My Top 5 YA Book-to-Screen Adaptations

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This past weekend the movie adaptation of The Maze Runner hit the theaters, and though a lot of people are rolling their eyes at "yet another YA book adaptation", I have to say I was pretty impressed. Sure, there is some reasonable contempt towards this genre: Hollywood found a goldmine and they keep pushing out the films to established fan bases without too much consideration for quality. However, I do think some people dismiss these adaptations too soon: there have been some great ones in the past few years that definitely deserve attention. I thought I would put together a list of my top 5, since I've been on an on-and-off YA book kick and have actually read the majority of the novels that have been adapted to screen recently.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

For me, this was one of those rare cases when the movie turned out better than the book. Perhaps I've read The Perks of Being a Wallflower too late and I would have appreciated it more as a teen, but the book left me incredibly unimpressed (I know, blasphemy). I didn't expect much from the movie, but the solid acting skills of Emma Watson and Logan Lerman made me curious enough to see this in theaters. And, I'm generally a fan of coming-of-age stories. It ended up being one of my favorite films that year and I have since then added it to my movie collection.

What worked: I think a big part of why this worked so well as a movie was the fact that the author of the novel, Stephen Chbosky, was the one to not only write the script, but also direct this film. I imagine an author revisiting the work he's done about 12 years ago can only turn out for the best. Then, of course, the amazing cast brought the story to life. You can read my full gushing movie review here.

 

Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011)

I think this is one of the first things that comes to mind when someone thinks of successful book-to-screen adaptations. The books resonated with people of all ages on so many levels, and while some dismissed them as children's literature, the author brings up so many relevant serious issues that everyone deals with in the modern society. And of course, it's a great story set in a beautiful fantasy world. 

What worked: Honestly... I don't know. Like I said, the story resonated with so many people and the cast was brilliant. The books have an incredible following, so the films had a huge audience to target. The only thing the filmmakers had to do was cast the right people and not mess with the story. They succeeded. 

 

The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

This franchise is not complete yet and there is a The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 coming out in two months (because Hollywood would like to milk an extra film out of that last book). However, I thought the first two films were great. I know hardcore book fans have been unhappy with the first one because some details got left out (literally, details—who cares how she got the damn pin?!), but I thought the changes and omissions didn't effect the plot. Yes, Peeta's injuries were understated, but if you think about it those have no effect on the rest of the story in the grand scheme of things. I really hope the two Mockingjay films live up to my expectations. 

What worked: The filmmakers were able to capture the tone and mood of the books, didn't compromise on the social statements, and resisted the urge to make it a teen romance. They have also very successfully filled in the gaps left by first-person narrative in the books: the non-Katniss scenes and interactions in the Capitol help paint a complete picture. And of course, the cast did their jobs, though I think the secondary characters are particularly strong—can't beat Donald Sutherland as President Snow, as well as Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Stanley Tucci as Ceasar, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch.

 

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

I'm not going to spend too much time talking about this one, since I've bone both a book review and a movie review on this, but it's definitely a page-to-screen adaptation success in my opinion. 

What worked: The film stayed very true to the book, to the point where most of the dialogue was taken directly from the pages. As a result, the heart and soul of the story came through very well, which were the reasons book readers fell in love with in the first place. Also, the chemistry between cast members was incredibly strong: movie families are often a hard thing to make believable, but not in this film. Every relationship outside of the family seemed just as real.

 

The Maze Runner (2014)

As I've mentioned earlier, this is the most recent release and I think a pretty good one. You're going to have to watch the video below to find out what the premise is and what exactly did I think about it (you can also check out my book review here)

Have you seen any of these films and read the books?
Did you think they were good adaptations?