When “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released in 2001, it made nearly $1 billion at the box office worldwide, exceeding even the loftiest of expectations for the much-anticipated film. When the sequels did equally well, movie executives definitely took notice and set out to find other young adult novels they could adapt into a film. Suddenly, Hollywood realized the financial powerhouse of teens and “tweens” alike, and the studios wanted a piece of that pie.
“Twilight” was another megahit that resonated with young adults and was based on a young adult, or YA, novel. The book series by Stephenie Meyer was set in modern-day Washington State, a huge departure from other YA novels, which tend to be set in a very technologically advanced future. Instead, Meyer decided to focus on romance instead of science fiction, turning her lead vampires into empathetic vegetarians. Preteen girls everywhere gobbled up the veggie goodness, and four sequels were commissioned, earning a cumulative box office of over $3 billion worldwide. After those numbers, there would be no stopping the Hollywood teen novel craze.
One of the most critically acclaimed of all these YA adaptations is “The Hunger Games” starring Jennifer Lawrence. Unlike the Harry Potter films, there is no magic, and unlike “Twilight,” there is no supernatural element either. Instead, the film is set in a dystopian universe where a group of young kids are picked each year to fight to the death on national television, with only one person walking away from these so-called Hunger Games alive. The films are based on novelist Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, though the final book, “Mockingjay” will be split into two parts, thus making the franchise a four-part series. The first film was released in 2012, and the second will appear in November 2013.
These three are by far the most successful of all the young adult novel adaptations, but they certainly aren’t the only ones. Filmmakers have tried to launch other YA projects with varying degrees of success, even making a film based on another book series from “Twilight” scribe Meyer. That film, “The Host,” was based on books that were supposed to be for adults, but resonated with a much younger audience. The film starred Saoirse Ronan, who was just eighteen at the time of the film’s release. There is no word yet on whether there will be a sequel, but the movie landscape is still littered with other teen novel adaptations for fans of YA books.
“Divergent” is an upcoming adaptation based on the books by Veronica Roth, with the first movie set for a March 2014 release. It stars Shailene Woodley in the lead role of Beatrice Prior, who has to decide whether to make her parents proud and following their footsteps in life or to take her own path, hence the name “Divergent.” It touches on many teen issues and problems today, even though it is set in yet another dystopian future. The issues are universal, which means that a legion of adults has also become fans of the novels and will likely line up with their teens to watch the film when it is released. Box office analysts expect that the film could make the kind of money that “The Hunger Games” made in 2012, since both projects have similar heroines and good buzz going for them.
The “Twilight” series might be over, but fans of the supernatural and vampires can rest easy, because another big teen novel adaptation, “Vampire Academy,” is in production. Just like the title suggests, the books and upcoming film center on a school that trains young vampires, with all the requisite drama and romance that come with putting oodles of teen vamps under one roof. Though details of the film are still fairly sketchy, the books have attracted lots of “Twilight” fans who are eager for a new supernatural adventure series to sink their non-fanged teeth into. The box office could be huge as long as the adaptation is done well.
These in-development young adult films are really just the tip of a much bigger movie iceberg. As more authors jump on the YA novel bandwagon, moviegoers can expect movie execs to snap up the film rights to those books. The teen novel craze shows no sign of stopping; the only real question is which one will dominate the box office and become the next teen phenomenon.
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