The CEO of Lionsgate recently spoke of creating even more additions to the Twilight and Hunger Games universe, prompting many to furrow their brows and ask: Aren’t there any other YA novels out there worth adapting that don’t involve Katniss or Edward Cullen?
The answer to this, of course, is a resounding yes.
While I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise and likewise had a ball of a time when I watched every single Twilight movie in theaters (each one after a substantial happy hour outing), there are a lot of reasons to not make more Twilight or Hunger Games.
The best one, though, is from writer ReBecca Theodore:
NO THEY DON'T. GO FIND SOME YA ADAPTATIONS WITH PoC https://t.co/4Yvau9IxEl
— ReBecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC) August 8, 2017
Contrary to what Hollywood executives would lead you to believe, teens of all races, religions and sexual preferences fall in love, learn lessons as they grow up, and are able to do battle against insidious forces and totalitarian regimes.
In fact, there are plenty of Young Adult novels out there in which BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) teens and LGBTQ teens not only exist — they are the main characters of any one of these storylines.
So, rather than forcing tired Hunger Games or Twilight characters back onto the big screen, here are 10 Young Adult novels I’d love to see instead:
‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas
Why it should be adapted: Angie Thomas’ story of 16-year-old Starr Carter, a young black teen who witnesses the death of her unarmed friend at the hand’s of a police officer, is as timely as it is heart-wrenching.
Angie Thomas does a fantastic job weaving in the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement, an analysis of prejudice in the justice system, and an examination of white privilege — all the while telling an incredibly emotionally engaging and satisfying story about family, community and growing up.
The Hate U Give doesn’t shy away from difficult and painful issues; instead, it tackles them head on with an authenticity and deftness that I hardly even see from many so-called adult fiction novels.
Bringing this novel to the big screen would give young black teens in impoverished neighborhoods an honest story of hope with characters who look like them, talk like them and struggle like them.
Likelihood of getting adapted: Basically guaranteed. Angie Thomas announced George Tillman (Soul food, Men of Honor) as director and Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games; Everything, Everything) as Starr Carter on twitter earlier this month.
‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ by Jenny Han
Why it should be adapted: The story centers on Lara Jean Covey, a quiet Korean-American teen who finds herself wrapped up in a fake dating scheme with popular jock and handsomest of all handsome boys, Peter Kavinsky.
While this kind of trope is nothing out of the ordinary, as I’ve mentioned before, a movie adaptation of Jenny Han’s lovely high school romance novel would give American audiences something they rarely get to see on the big screen: Asian-Americans as lead characters.
The past five years or so have been rife with YA novel adaptations, many of them having to do with two young, good looking, white teens falling in love.
However, for the first time since this trend of YA adaptations began, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before will give us an Asian-American lead doing all the things that white teens so often get to do: act like teens, navigate high school and fall in love.
Likelihood of getting adapted: A done deal. Shooting wrapped earlier this month. Now all that’s left to do is impatiently wait for a release date.
‘The Sun is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon
Why it should be adapted: Like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, as well as Nicola Yoon’s first big screen adaptation Everything, Everything, The Sun is Also a Star is a YA romance novel that features young POC in its leading roles.
However, whereas both those previous novels featured a WOC paired with a white love interest, this novel gives us a Jamaican immigrant Natasha falling in love with Korean-American Daniel.
The story takes place in the course of one day, which just happens to be the day before Natasha is set to be deported back to Jamaica. She — by total chance and coincidence — meets Daniel, and though they couldn’t be more opposite of one another, they both end up falling head over heels for each other despite the countdown to Natasha’s deportation that neither of them can delay.
It’s a book for dreamers and romantics, a tender and intense cinematic story of infatuation and love that would translate well on-screen.
Likelihood of getting adapted: Likely. Nicola Yoon’s first novel, Everything, Everything came out earlier this year with Amandla Stenberg in the lead role. The rights to this second novel have been acquired by the same production company, and there’s already a writer attached to the movie.
‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Why it should be adapted: Sáenz’s novel has garnered a lot of well-deserved critical acclaim, along with a large and passionate fanbase ever since it came out in 2012.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the story of two Mexican-American boys growing up in El Paso during the 1980’s. It follows the friendship of Ari and Dante over the course of a year, giving us a multi-faceted and utterly related viewpoint of adolescence from Ari’s perspective.
It also deftly and realistically tackles themes of sexual and ethnic identity, while also giving us an engaging story of friendship, family and growing up.
A big screen adaptation of Sáenz’s novel would give audiences a story that does not often get shown on the main stage — two boys of color navigating the minefield of adolescence, learning to accept themselves and falling in love with one another.
Likelihood of getting adapted: Encouraging. As we reported earlier this year, filmmaker Henry Alberto has written a script for the movie for the Latino Screenwriting Project. While nothing has been reported since in terms of its development, the fact that there is a script written puts this firmly in the maybe category of adaptations.
‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie
Why it should be adapted: I read this novel every year that I taught 8th grade English Language Arts, and every year almost all my students would rave about the book.
How I knew they really loved it? Every year they were absolutely shocked and a little bit angry that the book hadn’t been turned into a film yet (although, as a teacher, I have to admit that I did like knowing that none of them could pretend to have done their reading by simply watching the film version).
Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel focuses on Junior, a fifteen year old Spokane Indian, who transfers from his poor reservation school to the wealthy, all-white high school in the next town over. Alexie is a ridiculously talented writer who manages to write about Junior’s Sophomore year in a way that is evocative, funny and heartbreaking in turns.
Seriously, my students would be howling with laughter over a chapter that very candidly speaks about masterbation, stunned into silence in the next over a story about how Junior had to shoot his own sick dog because his family was too poor to take it to the vet, then trying to hide their tears as Junior worked through his grief and anger at the impact that alcoholism had on his life and his community.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a truly amazing story of friendship, identity, poverty and resilience.
In a Hollywood climate that often whitewashes or stereotypes Native-American characters — when it isn’t mocking them completely — a big screen adaptation of Alexie’s novel would stand as a beacon of what Hollywood should provide and what audiences deserve: An engaging, complicated and nuanced Native-American protagonist in a heartwarming and honest story of growing up in America.
Likelihood of getting adapted: Hopeful. It was reported last year that Fox 2000 had acquired the rights to the movie and had Hugh Jackman and the team behind The Fault in Your Stars attached as producers. Alexie himself will adapt the screenplay and stay on as executive producer.
‘An Ember in the Ashes’ by Sabaa Tahir
Why it should be adapted: As I’ve mentioned here before on Hypable, I’m a huge fan of the fantasy genre.
I am, however, less a fan of the fact that while these stories often involve magic and fairies and dragons, they often don’t involve people of color — especially women of color.
It’s as if authors think that it’s more realistic to include fire-breathing reptiles or people who can shoot lightning from their hands than it is to include a main character who is brown and female.
Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes thankfully goes against this troubling tradition, first by giving us a fantasy world that seems to be equally influenced by Roman culture as it is Kashmiri culture.
And in a genre that often focuses on its white, blue-eyed, blond-haired protagonist to save the day, Tahir’s novel instead gives us timid and inexperienced Laia, a slave-girl from the oppressed Scholar class, who is described as having brown skin, black hair and golden eyes.
This fantasy story follows Laia, a Scholar slave girl, and Elias, a Martial soldier, as their paths intersect, conflict and align as they attempt to survive, undermine, and fight against the oppressive Martial empire.
Likelihood of getting adapted: Cautiously optimistic. Sabaa Tahir herself told us that a movie is in the works.
‘Six of Crows’ & ‘Crooked Kingdom’ by Leigh Bardugo
Why it should be adapted: While Bardugo is probably better known for her Grisha Trilogy, it’s her Six of Crows duology that I think most deserves a big screen adaptation.
And while I actually think that a Netflix or HBO mini series would be ideal for getting this fantastic right for the screen, but at this point I’m willing to take whatever I can get.
Six of Crows, along with its follow-up Crooked Kingdom, is not only one of the best YA series I’ve ever read — I’d count it among the best fantasy series ever written, YA or not.
Leigh Bardugo manages to craft six unique characters and not only make them believable — but also make them each likable in their own distinct ways.
It’s also the rare series where the sequel is just as good as the first novel, and where the plot is as good as the character development, which in turn is as good as the writing. It’s filled with twists and turns that I never could have predicted and character moments that seriously took my breath away.
The first novel is basically ready-made to be a film already. It’s a daring heist film much akin to Oceans Elevent, except that everyone is under 18 and magic is involved.
Told in alternating perspectives, gang leader and pickpocket extraordinaire Kaz Brekker gets together a team of outcasts and criminals — including former sex worker/queen of my heart Inej Ghafa, who is a WOC, and fast-talking gunman Jesper Fahey, a queer Black character — to break into a nigh-impenetrable fort in order to kidnap back a kidnapped scientist.
In fact, the first film would already have a ready-made tagline from the book advertising blast with, “Six Dangerous Outcasts, One Impossible Heist.”
Really, it’s honestly one of the most absurd things to me that this hasn’t been snatched up and made into a movie or series already. Who do I need to promise my future first-born child to in order to get this made?
Likelihood of getting adapted: Heartbreakingly unknown. Dreamworks has the rights for Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy which is being produced by Harry Potter alum David Heyman. My hope is that if that’s successful, we’ll get to see the Six of Crows on screen soon thereafter as well.