Why are so many Young Adult (YA) books getting turned into movies? For me it comes down to the stories that get told in YA books. Some of the most fun and creative stories come out of this category of books. It is one of my favourite genre’s for this reason. They become so popular because they are accessible reads, meaning anyone from a child to an adult can read them and find something in them that speaks to them. Everyone is a young adult at some point and the struggles that these characters go through are therefore very relatable. Children and young adults can relate to how they are currently feeling and adults can remember back to that time in there own life. This makes it a powerful genre for hitting a huge audience, and when there is a huge audience for something obviously the next step is to transition it to film. So why do so many of these films flop?
The first reason I would say is poor writing, and poor directing. No matter how big a fan base a movie has, a bad movie is a bad movie. Some times it feels like the film creators never went through the source material (think The Last Airbender). Too much exposition and plot cuts can ruin a movie. I get that people don’t want to sit through six hours at one time to truly do a book justice, cuts have to be made, however, when you cut out key plot points or iconic moments that develop a characters motivation, or move the plot then you have a problem. Surprisingly some movies can get away with this, Hunger Games has done very well and it changed two scenes I can think of off the top of my head that were pivotal moments in the first book. In the book and movie the young girl Rue that is following and helping Katniss gets killed, in the movie they make it seem like an accident, the boy was trying to hit Katniss and misses and hits Rue. In the book however, Rue is hit and killed intentionally and this really sets the tone to the reader at how dangerous and brutal this game actually is, I mean it’s kids killing each other, and it is a pivotal moment for Katniss as a character. You don’t get that same feeling of wrongness from the movie, and I think that was a missed opportunity. Other movies do this and are total flops, for instance the Mortal Instruments series, which was a laughable and poorly written adaptation. The script writers didn’t even know how to handle the hook from the book, so they decided audiences couldn’t handle a little sibling incest and gave the mystery away in the first movie,when you don’t find out in the books until the third one… that’s poor writing. (Seriously, that’s what the author has you think for almost three books – sibling incest!)
I talked about the vast audience that YA novels can have, but that doesn’t mean they will. The second problem movie adaptations run into is small initial fan base because adults are not reading the book. I think the Percy Jackson series is an example of this. They are fun books, but they don’t speak to an older audience like Harry Potter and Hunger Games do.
Some books have good adaptations, but in my opinion never should have been made into movies in the first place. The Maze
Runner for instance, pretty good movie adaptation, however, its not believable as an over arching story throughout the books. People just wouldn’t do what they do these kids, that’s not how epidemiology works.
The last problem is momentum. These movies need to be made quickly (which is probably why they turn out poorly more often then not) because the studios want them out and in the public eye while they are still at the forefront and buzzing in peoples minds. The first Harry Potter movie came out between the fourth and fifth book, and the first Twilight movie came out just after the last book was released. This allowed them to use the momentum and hype from the books to get people in the seats for the movie.
At the end of the day though, I believe it comes down to one thing and one thing only. If it is a good movie people will go and see it. That fact alone can over come fans not liking the actors chosen, or the initial fans sizes not being that big, or even that there is no momentum from the books. If you tell a story well, and put effort into making it the best it can be, people will come (thanks Field of Dreams, you’re so inspiring!). The ones that flop are simply not good movies.
My favourite YA novel that could have been amazing, but its adaptation was done so poorly it flopped – Eragon. This is a series I like more then Lord of the Rings. The movie was written and executed so poorly that I didn’t even want a sequel as there was no way of saving the story. Hopefully one day a studio will redo this series and do it right.
A movie that was better then the book – The Princess Bride. Can you think of any movies you liked better then the books? Leave a comment below.