The Young Adult genre is one of the most divisive genres out there, and there's a reason for that. For half of the movies, you have to have read the book to understand what's going on in the movie. And for the other half, they deviate so far from the books that the story is completely different from the source material. Luckily, there are a few gems who have managed to be successful in such a difficult genre such as the Harry Potter franchise. But with so many failures, it's hard to look forward to any more YA movies in the future.
Many YA movies seem to operate under the same formula, so many of them tend to make the mistakes. Let it be known: there is a way to make a good YA film. Take the most recent for example, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. It wasn't perfect, but it was a fun and enjoyable YA movie that have been getting positive audience reception. Other YA movies can hit the same highs if they keep a few points in mind.
Stay Faithful To The Book
A large portion of audiences for Young Adult films are made up of book fans. Fans of the book Divergent went to see the Divergent movie. Fans of The Hunger Games books went to see The Hunger Games movies. Fans of The Inheritance Cycle went to go see Eragon. You see where I'm going with this?
Sadly, all of these movies deviate from their source material. Some make a few tweaks here and there, such as the characters of Emma and Olive being switched around in Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. But there are plenty of other adaptations, such as the Percy Jackson movies, that abandon the source material so much that it alienates the fans. These movies give fans the characters that they love, but not the story that they were looking forward to. Eragon and Insurgent both share this unfortunate trait.
If you want examples of movies sticking to the books, look to movies like the Harry Potter franchise or the Hunger Games movies. All eight of the Harry Potter movies are widely beloved, largely because of how well they follow the established storyline of the books. Sure, they change a few things up (like taking out the planet room and the brain room from the end of Order of the Phoenix), but not anything too drastic as to majorly affect the story.
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Keep The Story On Track
Okay everyone, say it with me: Two-parters never work. I can see why some die-hard fans wouldn't mind that Deathly Hallows was split into two pieces. After all, it's just more Harry Potter right? True, but as many film fans will tell you, Part 1 was simply a weak film. Even though it offered some great character moments between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, it felt like it dragged all the slow parts in preparation for the climactic battle in Part 2.
The Hunger Games is also guilty of this mistake. Mockingjay: Part 1 was simply unnecessary. It took all the boring parts of the book and made a movie out of it, which made me feel cheated as a film-goer. Twilight and Divergent also went for the two-part finale, and neither of them worked. Especially since Allegiant was so poorly received that its second part isn't even getting a movie.
If you make a Young Adult movie, don't drag out the ending. That interrupts pacing and it can make your audience tired of the story before the ending. Keep the story on track and build up the suspense and tension for the grand finale. If that means you have to leave out an inconsequential scene or two from the book, so be it.
Let The Characters Stand Out
YA movies specialize in forming close relationships between their characters. I'm not just talking about boyfriend/girlfriend shenanigans. I mean the personal friendships that we learn to appreciate. Harry Potter has perhaps the best example. We all love the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but we can also appreciate all of the lovable support characters that stand out in the crowd. How about Neville? And Luna Lovegood? And the entire Weasley family?
Some movies, such as Divergent, aren't as successful in distinguishing their characters. Divergent has Tris and Four, but it also has at least four or five side characters that are just forgotten. I even read the books, and it was hard for me to place who was who. And when characters died, I couldn't be sad about it because I couldn't tell which ones they were. Just give them a little bit more personality so that we are taken on more of an emotional journey when things go poorly for our heroes.
Romance Is Fine, But Keep it Simple
Naturally, as the YA genre is primarily focused on younger audiences, romance is going to be a prominent theme. Ron has Hermione, Tris has Four, Thomas has Theresa, Jake has Emma, and so on and so forth. Romance is fine. It gives the protagonist some semblance of relief while they deal with their troubles, and the romantic interest can serve as a motivational factor through the plot.
Romance can turn sour in an instant really easily, thanks to the devilish shape known as the love triangle. Katniss and Gale are fine until Peeta is introduced. Bella and Edward are perfectly happy until Jacob is introduced. Even The Hobbit movies (which are technically YA even though they are fantasy) have a love-triangle between Kili, Tauriel, and Legolas. And I ask you: What is the point?
There is already a lot at stake without having to worry about cheesy will-they won't-they relationships. The rebels are attacking the Capitol in Mockingjay, but that doesn't stop Katniss from kissing Gale and Peeta, sometimes in each other's company. In the midst of a vampire war in Twilight, Jacob keeps popping up, trying to prove himself over the sparkly and pale Edward. When you have war and catastrophic events on the horizon, I as a viewer don't care which guy that the main gal is going to choose. I care about good vs. evil and the salvation of a world. Save the sappy stuff for off-screen.
While it's true that there have been no shortage of disappointments in Young Adult films, a few have been able to prove their worth. That doesn't mean that the genre is dead. There can still be good YA films if they simply learn from their mistakes. Let's make YA great again!