Not all books make for great TV shows or movies, but we absolutely agree with Together We Caught Fire debut author Eva V. Gibson’s picks for contemporary YA books that deserve the adaptation treatment.
A book needs a lot going for it to have a chance of becoming an engrossing piece of Netflix entertainment: Likeable (or root-worthy) leads, a ton of sizzling chemistry, an interesting story, and something that sets it apart from other YA novels in its particular genre. And even then there’s no promise that the book to TV or book to movie adaptation is going to be good.
That being said, author Eva V. Gibson is really on to something with her picks. From sweet to spicy, thrilling to comforting, she’s got a list of contemporary YA books that we now can’t *not* see turning into our next big Netflix binge! 😍
8 contemporary YA books that need a Netflix deal
Anyone doubting the existence of a market for Young Adult books-turned movies need look no further than the worldwide, generation-spanning enthusiasm for the Twilight franchise. Whatever your opinion on the movies themselves, their success makes perfect sense: the fan base was genuinely enthusiastic, enormous, and more than ready to see their favorites brought to life—and really, who can blame them?
But what if you’re in the mood for some all-consuming high school drama, a ghost-free mystery, or a romance uncomplicated by shifters, vampires, or other magical creatures? The success of films such as The Hate You Give and Love, Simon, as well as streaming-only productions To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, 13 Reasons Why, and Dumplin’, point to a solid market for realistic Young Adult book-to screen adaptations.
Luckily for readers who prefer their stories set in the real word, there are plenty of quality stories just waiting to be told in visual form. Here are eight contemporary YA books that need the Netflix treatment, ASAP.
‘Sadie’ by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers’ award-winning vigilante road trip novel, about a girl seeking justice for her murdered sister, is so gut-wrenching and gripping, I would watch this until my eyeballs bled. The story, the cast of characters, the flashbacks to the title character’s journey cut with the narrative aftermath of its dissection in podcast form–all of it would translate wonderfully into gritty, sepia-toned visuals, in the vein of True Detective or Mindhunter. That Sadie rarely speaks would give the actor a chance to take character embodiment to the next level, conveying her internal rage, grief, and struggles with nuanced body language and facial expressions.
‘Monday’s Not Coming’ by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany D. Jackson’s book, which examines the value society places on impoverished Black children, girls in particular, deserves its own series. The events leading up to and following Monday’s disappearance, and Claudia’s subsequent drive to piece together the truth behind what happened to her friend, would work phenomenally well told over multiple episodes, and the medium would allow for subtle, effective placement of important visual and audio clues. A riveting mystery that also explores gentrification, poverty, abuse, marginalization, and the ways these and other issues affect the Black community, Monday’s story is one that needs to be told both on and off the page.
‘Our Year of Maybe’ by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Not every movie needs to begin, or end, predictably in order to satisfy. For instance, have you ever been in the mood to watch a rom-com about the evolution of a lifelong friendship in the aftermath of a kidney transplant—only minus the “-com” part, and with the addition of a whole lot of seething new desires and intense, heartbreaking emotions?
Rachel Lynn Solomon’s beautiful realistic contemporary would make a wonderful film adaptation, especially for fans of Five Feet Apart and The Fault in Our Stars. Watching Sophie and Peter dance around their shared history and test their own physical and emotional boundaries would make for a compelling, all-the-feels rollercoaster, perfect for when fluff just isn’t enough for all the feelings in your heart.
‘From Twinkle, with Love’ by Sandhya Menon
Remember that all-consuming high school drama I mentioned? Sandhya Menon has you covered. Instead of the popular or edgy protagonists often featured in high school settings, this rom-com stars ambitious, endearingly introverted Twinkle, an Indian-American girl whose feminism and goals are a front-and-center focal point throughout. Even her increasingly complicated relationship with her best friend and the story’s almost (but not quite) love triangle elements are either directly tangled up in, or tangential, to her film festival preparations.
I love the idea of watching Twinkle bring her movie concept to life, all while second guessing herself and navigating the accompanying friendship and romantic drama. Also, admittedly unlike some of the other selections of contemporary YA books on this list, Twinkle’s story is safe viewing for teens of all ages.
‘Puddin” by Julie Murphy
Speaking of built-in audiences, the story of formerly supporting character Millie Michalchuk and her classmate, Callie Reyes, is a natural follow-up to Julie Murphy’s already successful Dumplin’. Watching Millie come into her own during the events leading up to the pageant was one of the most fun and triumphant moments in that movie; I would love to see her journey taken a step further on-screen, as she continues to find herself and embrace her goals, her body, her sexuality, and her independence.
Callie’s character has issues of her own to work through that are definitely on a whole other level than Millie’s, but when these good girl/bad girl opposites are obligated to interact, the two of them end up forming a bond while still focused on their individual growth arcs. Puddin’ has all the makings for a good friendship movie, one in which romance, though definitely mentioned, is a lesser focus.
‘Last Seen Leaving’ by Caleb Roehrig
In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m a big fan of the mystery/thriller angle, and Caleb Roehrig’s debut definitely fits the bill. The story of Flynn’s search for his missing ex, January, juxtaposed with his own internal awakenings and realizations, would be super effective stretched over a multi-episode series. The secrets and reveals, the twists and turns, and the dangerous risks Flynn can’t stop taking, along with several tense confrontational scenes, would translate extremely well to a visual medium.
‘I Hunt Killers’ by Barry Lyga
According to Barry Lyga’s website, the plans for this book’s transition to the screen have officially been tabled. Okay, fine. That said, I would like to emphatically state that I Hunt Killers, and all the subsequent volumes in this psychological thriller series, should absolutely be made into a show and/or movie, immediately.
Jasper Dent, who learned the tricks of serial killing at his father’s knee and now uses that knowledge to assist the crime-solving efforts of the local sheriff, is a tortured, charismatic, angsty little son-of-a-monster who’s trying his best to atone for his father’s atrocities, while grappling with his own fears and dark, frightening impulses. The series includes three full books and a bunch of shorter companion stories, so there’s plenty of material for several seasons’ worth of mysteries, cliffhangers, and agonized feelings.
‘Starry Eyes’ by Jenn Bennett
On a lighter note, one trope I absolutely love in any genre is “Locked in a Room,” in which two people are stuck in a small space together and forced hash out their differences—but in the case of Starry Eyes, the small space is the vast expanse of the great outdoors, where Zorie and her former best friend, Lennon, are inadvertently stranded after a camping trip gone wrong. Jenn Bennett’s emotional friends-to-enemies-to-something else entirely romance is set in the gorgeous Northern California wilderness, which is visually breathtaking on its own—add in the drama of broken friendships and hurt feelings juxtaposed over a literal redemptive journey, showcase Bennett’s witty and realistic dialogue, and translate Lennon and Zorie’s on-page chemistry to the big screen? I’m stocking up on popcorn right now.
About ‘Together We Caught Fire’ by Eva V. Gibson
A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.
What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?
Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s longtime secret crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.
Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metalworking artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.
Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.
Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson will be available on February 11, 2020. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf! 😍
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