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YA on the Big Screen

2012 April 10
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Even before Twilight and The Hunger Games hit the big screen, we all had that one book we wished would be made into a movie. Thanks to the success of those two films, as well as the Harry Potter franchise, it’s become more common to hear about YA books being made into films. It’s not hard to see why Hollywood is after these books; aside from having compelling plots, dynamic characters, and intriguing hooks, there’s a big readership with a solid interest in seeing these stories on screen. There’s also no denying the movie industry is hoping to find that next Hunger Games to bring in cash.

The process of taking a book from print to film isn’t cut and dry. Many books are optioned for film rights, which means that either a studio, a producer, or a director pay to have “first dibs” on it. They have a set period of time to do something with the option, either moving forward with the project or not. When the period of time expires, they can either option it again or let it go, which means either another interested party can have at it or nothing will happen at all. So while you might hear about a book being optioned for film, it doesn’t always mean the actual film will happen.

Keeping that in mind, a number of YA books have been getting a lot of buzz lately, either as full-blown projects that are being pursued or as options for film.

K. L. Going’s Fat Kid Rules the World (a 2004 Printz honor book) is out now in theaters, after making its debut at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Directed by Matthew Lillard–his first time as director–the film follows Troy, whose weight makes him want to commit suicide, as he is “saved” by punk rocker Marcus. The contemporary drama garnered audience praise at SxSW, and while it’s a limited release, it’s one worth keeping an eye out for.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures (a 2010 Morris finalist) has made news lately with casting decisions. Jeremy Irons (Macon Ravenwood), Viola Davis (Amma), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Lincoln), and Emmy Rossum (Ridley Duchaness) are a few of the names attached to the movie, which has a slated release date of February 2013. Like the book’s appeal to fans of Twilight, it’s likely to reach those ready for something that’s like Twilight but that isn’t a carbon copy.

One of the classic young adult scifi books, Pamela Sargent’s Earthseed, is being rereleased this year with a brand new cover to give it a more modern feel (as opposed to this old school cover). Earthseed has also been optioned as a film, and Paramount has already hired Melissa Rosenberg to adapt it (she was the screenwriter on the five Twilight films). The story is about a group of teens on a space ship heading to a new planet to resettle human civilization. It’s not easy when they have to figure out how to survive on the artificial habitat. The plot’s drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games, but it also sounds quite a bit like Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow.

Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has had a little trouble coming to fruition, despite having cast Lily Collins in a leading role. The film’s original director and studio fell through, but it was picked up by another studio and director Harald Zwart (of Karate Kid fame) took over almost immediately. This film will be out August 23, 2013.

One of the adaptations I’m most looking forward to is Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is being directed by the author and will star Logan Lerman (who plays Percy Jackson in the film version of Riordan’s books) and Emma Watson. Even though the book came out in 1999, it’s still popular and well-loved. This one will be in theaters September 21, and while there’s not an official trailer yet, there are some still shots you can check out.

Without a doubt, Twilight fans will be eager to know that it looks like the film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is going to happen. The sci-fi novel, originally written for an adult audience, reached its peak readership because of the success of Meyer’s YA series. So while it’s not technically a YA book, no doubt it’s one teens will be interested in seeing on the big screen. It’s slated for theatrical release March 29, 2013, and it’s being directed by Andrew Niccol, with leading performances by Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, and Max Irons.

Another book that’s not technically YA but has massive YA appeal coming to the big screen in 2013 is the classic sci-fi Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. This one’s got huge names signed on to it, too: Harrison Ford is playing the role of Colonel Hyrum Graff, Asa Butterfield (who played Hugo in the film adaptation of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is playing the title role of Ender Wiggin, and Abigail Breslin is signed on as Valentine Wiggin. Directed by Gavin Hood, Ender’s Game will hit theaters November 1, 2013.

If that wasn’t enough to prove YA is where Hollywood has been looking for the next greatest idea, here’s an even longer list of a few other titles that either have been optioned or are in pre-production:

  • Wake by Lisa McMann: This one’s already rumored to have Miley Cyrus eyeing the role of Janie.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth: Summit, the studio behind Twilight, picked this one up, but there hasn’t been much information about the production.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater: David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith snapped up the rights to this Printz-honor title.
  • Through to You by Emily Hainsworth: This debut novel doesn’t come out until October, but it’s already receiving a bit of film buzz, as the team interested in directing and producing it the same team who collaborated the film Like Crazy.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: Universal Pictures took worldwide rights to Taylor’s paranormal novel in December.
  • The DUFF by Kody Keplinger: CBS Films purchased the film rights to Keplinger’s contemporary novel earlier this year.
  • Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Rumor has it Taylor Lautner was cast as Finn, but there hasn’t been any more news on this adaptation since early 2011.
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: Lionsgate has the rights to this dystopian title.
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter: Drew Barrymore signed onto this project with the same screenwriter who helped her put together Whip It (which was also based on a YA novel, Shauna Cross’s Derby Girl).
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver: There’s not a director or screenwriter yet, but the rights for this romantic dystopian were bought by Fox 2000.

As readers of YA, we already know how great the stories are, and it’s exciting that Hollywood has figured out the same thing.

– Kelly Jensen, currently reading Thumped by Megan McCafferty

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  1. Links Galore « Annie Cardi
  2. Top Picks Thursday 04-12-2012 « The Author Chronicles

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