2017 was a great year for diverse YA reads, and 2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic one for diverse YA movie adaptations! Here are the five we’re looking forward to in the coming year.
Adaptations of popular and beloved young adult novels have long been prevalent and profitable at the box office. We’ve had anything from successful multi-film franchises like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games series, and Twilight to long beloved genre classics like Ender’s Game and The Giver, to contemporary romance stories like The Fault in our Stars and If I Stay.
However, though we see a wide range of YA adaptations lovingly brought to the big screen, we so rarely are treated to stories which venture outside of having a white, straight, conventionally attractive protagonist.
Fortunately, just as this is changing within YA lit itself, we’re likewise seeing a shift in the both the types of stories that get adapted for the big screen and whose stories we get to see adapted.
While there are a variety of adaptations that have been greenlit for the upcoming year that I’m super excited about (Julie Murphy’s Dumpling, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down), here are five that are set to be released in 2018.
Release date: March 16, 2018
Based on Becky Albertalli’s lovely novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this movie on its face looks like one we’ve already seen before. After all, it runs through the familiar YA beats we’re used to seeing a half dozen times over on the big and small screen — a high school love story, a cute, floppy haired white dude protagonist, his supporting cast of wacky yet lovable friends and family.
Except that this time, our floppy haired protagonist Simon isn’t falling for the the cute, quiet girl in his English class — he’s instead falling for a mysterious, unknown boy only known as “Blue” through their incredibly and increasingly adorable email correspondence.
While we’ve seen quite a number of YA romances both on television and in movies, very few of them have portrayed a gay romance and Love, Simon in particular will have the distinction of being the first to get a wide release from a major Hollywood studio. The first, yes — but hopefully only the first among many to come.
Release date: Anticipated January 2018
Published in 1999, Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning book Monster has long been a staple in many teachers’ classrooms for the way in which it explores the lives of Black youth and the injustice inherent to the criminal justice system. The story centers around Steve Harmon, an African-American 17-year-old boy currently in juvenile detention as he awaits his upcoming trial.
The book is a thoughtful reflection of how one single decision can impact the course of our lives, as well as the ways in which race and gender can play on society’s expectations. Set in Harlem and featuring a cast that includes A$AP Rocky, NAS, and Jennifer Hudson, this novel is as relevant and necessary now as it was when it was first published over 18 years ago and I’m glad to see it finally make its way to the big screen.
‘A Wrinkle in Time’
Release date: March 9, 2018
We’ve had an earlier adaptation of this YA classic which featured an all-white cast. When taking on the momentous task of casting and filming such an iconic story, director Ava DuVernay made the deliberate choice “to place a brown girl in that role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in.”
That decision makes this beloved fantasy story not just one in which a young female protagonist fights against the forces of darkness in the universe, but one in which young girls of color will be able to see themselves front and center and be the hero of the story for the first time in way too long. Maybe the first time ever.
The story of Storm Reid’s Meg Murray traveling through the universe to rescue her father with the help of three witches (played with what looks to be pitch perfect weirdness by Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon) is a fantasy film that speaks to whole demographics of viewers who have never felt represented before by that particular genre, and I can’t wait to see it play out on the big screen.
‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’
Release date: unknown
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before tells the story of Lara Jean Covey, a shy high schooler whose two favorite things are baking and spending time with her two sisters. This all changes when her box of old love letters is unexpectedly sent out her former crushes — including her neighbor/ex-boyfriend to her older sister Margot, Josh.
In order to save face, she begins fake-dating another recipient of one of her old love letters — popular high school jock Peter Kavinsky — and adorable and ridiculous shenanigans ensue.
I’ve basically been screaming in excitement about this movie adaptation since I first heard it was happening. And not just because the series is one of my favorite young adult novel series, but also because I’m absolutely thrilled to see Asian-American YA voices up front and represented on the big screen.
Between this and Crazy Rich Asians, 2018 is going to be a pretty good year in terms of watching Asian-Americans fall in love on the big screen.
‘The Hate U Give’
Release date: unknown
Angie Thomas’ award-winning and New York Times-bestselling novel, The Hate U Give, was not only one of my favorite novels that I read in this last year — I count it as one of the best novels I’ve read, period.
The story of 16-year-old Starr Carter, an African-American student who witnesses the death of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer, is as chilling as it heartbreaking, as timely as it is all too familiar. The novel is a stunningly powerful and evocative read, one in which the characters leap right off the page and inhabit a corner of your heart even long after you close the final pages of the novel.
The movie has an amazing, star-studded cast — Amandla Stenberg, Anthony Mackie, Regina Hall, Common, Issa Rae — and is currently in post-production. It’s my most anticipated YA movie release of 2018 and I fully intend on being first in line the day that it releases.