It’s a special thing to see the characters you created from an author’s decadent descriptions become tangible versions of themselves on the screen. Whether it’s television shows or movies, novels and literary works serve as the foundation for so many productions. The worlds etched into book pages become the blueprint for beloved shows, classic movies, and fleshed-out characters.
YA novels have served as a particularly popular category of the book to movie franchise. I have vivid memories of seeing Logan Lerman come out of the water for the first time when watching Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Or watching Violet Baudelaire tie a ribbon around her slick ponytail in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
These examples date back a few years, and I’m sure you have your own archive of nostalgic book universes that mesmerized (and continue to mesmerize) you. But the world of YA novel turned TV/movie production is ever-present in today’s streaming.
The first book in Jenny Han’s bestselling trilogy, The Summer I Turned Pretty, premiered its first season this month, finding massive success with audiences of all ages. Lola Tung plays the lead role of Belly Conklin, a character that readers have spent 13 years crafting in their heads before the screen adaptation made its debut. Han discussed the nuances of making the book to screen transition when talking to Seventeen Magazine, “I keep telling them, listen, this is my adaptation, this is my vision for it, but people can still have their own idea in their minds of how the story is because nothing is really going to compare to what you’ve pictured in your head.” There’s a delicate balance between the book and movie world as the evolution into film can feel like a drastic leap from the story that unraveled on the page, leaving readers disappointed and genuinely angry. Of course, there’s often an even split between people who love a show and people who are less-than-pleased with an adaptation’s interpretation of the text. This is an inevitable factor of any fandom, finding opposite sides with differing opinions in how certain things should be portrayed. Even more inevitable is the notion that you can’t please everyone. Han seems distinctly aware of these ideas, making sure to establish the perspective of The Summer I Turned Pretty adaptation is uniquely her own, offering readers the freedom to conjure their own versions in their minds if they are unsatisfied. The show has already been green-lit for a second season, following the next book in the trilogy, It’s Not Summer Without You.
I can’t talk about books that became movies without mentioning my all-time-favorite-fictional-universe. The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins’ dystopian districts had me finishing each novel in mere days at a young age. And those are long novels. (At least back when I was a fifth grader!) The series released the first adaptation of the first book in 2012. But, what’s interesting about the 2010 cult-classic series in the year 2022 is the recently-announced adaptation of Collins’ newest novel, a prequel to The Hunger Games titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Watching books come to life on the screen is fascinating as is, but to witness the adaptation of a beloved book series years later with a whole new cast and a further developed sphere of existence is going to be an exciting experience for YA lovers.
Sure, there have been (and there will continue to be) plenty of YA-books-turned-movies that don’t live up to the indulgent worlds we’ve created in our minds based off of what authors have written. But it’s a joy to see them brought to life visually, no matter what.
Let us know what books you’ve loved watching on the big or little screen the most or which ones you think deserve an adaptation of their own!