Over the last decade it might have seemed like the Young Adult (YA) genre — both for books and movies — was exploding, but the reality is that it’s always been huge. (Another reality is that it’s estimated 70% of YA books are actually read by people who are full-on adults over the age of 18. Consider me guilty.)
But while the genre has always been massive, in recent years there certainly has been an uptick in films adapted from YA novels. When you look back to the ‘60s you can find classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird. The ‘70s brought us the original Freaky Friday with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. And though it was written in 1967, The Outsiders was not adapted for the big screen until the ‘80s.
But for the last decade in particular, it seems like every fifth movie that comes out is based on a YA bestseller. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Here are 5 of my personal favorites:
The Hate U Give – New to the Box, this excellent adaptation of the best-selling 2017 novel by Angie Thomas stars Amandla Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games!) as a teenager who becomes an activist after witnessing her childhood friend get shot and killed by a policeman. Regina King, Common, Anthony Mackie and Issa Rae also star in this powerful, emotional story about using your voice to fight injustice.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – I love this movie sooooo much. Based on writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel of the same name, it features powerhouse performances by all three of its leads: Logan Lerman, as a shy high school freshman with a complicated past; Emma Watson as his senior crush; and an especially great Ezra Miller as Emma’s closeted stepbrother. The film covers many important issues and struggles teens face without ever feeling preachy or overbearing. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Just know that you’ll never be able to dance to the ‘80s song “Come On Eileen” normally again.
The Fault in Our Stars – Bust out the tissues. Nope, you still don’t have enough boxes to get you through this sobfest starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, based on John Green’s 2012 monstrous hit novel about two teens with cancer who fall in love. I am a big fan of the book and was relieved that the film did it justice.
Twilight – Hate it or love it, there’s no denying that the Twilight franchise was one of the defining pop-culture phenomena of the past decade. In fact, one of my favorite memories of writing for Redbox came courtesy of Twilight: when I posted my review of the film, the fan traffic clamoring to read it crashed our blog’s servers! If you find yourself feeling a little wistful reading this, then I think it’s time to revisit your favorite high school vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his teenage love Bella (Kristen Stewart).
Ready Player One – I devoured this 2011 instant sci-fi classic by Ernest Cline, which revolves around so many iconic pop-culture games, movies and characters that there was pretty much no one who could secure the rights needed for the adaptation BUT director Steven Spielberg. Set in 2045, when the world has basically collapsed and everyone takes refuge in a virtual reality world called OASIS, it follows a teenager (Tye Sheridan) on a quest to find a hidden “easter egg” that OASIS’s recently deceased creator left behind. Whoever gets the egg will win the creator’s vast fortune — and total control of OASIS.
After reviewing this list it’s clear teenage drama makes for excellent movies. What’s your favorite YA adaptation?