Looking to literature is one of Hollywood's oldest (and most successful) tricks. No wonder we have two adaptations of The Great Gatsby, a handful of Anna Karenina films, and what feels like 12,000 Jane Austen movies. Then there are all those "other" books. Yes, you know the ones I'm talking about; sparkling teenage vampires, washboard-abbed lupine shapeshifters and dystopian tween gladiators. If Twilight and The Hunger Games proved nothing else, it's that Young Adult fiction has a vicegrip on Hollywood. It's a no brainer: Florid emotions (oh, the feels), proven tropes, romance, and most of all, multiple books from which to franchise.
We've pulled out of the station and have a very long track of upcoming adaptations to look forward to. , based on the acclaimed Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, already hit theaters and topped a take of $55 million worldwide since its release just over a month ago. The Host is just about a week away, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will start burning up the box office in November, and there are more YA vehicles like The Vampire Diaries on the small screen to fill in the space.
There's no stopping this train, so let's have a look at what's going to be crowding screens for the forseeable future.
It might not be quite as ubiquitous as Twilight (but it will be) and it takes a decidedly different patch. City of Bones, based on the first book of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, is arguably one of the biggest YA adaptations coming our way. Yes, there are still vampires and werewolves, but they're part of a diverse underworld of creatures and spirits that are all around us, according to the Instruments mythology. Enter a spunky, artistically talented redhead named Clarissa who lives in New York City who finds that she's not exactly the "mudane" girl she thinks she is. The impetus for this discovery is the arrival of the blond, angelic (literally, well, half) Shadowhunter, Jace Lightwood, and his adoptive siblings Isabelle and Alec on the scene. Oh, and did I mention he's got tattoos?
This story gets extra points because Clary isn't a shrinking violet. In fact, most of the predicaments she finds herself in are because she always takes chances. It makes things difficult for some of the people around her, but hey, at least she's an active agent in her own story. That's more than some YA can say for their female characters.
This movie will be one to watch out for if only to see how they not only tackle the rune tattoos, but also the demons and other Downworlders that the Shadowhunters battle are portrayed. Besides, it's the first of a pretty much locked-in series, that's most assuredly going to see its entire library converted to film.
Some people could be predisposed to give this one the side-eye because it's a vampire-based story. This one is a little different though. Adapted from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, it will follow the storyline of the first book, Vampire Academy. Think boarding school, "living" Moroi vampires who aren't immortal and wield magic, a caste system of royals, the ruthless undead Strigoi vampires who prey on the Moroi, and the half-Moroi dhampirs who are destined to a life of guarding the living, somewhat introverted vampires.
It's a tale of deep friendship, with the two main besties Rose and Lissa, a dhampir guardian-in-training, and Moroi princess respectively, who share a mysterious psychic bond. Okay, there's romance too, especially in the form of Rose's complicated romance with the tall, dark, and handsome dhampir guardian mentor, Dmitri (hey, some cliches are worth it sometimes).
Personally, I find Rose to be a bit too alpha-bitch for my taste at quite a few points in the story, but it could be a lot worse. At least she owns it. If I had to accuse it of a plot crime, it would be veering into the "tough people are just really sensitive" trope. If this goes to franchise like I expect it will, watch out for redistribution of power in the characters; there's lots of room to grow here.
Expect some high-octane fight scenes, lots of romantic tension, and a couple of unexpected twists, provided it sticks close to the source material. There are six books in the orginal series, so we could be in for the long haul if the first movie brings in the dough.
This Celtic-tinged tale to be adapted from the Maggie Stiefvater novel is the true stand-out amongst a sea of darkly gothic vamp-wolf yarns. To put it simply, it's a story about a girl and her horse; a tale that is timeless and enduringly appealing. To put it less simply, it's the story of destiny, and a race that can end in death.
Here's a pretty little trailer for the book to get you in the mood:
See? At the end there. There's a splatter of blood!
The heroine, Puck, is the first girl to enter the water horse derby, called the Scorpio Races. Sean is the object of her turbulent affections and the reigning champion. A horse race. What's the big deal? Well, water horses are really sea monsters, deadly people-drowning animals that will chuck your lungs and liver back up onshore when they're finished with you. (Blood-splatter explained.)
The caveat here is that I hope they keep the alternating point of view that the book employs, moving back and forth between Puck and Sean. This would really put the brakes on a trend for YA-based movies to be from the usually female protagonist's perspective.
This could be something really touching, authentic, and visually unique. Please Hollywood, don't glam it up.
If you like where this is headed, you'll be happy to know that Stiefvater also has another book slated for the big-screen treatment, The Raven Boys.
In some ways, there's nothing new here. It's all about inner strength. The New York Times put a positive spin on it by calling the main theme of Leigh Bardugo's fantasy YA novel "one of the most potent fantasy novel motifs".
What we get here is the realm of Ravka falling prey to a brand of magic gone wrong; what can protect it has been twisted into something dark and proliferating.
The Shadow Fold.
The Grisha control the pure form of this magic and are an army of sorts that can use all sorts of things and forces, except for the one thing that obliterates dark. Light.
Light comes in the form of the heroine, Alina, and her very suddenly manifested power (ah, the symbols of puberty!) Victory is not as simple as it might seem, with corruption, intrigue, and the bonds of young love causing all sorts of conflict.
The film already has a screenwriter who has some experience with epic worlds after writing Alexander. I'm really interested to see how the filmmakers will realize the world of Ravka, with all of its Slavic-laced fantasy and opportunity for grittiness. Will they allow it to retain its flavor, or will they remake it into something more palatable to an audience primed by more Anglo-Saxon universes like Game of Thrones's Westeros or Middle-earth? This is the first book of a trilogy, so if this one makes the cash there are two more on the way.
Reform school. Spontaneous combustion. Fallen angels. Moral ambiguity. These are the features of Fallen, the first, bestselling book in a fantasy Gothic romance series by Lauren Kate. In a way, this movie can only benefit from coming after The Mortal Instruments in that the audience will overlap and they'll already be up to speed with some of their angel lore. Sure, some of the same plot devices from Twilight are there; a girl who just can't help but be interested in a loner at school who is cold and distant. Hey, it's a proven formula.
And, it works well for this story because there's a reveal that could be lame, but in a one-two punch the twist comes along and it's a bit of a game changer. Something that seems fated to reoccur suddenly is rendered incredibly fragile.
The script is apparently getting hammered out, and there's even a director attached so it looks like Fallen is definitely a reality. If this adaptation makes bank, then the later books will make for some interesting sci-fi-laced metaphysical/supernatural romance.
This is the world of young adult fiction that, let's face it, adults like just as much regardless. It's coming, there's a lot more of it, and we should get used to the influx of adaptations transitioning from the page to the big screen.
Are you psyched for these YA adaptations, or dreading them with every fiber of your being? Join the conversation and let me know.