It started with “Harry Potter,” hit a new level with “Twilight,” and continues on with “The Hunger Games.” I’m not just talking about books, either. Young Adult (YA) novel adaptations are flooding the big screen and the movies do more than pack a theater full of vampire loving tweens—believe it or not, these movies are helping a technology-heavy generation fall in love with books.
With some of this year’s most anticipated films being adaptations, a seasoned children’s librarian and local YA book lovers weigh in on which movies they think will hit “Twilight” levels of fandom and which will quickly be forgotten—remember “Beastly”? Didn’t think so.
Lois MacMillan has been a children’s librarian with the West Florida Public Library system for 24 years and she wants to make one thing clear: Just because the books are in the children’s section, it doesn’t mean they are for children. Clearly, the authors understand this and MacMillan believes it is the basis of their success.
“Some adults think teens don’t understand big issues and tough problems, but they do,” said MacMillan. “These books don’t talk down to teens and that’s why they are so successful. These books speak to young adults and teens today. They aren’t reading just old classics that, although they are good, don’t really relate to what teens and young adults are going through.”
But these movies do more than draw readers—they create them.
“Many young people think, ‘The movie isn’t out, I know it’s coming out and I want to know what’s happening,’” said MacMillan. “They see the movie and think ‘Hey, I can read these too!’ It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s an escape. Teens and young adults who would not normally be readers pick up these books.”
And since these movies are creating readers, these fans are fiercely loyal to the series and come to the theater with high hopes and even higher expectations.
MacMillan is more lenient when it comes to a movie’s loyalty to the book. “For me, if the book is a good solid read and if it’s well written then a good adaptation should try to follow the story as well as it can,” said MacMillan. But she does understand that certain scenes do not translate to the screen and enjoys seeing where filmmakers stray from the book but enhance the story. “A good adaptation follows the books as close as possible but still has leeway to fill in gaps that need to be filled in.”
It’s impossible for every adaptation to be a hit or even just a good film but MacMillan believes that each adaptation, even the bad ones, create readers.
“Not all of these books are my taste but if kids are reading it, I am fine with it,” said MacMillan. “Some aren’t as good as others but it still helps build readers. Even if the movie is not completely true to the novel, or if it doesn’t do it complete justice, I still think they can be a positive way to getting young adults to read.”
Which adaptations will you line up for at midnight and which will you wait to catch on cable? Here are eight of the most highly anticipated adaptations coming out soon or currently in development.
Release Date: November 1, 2013
What’s the gist? The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth. The movie is an adaptation from the classic book published in 1985 and stars Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff.
‘The Book Thief’
Release Date: November 8, 2013
What’s the gist? While subjected to the horrors of WWII Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. Under the stairs in her home, a Jewish refuge is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.
Release Date: November 22, 2013
What’s the gist? The second installment of the widely popular “Hunger Game” series follows Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they become targets of the Capitol after victory in the 74th Hunger Games a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.
‘Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters’
Release Date: February 14, 2014
What’s the gist? Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir— half human/vampire, guardians of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discretely within our world. Her legacy is to protect the Moroi from bloodthirsty, immortal Vampires, the Strigoi.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
What’s the gist? In a futuristic Chicago, people are divided into five distinct factions based on their personalities. Beatrice “Tris” Prior discovers that she is Divergent, meaning she does not fit into any one faction, and soon uncovers a sinister plot brewing in her seemingly perfect society. Shailene Woodley stars in this high-anticipated adaption.
‘The Fault in Our Stars’
Release Date: June 6, 2014
What’s the gist? The story follows 16-year-old cancer patient Hazel, who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with the 17-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee. Bring plenty of tissues.
Release Date: August 14, 2014
What’s the gist? In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world. This highly anticipated adaptation of the classic novel stars Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes.
Release Date: September 19, 2014
What’s the gist? Following the dystopian trend, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Young Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.
What’s Your Take?
Local readers and YA movie lovers weigh in on their favorites, what they are excited for, and what they believe makes the best adaptation.
Freshman at Pensacola State College
Most excited for: I’m most excited for “The Fault in Our Stars” because none of John Green’s books have been made into movies before and I know for sure I will be coming out of the theater crying.
Thoughts on YA: YA adaptions are great, they’re usually pretty good, and it’s always exciting to see your favorite books on the big screen
Senior at University of West Florida
Most Excited for: I tend to lean toward the Fantasy genre because the amount of creativity that goes into the process when creating fictional worlds. I honestly loved the “Hunger Games” movie and “Percy Jackson” wasn’t that bad. I was able to enjoy those movies without constantly reflecting back to the book and comparing the two.
Least Excited For: I am least excited for “Mortal Instruments” and “Vampire Academy.” When you read a story you have your own perspective of what you expect your character to look like. After watching the trailers for those two movies, I felt disappointed. The characters and their demeanors seemed nothing as I imagined.
Sophomore at West Florida High School
Most Excited For: I am ecstatic for “Catching Fire,” the second movie in “The Hunger Games” trilogy. I thought they did a great job with the first book and turning it into a movie. Also, “Catching Fire” has more of my favorite characters included, so I’m excited to see them in motion.
On Adaptations: Sometimes, people have a hard time painting a story from just reading it, so it’s nice to create a motion picture for those who want to know the story, but just don’t have time or patience to read it.
Sophomore at West Florida High School
Most Excited For: “Hunger Games” wasn’t a complete disaster, although it had its flaws. I hope “Catching Fire” will improve upon “The Hunger Games” depicting all the districts, the Capitol and the new arena.
What makes a good adaptation? A good adaptation follows the story, showing as many things as possible from the book but also makes the bigger parts better.