Dear PropellerHeads: I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends (adult friends) are really into books and movies that I think are intended for a younger audience. Am I missing out on something?
A: Speaking from my very biased opinion on this query, I would say, “Whaaaa? You don’t read Young Adult (YA) fiction? TBH what else is there?”
Okay, I might not say that exactly, because I don’t tend to speak aloud in text acronyms, and despite some of my pop culture tastes I am not actually 13. While I am not a tween, or teen, and it’s questionable if I am truly a millennial, I think it’s important to note that I am the following:
- A female, married, parent in the Twilight of my 30s (see what I did there?)
- An avid reader of all types of fiction who rereads the Harry Potter series at least once a year and I have a few shelves in my home dedicated to YA fiction
- A movie and pop-culture nerd who strives to perfect my internal IMDB database and has an equal affinity for the cinematic good, bad, and deliciously terrible
Not that you need to be anything like me to find enjoyment in the vast land of YA offerings, but I am definitely a specific type of fan. And on its face value, what’s not to like? Love stories, fantasy, mystery, and dystopian sagas all written in 14-point font that is satisfyingly easy to digest and still gives you the guilty pleasure euphoria of watching the worst Housewives city, while getting none of the judgement if you get caught reading it in public.
This genre is also partial to series. If you fall in love with a character or world you have the promise of more, that you will love or hate, but nonetheless must read. I was sucked into this formula at a young age reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club series. I’m not going to lie, I still make references to this great literature years later. Who could forget “The Truth About Stacey?” Wilford knows what I’m talking about – bit.ly/2Nxs63Y.
And now filmmakers and showrunners have figured out the mass appeal of fiction marketed to youth. So if like me, you want to read the book on which a film is based before you see the movie, YA makes it so much easier to consume the source material so you can compare, pick apart, and then endlessly discuss with anyone who will listen your thoughts on the adaptation. I know, I’m making myself seem like an awesome party guest. Be jelly.
Assuming I haven’t scared you away and you want to dip your toes into the world of YA fiction and its big screen counterparts, here’s a few to get you started.
Assuming you live under a rock:
- The Harry Potter series: Arguably the turning point of making it socially acceptable for adults to read children’s books as fiction. The films are fun, watchable, and do a great job of evolving as the books and characters evolve.
- The Twilight series: Honestly, I hate myself for liking this series, but it is still prominently displayed on my YA shelves. If you love a love story and love to have someone write the word “love” lovingly for her loving readers, perhaps you won’t have to fight the barfs occasionally while reading this series. The movies are the best kind of terrible and awesome. The dialogue is uncomfortable and there are so many unnecessary shirtless moments, bad wigs, and awkward chemistry. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
- The Hunger Games series: Dystopian YA turned into blockbuster gold. The books and movies definitely try to make an unlikely hero, more unlikely than readers/viewers would ever consider her, but the character development, details on districts, classes, and the games is detailed enough for fantasy nerds but lacks the density of most fantasy works to make it consumable in the best way.
Now you’re hooked:
- The Divergent series: I think this is a nice read after the Hunger Games series. It’s different enough, but has similar themes of societal reorganization for the greater good with an “unlikely” female hero. The film versions of this series get panned and are left unresolved, but there are some worthwhile early performances by Hollywood “it” kids that are worth seeing.
- The Mortal Instruments series: For those craving fantasy, magic, and action, this is a fun series. There are also prequels, sequels, and graphic novels related to this series, so if it speaks to you there is plenty to nerd out about. There was one feature film released (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) based on this series, that was a total flop so the sequel was scrapped. The 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (bit.ly/2EvhleH) doesn’t speak well for it, but I may have seen this in the theater and may have found it entertaining despite pressure not to.
Want something where the movie wasn’t panned:
- The Hate U Give: Commentary on race, class, violence, and standing up for what is right. This best seller has a huge readership and critics enjoyed its adaptation to the big screen.
- Love, Simon: Love stories are not uncommon in YA, but this one includes coming of age and coming out in an era where LGBTQ people are more accepted but the process is no less complicated for the ridiculously likeable and relatable main character.
Because I am but one nerd and there is so much I can’t cover. Some other lists:
- The Ultimate Guide to YA Movie Adaptations: bit.ly/2TnWfIy
- The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels: bit.ly/2GQZJ06
The choices really are plentiful and it’s likely you have already seen a film based on YA fiction without even knowing it. If you’ll excuse me, I need to apparate to my reading nook to dig back into the Mortal Engines series, also translated to the screen with the help of Peter Jackson. It’s really too easy, you can’t expect me to do all the work for you – bit.ly/2GRIHyT.