Over the past couple of years, we have seen a rise of books that are targeted towards Young Adults that have become a staple in media such as books, television shows, and movies. With there being a release of a new Young Adult (YA) movie in theaters every year (ex. Divergent, Maze Runner, etc.), it leaves us asking “What is going to be the next big adaption to hit the silver screen. I know what some of you are thinking right now, ‘Oh, he is just writing another blog post about book adaptions becoming movies. We can skip this one.’ Well, to an extent, you are right. But I am writing this as a means of discussing the idea of why YA novels are becoming more popular. It is also because of the release of the newest trailer for the Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and how it is one of the top movie trailers on YouTube right now. Let’s take a look at a brief history of YA novels, shall we?
As a Written Medium
Young Adult novels have a longer history than what some people anticipated them to have. The distinction of the age demographic for books tailored for young teens and adults would date back to 1802 with author and critic Sarah Trimmer. She would write in her periodical The Guardian of Education that ‘young adulthood’ was limited between the age of fourteen to twenty one years old.
During the same century, several notable authors have released their own novels with the intended audience being young adults rather than either adult audiences or the general public. Books such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson/Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn and others.
Before the growing trend of young adult novels becoming marketed towards teen romance, there were two books that were targeted towards young adults that were considered highly controversial at the time due to their more adult themes and they were William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Both of these were at one point or another banned from circulation and barred from their target audience due to their violence and language, which by today’s standards would be considered tame.
It was in the 1980’s that young adult books would become more adult oriented as more of them had themes relating to murder, rape, and parental death. This was also the time that teen romance would return in full force and become a staple of the market again.
On The Silver Screen
While young adult novels such as Lord of the Flies and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer have made their way onto the silver screen for the movie audience, they were just considered to be ‘just another movie’.
Enter J.K. Rowling.
With the critical success of the Harry Potter series, she was approached by film producer David Heyman who would later sell the film rights of the book to Warner Brothers Pictures for an estimated two million dollars for the first four books. Though J.K Rowling actually was hesitant to the deal as she “didn’t want to give them control over the rest of the story“. As part of the deal, she made it so that she controlled how the sequels would go and the actors had to be of European/ British decent. The Harry Potter film series would later become one of the most successful movies series that would earn over 7.7 Billion dollars on the world wide box office as well as critical acclaim.
Following the success that was found from the Harry Potter series, it would lead to film producers and studios purchasing the rights to several young adult novels and novellas with the hopes that they would garner the same success of Harry Potter. What would follow and would help cement the possible fortunes that could be made from this genre would be Stephenie Meyer and her infamous Twilight series. While it received mixed reviews from both fans and critics, it was a box office hit that would further drive the young adult movie trend.
The Highs and Lows of YA
With the multiple releases of Young Adult movies left and right a lot of them have been either hit or miss. Some of the more successfully adapted novels would have to thank the actors, direction, and script to their success and praise. Some of the more successful YA adaptions would be the following.
- Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Series – Jennifer Lawrence. Need I say more?
- Josh Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – A story that was tailor made to pull a person’s heart strings.
- Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies (Personal Favorite) – A zombie’s tale of romance and redemption as he slowly falls for a female human.
Though the problem is that while several YA novels have the basis for what could be a good idea (*cough* The Host by Stephenie Myers *cough* Body Snatchers rip-off *cough*) they are not executed to their best potential or their adaption to the silver screen is poorly done. Here are some of the worst adaptions from YA novel to movie.
- Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember – This could have been an action filled movie where they had to go survive subterranean situations such as tunnel collapse and possibly irradiated creatures, but it throws those ideas out the window.
- Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart – An amazing idea for a story that was ruined when it hit the big screens.
- Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones – An ancient war between humans and demons with a questionable and almost useless female protagonist with convoluted love triangle. Sounds familiar?
- Christopher Paolini’s Eragon– No…just no.
Why are YA Adaptions Becoming More Popular?
Honestly, I do not know why YA adaptions are becoming intensely popular over the past fifteen years. While it is a premise that has been around for quite some time, I guess it is because film producers know that it is a genre that can be marketable. With the success of a few films, they made the presumption that YA novels could be a cash cow that could be milked to death. It is also partly due to the changing trend in the portrayal of protagonists especially female protagonists. In the past, there have been books where females have had a predominant role in novels and movies, but they were either a supporting character or someone to rescue later on. This was even evident in Stephenie Myers’ Twilight Series. where the ‘lead’ protagonist Bella is more or less a damsel who puts herself in harms way for ‘love’. But with The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence’s of Katniss Everdeen, it had shown that there can be a strong female lead that is not reliant on a man to save her. This has had a great appeal to younger women who have had to traditionally root for the male leads.
So, What is the Next Big YA Film?
As I mentioned before, with the successes of books like Twilight, Hunger Games, and Warm Bodies, there has been a massive buy-out on YA novels to become movies. The media website CheatSheet actually published a list of all of the YA that are either in production or rumored to be in production. Here are some of the films that are currently being planned.
- Scott Westerfeld’s The Uglies Series – Imagine a world where everyone is considered ‘ugly’ and by their sixteenth birthday, they are required to receive a surgery to make them beautiful or ‘a Pretty’. This is an idea that has been used before and will probably be a box office bomb. This is a Twilight Zone Episode.
- Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules: Blood of Eden – A young woman must try to survive desolate conditions and vampires as she tries to find a cure to the disease that has wiped out humanity. This might be good if they focus more on horror than the commonly used love triangle.
- John Twelve Hank’s The Traveler – A young woman who is the daughter of an assassin/harlequin who becomes involved in a war between a surveillance based government called the Brethren and Travelers who can travel between realities/dimensions.
Though I would like to see Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series become a movie because I feel that it could be a psychological thriller that surprisingly there have not been any YA movies with that basis.