her mother (who she had understood had died in childbirth) is still alive. However, she only knows that her mother’s name starts with the letter A, and after meeting four sisters (any one of whom she believes could be her mother) who all have “A” names, she must uncover dark secrets to bring her family back together. Deeply poetic, a little sad, but also comic and ultimately fulfilling, this is a book that will get you wanting to move—whether it be to tango or to travel.

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The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic

by Alice Hoffman

Erin’s Pick #2: Twitches

I have to admit after reading the description of this movie, it’s much cornier than I remember, but it’s also heartfelt and stars the twins Tia and Tamera from Sister, Sister, so I’ll still be rewatching it on Disney+. For those who loved this movie for its magic and twin sisters who are witches (Get it? Twitches?), I highly recommend reading The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman’s spellbinding tale of the Owens family, for whom love is a curse. The three tight-knit Owens siblings come to discover the truth about who they are and uncover their family’s secrets all while coping with their own magic. Perfect for the adult Disney fan who still loves all things witch-y.

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Younger

Younger

by Pamela Redmond

Erin’s Pick #3: Read It and Weep

This movie made all of us dream of a day when we would turn in a creative writing assignment and suddenly have a bestselling novel, right? No? Just me? In any case, for fans of Read It and Weep who want another glimpse into the publishing world through the eyes of a less than reliable narrator, I recommend picking up Younger (also the basis for the TV Land show of the same name). In an attempt to get a job in the publishing industry, Alice fakes her age, but what starts as an innocent attempt to circumvent ageism turns into a masquerade that may have serious consequences.

 

Warning: Do not use Read It and Weep and Younger as real representations of the publishing industry. There’s a lot more waiting. And rejections. And meetings in freezing conference rooms.

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The Night World Collection

The Night World Collection

by L.J. Smith

Heather’s Pick: Halloweentown

I watched way too much TV as a kid, so I’m not exactly sure how I missed out on so many of the movies on this list. I hadn’t even seen Halloweentown until a few years ago, when my roommate turned it on as part of her annual Halloween viewing ritual and converted me into a fan as well. It turns out I had no immunity to the adorable Piper family and their big secret: though they live in the mortal world, they’re descended from witches from the magical world of Halloweentown, where witches, vampires, and other types of paranormal creatures live openly and in (relative) peace. The Pipers’ adventures in their beloved Halloweentown reminds me of the young adult book series Night World, from L.J. Smith, who also created The Vampire Diaries. Darker, grittier, and more dangerous than Halloweentown, the Night World is a society of vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and, yes, witches who all live secretly among mortals. They’re forbidden to fall in love with humans, so naturally, that’s exactly what they do. If you delight in the Halloweentown movies but crave slightly edgier plots and some wonderfully angsty star-crossed romance, pick up one of the nine Night World books—or grab the whole collection.

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Illuminae

Illuminae

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Leora’s Pick #1: Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

Okay, so what you might remember from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is that a pop star named Proto Zoa gets stuck in space with a mega fan who wears neon scrunchies and metallic skirts and has oh-so-2000s-style bangs. But there was so much more, including great dialogue (“Zeedus Lapeedus”!) and an “Earth is so weird” narrative as told by a feisty female protagonist who is so homesick she could just die. Oh, and who could forget the plot? The space station that Zenon calls home is in danger of being sabotaged, which would cause the entire thing to crash, and everyone seems determined not to let Zenon save the day. To that effect, I propose that you pick up Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It’s a fun, futuristic book about two teenagers (who just broke up with each other, making for ultimate angst!) who are left stranded in a dangerous solar system that they must learn to navigate while also evading people (and AI) who are eager to stop them at all costs.

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The Circle

The Circle

by Dave Eggers

Leora’s Pick #2: Smart House

Teenage me was obsessed with Ryan Merriman (the star of this cool-until-you-realize-it’s-terrifying movie), and so I watched this movie many, many times. The dream house that 13-year-old Ben Cooper wins in a competition is supposed to make his family’s lives easier. But as the computer that runs the house starts to take on a life of its own (after it starts to watch–and learn–from TV housewives of yore), it becomes more and more strict and protective until it deems the entire outside world too dangerous. The house, called PAT, starts by doing the types of normal things we see smart houses do now: regulate the temperature, turn on your favorite music, and even tell you what you need to buy from the grocery store. In Smart House, however, PAT goes a step further and also locks in the family and refuses to let them out. And while that last bit might seem a little dramatic, this sort of thing reflects a real-life question that haunts us: When will tech cross the line from helping us to controlling us? With that in mind, the book I think fellow fans of this excellent Ryan Merriman vehicle should read is Dave Eggers’ The Circle, which I have talked about a LOT because it feels so prescient. It’s a terrifying dystopian tale where a tech company employee utilizes the company’s systems to make her life better and better, only to realize that the cost of her desired ease is freedom. You won’t look at your Google Home the same way after reading it, I promise you.

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