Is IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE really a YA novel?

Think about it. It’s an angel story. Okay, so there might not be a hot angel stud in it, but Clarence is definitely not your typical angel. There is a character named Potter in it. And think about the firsts – first kiss, first love, first job, first save-your-brother-from-drowning, and first…well, you get the point.


Here are the ten reasons I love this movie from a writer’s point of view.

1. Opening prayers that make me care for George Bailey. Why is he in so much trouble? Why is everyone praying for him? I want to know!

2. Every single scene is important to the story. They deal with George, Mary, or Potter; and of course, don’t forget the Bailey Building and Loan – that crummy old building.

3. The scenes start late and end early. No fillers! I sit down to watch for five minutes and I end up watching the whole darn movie.

4. Every scene contributes to the main storyline but also has its own storyline. Almost every scene ends with a cliffhanger. For example, George leaves Mary in the bushes to go see his father who had a stroke.

5. Humor is added to each scene: George and Mary falling into the pool or Mary losing her robe.



6. A great debate is introduced in the beginning. Will George take over the Building and Loan or go and travel the world? He chooses to stay but always holds onto the dream of leaving.

7. George is an extremely likeable character. He’s not off to save the world. His goals are really quite selfish. But every decision he makes, putting himself last, comes at huge personal sacrifice. For example – his hearing, his college, his travels, his honeymoon.

8. Incredible secondary characters. Their stories and pivotal moments are revealed when they connect with George’s life.

9. Let’s not forget the mirror images of the first and third act. Every scene in the first act, the characters who are introduced, come into play in Act III.

10. George never reaches his goals. I mean how often does that happen? But that makes the ending so moving. He realizes he had a better life than the one he dreamed about. So primal. Sigh.

This movie is so different from JINGLE ALL THE WAY, but I love them both!

What’s your favorite scene in this movie, if you’ve seen it? If you haven’t, tell me, your favorite Christmas dessert!

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30 Responses to Is IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE really a YA novel?

  1. Sheri Larsen December 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Favorite scene? Hmmm… I can’t pick one, right now. Maybe the bridge scene.

    You really hit it when you mentioned that each and every moment in the film is necessary. I love how you’re making me examine the YA idea in this story. You do have a point.

  2. Sarah December 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Definitely the walking home scene after the fall into the pool. I haven’t watched it yet this holiday season, and now I want to!

  3. Louise December 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I know it makes me sound like a Scrooge … but I’m not actually a huge fan of this movie. Watching it as a kid, it always drove me nuts that Potter never got justice. I know, I know, there was abstract justice, but as a kid I couldn’t quite grasp that. I wanted the town to go throw him out!

    In other words, I wanted an MG novel as opposed to YA 🙂

  4. Stina Lindenblatt December 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Not only is Clarence NOT hot, there are no love triangles. Both are essential in YA angel novels. LOL

    I haven’t seen the movie in a while but I do remember crying at the end. I’m not sure my kids would make it through the movie. Plus I’m sure they’d be whining that it’s not in color.

    Great movie choice!

  5. Emy Shin December 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I haven’t watched this, but your post definitely makes me want to now.

  6. Heather Sunseri December 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Such the great movie! You’re right. And I love it when Mary loses the robe. Classic.

    Favorite Christmas dessert? Sugar cookies!!

  7. Creepy Query Girl December 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I love the early scenes with George and his family and the maid. Too funny. And the ending scene of course:)

    • Laura December 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Honestly? For the longest time I didn’t watch this movie every year. It was black and white. Eh. I knew the story. But it wasn’t until I found myself sucked into it every year that I gave in and just put it on my list of shows to watch. My appreciation for it grows every time I see it. Esp. since as a writer I can pick out the reasons why this movie stays a classic.

  8. Sarah Pearson December 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    You want me to pick just one scene? Oh my goodness. Okay, near the end when he runs through the town yelling hello to all the buildings 🙂

    • Laura December 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      I love that scene too. That and when everyone arrives to give him money – I cry through the entire scene! I’m such a sap.

  9. Ciara Knight December 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    I LOVE this movie. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite scene. You are so right, all the scenes are important.

    My favorite Christmas desert is, dark chocolate truffles. Santa puts them in my stocking. 🙂

  10. Alex J. Cavanaugh December 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    It teaches a lot without really teaching – and that’s tough to do!

  11. Leigh Moore December 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    omg. EVERY ONE. This is the greatest movie–oh, and you forgot to add that there’s some serious chemistry btw George and Mary. 😀 Yep, it’s the perfect YA novel. <3

  12. Lisa Green December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    What a great breakdown! I mean who hasn’t seen this movie. Though honestly I remember my brother and i watching the colorized version on NY eve just to count how many times his tie changed color. But I think we both secretly just enjoyed the movie. 😀 My favorite scene? Humor of course. The pool opening and SPLASH!

  13. Lydia K December 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I never thought of the movie in this way!

  14. Loree Huebner December 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Just saw the movie. Yes, could be YA.

    My favorite scenes are when George was young – especially when he saves the pharmacist from making the terrible mistake with the medicine. The acting in this scene was superb. He knows the pharmacist was upset and drinking over the death of his son…he knew the medicine was the wrong medicine…for a young boy, George did what was right and fought to get him to listen.

  15. E.R. King December 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    You make very valid arguments. I look forward to watching the movie again on Christmas Eve and thinking about what you’ve said. Merry Christmas!

  16. Lindsay December 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    You’re reason #10. . .that is EXACTLY what I’ve been blogging about recently. I love this post:)

    • Laura December 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

      George’s relationship with Mr. Gower is the best – all the way through the movie!

      Thanks everyone!

  17. Susan R. Mills December 12, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Ah…I get now why I love this movie so much. 🙂

  18. Patti December 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    I haven’t watched it yet this year, but I love the pool scene and the ending, you have to love the ending.

  19. Elle Strauss December 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    I bought the dvd for my family to watch together this year. Such a great movie for all the reasons you described and more.

  20. Jemi Fraser December 13, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    Love movies like this one that won’t let you go if you watch even a minute or two. you’re sucked in and can’t leave until it’s over! 🙂

  21. Lynda R Young December 13, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie and you brought it all back for me. I must see it again soon.

  22. Traci Kenworth December 13, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    LOVE the movie and the comparisons!!

  23. Sherrie Petersen December 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    I adore this movie. How funny to think of it as a YA!

  24. Susan Sipal December 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Laura, I love the way how you point out that the first and third acts mirror each other, but especially the fact that he doesn’t get his goal but realizes what he had all along the way wasn’t so bad. That’s such an important lesson in life and is why I think this movie hits home so hard.

    As far as Christmas cooking goes, I’m going to try today to make gluten free gingerbread cookies. Cross your fingers for me! 🙂

  25. Margo Berendsen December 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I love the whole movie, it’s hard to pick a favorite scene! I have scenes I loved as a kid (the swimming pool scene) and as I grew up I started to find more and more about this movie that I loved. Great analysis! Now I have to watch it again from a structural point of view!

  26. Sonia G Medeiros December 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    I love that movie!!! It’s been such a long time since I last watched it. Gonna have to watch it again.

  27. ali December 14, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    This was just all kinds of awesome. I like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but it’s not my all-time fave. I’ve only seen it a handful of times. I like MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET more. 🙂

    But I love, love, loved the way you put together this post! Just awesome!

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