With the onset of The Maze Runner in theaters this month, my popcorn induced coma continues. I swear, if there was a MPA (Movie Popcorn Anonymous...for those of you who aren't up to date with my luscious acronyms), my family and friends would really be pulling for some sort of intervention/rehabilitation. But the good news for all of you is that The Maze Runner and my theater-related addictions effectively stirred up a little thought-stew in my brain: What are the best young adult books that haven't been completely destroyed in their venture to the big screen? I'm guessing, after reading this list, that some of you will look like this:
and that's okay. Just make sure you comment and tell me why your eyes are falling out of their sockets and rolling out all over the ground. Perhaps I have a conflicting view on these books-to-films. Perhaps my brainwaves work a bit differently than what you are thinking, but nonetheless, read on!
10. The Giver
The book is amazing. It's one part dystopian, three parts philosophical, and ten parts ethical. It raises a million questions about the human experience and dives into the reasoning for living a fruitful life. If you want a rated "R" version of this same plot, check out Equilibrium with Christian Bale. Epic is an understatement. In terms of the movie, however, the only redeeming quality is Jeff Bridges. The protagonist, the story, and the visualization of Lois Lowry's words don't truly come to fruition and it's too bad. I was looking for more investment in the emotional despair, more elation in the moments of emotional awakening, and more disgust in the society's undertakings. Unfortunately, none of that was really present in the film. It makes the list because it's not a bad film entirely, just a predictable one. Plus, they tried way too hard to emerge Taylor Swift as an important character. Come on, The Giver, it doesn't work that way.
9. The Percy Jackson Series
Much like The Giver, The Percy Jackson series has a lot of explaining to do cinematically. The real difference between #10 and #9 is the popularity between the two. Percy Jackson is truly Young Adult. It conceptualizes Greek Mythology in a way that moderate readers can easily attach themselves to. Not only is that difficult to do, but the first film was a brilliant one. It had me guessing. It kept me entertained. The second one, however (The Sea of Monsters), was an epic fail and one that I think the movie writers would like to have back. Suddenly, what should have been a bridge between a coming-of-age growth (Movie 1) and an immersion of a larger underbelly of plot (A potential Movie 3), devolved into a mosh of cheesy characters, a lack of well-devised god play, and a horribly underplayed villain in Cronus. Even with all of these criticisms, the Percy Jackson series still merits a #9 in the Young Adult onslaught of book-to-movie comparisons.
Just like The Giver and The Percy Jackson series, Divergent is still in the tier of "novels that are strangely popular and do their jobs, but simply can't keep up with the mainstream ideals and requirements needed to keep the series afloat in film". Will the series continue? Probably. Should it? Meh. I wouldn't really care either way. The plot is similar to every other story we've read about in Young Adult literature, just set in an alternative dystopian setting (see The Giver, The Hunger Games, etc.). Authors need to branch out a bit more and Divergent is a prime example of just that. It's too similar to everything we've seen before, but I can't deny the power it's had on people, particularly the YA's out there, hence its rating - #8.
7. The Fault in Our Stars
New tier alert! The Fault in Our Stars reaches the level of "I'm going to make girls cry while doing a pretty good job of enhancing the novel's initial success" of Young Adult books-gone-to-film. There's something magical about how a film can make you feel when you're watching it in the theater. There's something even more magical about having the same reaction while reading a book. The first is a communal effect. The second is a deeply personal experience. Luckily for John Green readers, The Fault in Our Stars accomplished both of these effects pretty successfully. Although I hold true to the fact that Looking For Alaska is still John Green's most powerful work to date, The Fault in Our Stars and its corresponding film are definitely worth investing time into. #7 may be a slight understatement of value here, but with the lengthy list above it, I couldn't see moving it forward any more. Read on, Read on.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is like The Fault in Our Stars in that it produces the same emotional response, but it's a much more controversial, coming-of-age plot. It dives into non-Young Adult themes (or YA in some circles) like sexuality, drug use, alcohol, along with other familiar Young Adult topics like popularity, discovering passion, and surviving trauma. Chbosky does a fantastic job easing his readers into the lure of YA issues, but also slaps you in the face with background information and exposure. It's one of the few novels that is also directed by the author on the big screen. And besides, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson are fantastic personalities that really allow for the characters to come alive in a very distinct way. If John Green's Looking For Alaska was a movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower would be on the same level. It's THAT kind of novel/film. The TPOBAW film gave me chills, but then again, I watched it alone. It deserves its rating at #6...the best of the first half of ratings.
OKAY... WE'RE HALFWAY THROUGH. WHAT'S GOING TO BE #1, YOU ASK?!?
5. The Maze Runner
This pick may surprise you. Out of all the Young Adult movies out there, why would I choose The Maze Runner as (get this) the #5 Young Adult book-to-movie? I'll tell you why--the movie was absolutely wonderful. The Maze Runner was nothing but a mediocre novel. I'm guessing that The Scorch Trials (#2 in the series) is another work of the same average run-of-the-mill writing bleh, but the movie...the movie was a work of art. When I was listening to the audiobook, I couldn't help but believe that I was reading a male version of the Twilight series. It tried to appeal to the male workings of the brain, but failed miserably. Theresa was a below average character filled with too many loopholes. Thomas was just another conflicted, impersonal mirage of inflated beliefs. And don't even get me started on Alby...but let me tell you something, the film cleared EVERYTHING up. It narrowed Thomas, it expanded the personality of Theresa (although slightly)...and nearly eliminated Alby's character all together. Plot mechanisms were changed, but the overall story remained the same. The Maze Runner completely redid itself and, to be frank, put lipstick on a pig and turned it into a model.
4. The Hunger Games
Ah, the top 4. This is where we go from the "rather emotional" to the "marginally epic". Let's be honest. The dystopian setting is not original, but it is a compelling landscape filled with political feuds that resemble our own in distant ways. Katniss is a strong, female character filled with tribulations, hard decisions, and action, while maintaining a soft underbelly of family, friends, and a strong loyalty to the land and people she loves. The movie maintains the story's justice while adding the visual effects needed to make a strong comparison to the novel's crucial details. It's one of the few Young Adult movies that maintains the genre while breaching the realm of adulthood, as well. Well done, Hunger Games. Well done.
3. Chronicles of Narnia
Although I'd still mark this as an "above average epic of sorts", I think that Narnia makes for an interesting reach into that "obsessively popular and clearly unavoidable" tier. Yes, it is rather childish, but if you step away and admire the storyline for what it is, you'll see that it is much more than just a children's book. It's a detailed look into the mind of an artist (C.S. Lewis, of course). The movies parallel the books and, for that, I give this bad boy #3 on the depth chart. The movies really allowed for a giant boost of new followers without taking from the writing's original plans. Plus, talking lions always seem to be a crowd favorite.
What is that, you say? Twilight?!? Yeah, yeah. I know, but it's an unavoidable evil. I will be the first to admit that the writing is cheesy beyond belief and feels like it was written in a week, but if there ever was a "crazy obsession that never existed before its time", it's this. Vampires never would have exploded onto the scene as they did and teenage girls around the world would never have known the terms TEAM EDWARD or TEAM JACOB. It's the Justin Bieber of mainstream fiction and mainstream film, but it's worth a #2 spot simply because of its over-exaggerated popularity and breakthrough into yet another sub-genre we never thought existed. But still, vampires and humans romancing it up? GET A ROOM.
OKAY...THE MOMENT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! (DRUMROLL, PLEASE)...........
1. Harry Potter
Oh that lovable, little lightning bolt-faced boy. He's been put through the ringer at Hogwarts. That's for sure. But, in terms of world building, character development, and plot design, J.K. Rowling really outdid herself on this one. I remember the first time I ever picked up a Harry Potter novel. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone--a wrinkly copy in the library of my middle school. I remember thinking: Look at the cover. This book is gonna suck. Boy, was I wrong. That novel lit me up like a hormone-induced Christmas tree. It was like diving into a world unlike any other and immersing yourself in a culture and a people with a story all their own. You wanted to cry with Harry, laugh with him, stand up for him...hell, do EVERYTHING with him. And each novel got better and better because you knew, as you read, Harry was growing up...and not only growing up, but growing up with you. That, my friends, is the reason why we read. It's like Boy Meets World literary style.
Then came those movies--the 3-hour movies that seemed to go on forever but never let up. The ones you needed so desperately to go to the bathroom three-quarters of the way through, but couldn't get your butt out of the seat. Even though we knew the story, we couldn't take our eyes off of that film magic because it had the EXACT SAME EFFECT. We grew up with Harry and, no matter what tribulations and difficult tasks lay ahead for that poor, cursed boy, we would do it together. We would watch him suffer, succeed, conquer, and, ultimately, rise to be a hero.
#1 all the way without dispute.
So there you go. Comment below. Enjoy. I'll see you next time with a surprise guest. This is going to be great, folks. Stay tuned.