From Page To Screen: A ‘We Need Diverse Books’ Wish List

image from Flickr user Kenneth Lu (
image from Flickr user Kenneth Lu (

As the number of film adaptations set to be released  in the 2015 illustrates, Hollywood seems firmly committed to turning to the world of young adult fiction for inspiration–and box office success.  While this trend is exciting for YA fiction fans, the lack of the diversity present in the stories selected remains disheartening. While planning a recent movie night at my library, I was freshly reminded of this problem and as usual, I took to Twitter to share my frustration.

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The ensuing discussion was vibrant and, inspired,  I polled friends & colleagues to develop a wish list of diverse young adult novels we’d like to see on the silver screen.

everything leads to youEverything Leads To You – Nina LaCour (2015 Rainbow List, 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Talented young set designer Emi is spending the summer before college with her best friend Charlotte in Emi’s older brother’s apartment when an estate sale & a mysterious letter brings Ava into her life. But despite their immediate, electric connection, Emi & Ava each have pain in their past and their path to happily ever after will be far from simple.  Between Emi and Ava’s “will they or won’t they” chemistry, great supporting characters and an intriguing setting, you’ve got the perfect rom-com of the summer!

One Man GuyOne Man Guy – Michael Barakiva (2015 Rainbow List)

Alek Khederian assumed that summer school will be an extension of his horrible freshman year; he never expected that it would lead him to Ethan.  Alek can’t imagine why someone like confident skateboarder Ethan wants to hang out with him and when romantic sparks start to fly between them, Alek will have re-evaluate everything he knew about himself. This novel isn’t just a lovely coming of age tale–it’s a love letter to New York City and Alek’s Armenian heritage featuring a built-in soundtrack of Rufus Wainwright songs.

aristotle and danteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz (2013 Stonewall Book Award, 2013 Prinz Honor, 2013 Pura Belpre Award, 2013 Rainbow List, 2013 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

On the surface, Ari and Dante don’t appear to have much in common. While Ari is taciturn and shy, Dante can start up a conversation with anyone. Ari is angry and sometimes inarticulate; Dante is outrageously optimistic and creative. From their first meeting at the swimming pool one hot summer day, Ari and Dante form an unbreakable bond.  In the right hands, a film version of Ari and Dante’s story could be one of the loveliest surprise hits of the year.

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Other diverse romances we’d love to see on the big screen include: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (recommended by Katelyn Browne), Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (suggested by Hub blogger Erin Daly), and, one of personal favorites,  If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson.

if i ever get out of hereIf I Ever Get Out Of Here – Eric Gansworth (2014 American Indian Library Association Honor Book, 2014 YALSA Best Fiction For Young Adults)

Lewis “Shoe” Blake doesn’t feel like he’s had the best of luck in life so far. His family is the definition of dirt poor, he’s the only kid from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in the advanced class at school, and he’s a regularly bullied. But at least Lewis knows what to expect–until George Haddonfield shows up. George seems happy to talk to Lewis and fueled by their shared passion for the Beatles, they build an unlikely friendship.  Again, this novel comes with a fantastic soundtrack already in place and it would bring a much needed Native voice to the cinema, if created in cooperation with the author and the Tuscarora Indian Reservation and cast with Native American actors.

ms.marvelMs. Marvel: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Alphona Adrian (2015 YALSA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2015 Top Ten Amelia Bloomer List)

Since its release, this graphic novel has been collecting praise and honors left and right. The introduction of seemingly ordinary Muslim American teenager Kamala Khan as the newest Ms. Marvel is funny, action-packed, and thought-provoking.  Considering the current media domination of Marvel superheroes, there’s no better time to bring Kamala Khan to the big screen!  This title was not only on my wish list–it was mentioned by several others include Hub blogger Erin Daly and librarian Katelyn Browne.

beauty queensBeauty Queens – Libba Bray (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List, 2012 Rainbow List)

This feminist satire would be a challenging project to adapt but if done well, it could be stupendous! When their plane crashes on an apparently deserted island, the surviving contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant suddenly have much bigger things to worry about than their lipstick supply and talent routines. But instead of resorting to violent conflict, the teens bond together and channel their wills to win into the quest for survival.

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DarkestPartoftheForestThe Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black

Considering the recent upswing in fairytale-inspired films ranging from Into The Woods to the live-action Cinderella coming out in March, this new fantasy seems right on trend.  In the strange town of Fairfold, humans and fae folk live side by side, under a delicate peace.  Hazel and her brother Ben grew up playing at being knight & bard and daydreaming about the horned boy asleep in a glass coffin in the forest.  But now the horned boy has woken up, bringing all sorts of dark chaos with him.  This rich fantasy flips around the heteronormative tropes and traditional gender roles prevalent in fairytales–something I’d love to see more often in Hollywood. Is the Drug  – Alaya Dawn Johnson

Between its action-packed conspiracy plot, its astute examination of racial identity, and its heady romance, this thriller seems built for the big screen–especially today when race, government, and privilege remain at the forefront of the cultural conversation. ‘Good girl’ Emily Bird wakes up in the hospital, confused and weak.  She’s told that there was an accident with designer drugs at a party but senses there’s more going on. Bird teams up with Coffee, a drug-dealing & conspiracy theory-spouting diplomat’s son, to dive into a thrilling adventure that will force Bird to confront sinister government secrets and her own unclear future.  Hub blogger Hannah Gomez & I both placed this novel high on our movie adaptation wish lists!

Hub blogger Sharon Rawlins is also hoping for film versions of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch and Tara Sullivan’s Golden Boy. 

What diverse young adult titles are on your page to screen wish list?

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Kelly Dickinson

I am a librarian at an independent girls' school in the DC-Metro area. I am a compulsive baker, book addict, and genre fiction fan with passion for social justice. Find me on Twitter as @onesmartcupcake.

One thought on “From Page To Screen: A ‘We Need Diverse Books’ Wish List”

  1. I polled our YAAC kids for their ideas on this subject and this is what they came up with:

    Graceling by Kristin Cashore
    Legend by Marie Lu
    Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
    Every Day by David Levithan
    Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    Cinder by Marissa Meyer
    Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (mentioned above)
    Out of the Easy by Ruth Sepetys
    Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (mentioned above)
    Diviners by Libba Bray
    Unwind by Neal Shusterman

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