‘Maybe Hollywood Will’: 5 Young Adult Novels That Should Be Movies

Willa Holland and Elise Eberle in ‘Tiger Eyes’/Image © Freestyle Releasing

On June 7, a little film called “Tiger Eyes” will be released on VOD and in movie theaters across America. It’s based on Judy Blume’s 1981 novel of the same name about high school sophomore Davey Wexler and the year she, her brother, Jason, and her mother, Gwen, spend in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the wake of her father’s murder in a convenience store hold-up. Davey meets a teenage boy named Wolf, volunteers as a candy striper at a local hospital, and goes through a host of the kind of sharply drawn tribulations and triumphs that have made Judy Blume’s novels beloved by several generations of readers. The film is directed by her son Lawrence and stars Willa Holland (“Gossip Girl”, “Arrow”) as Davey.

Here’s another fun fact: This is the first Judy Blume novel to be turned into a theatrical feature. I’msorryWHAT?! How is that even possible? In a world where Hollywood is increasingly on the lookout for properties with “brand recognition,” it seems inconceivable that one of the most recognizable and beloved Young Adult writers of all time is only just now seeing her oeuvre tapped for the big screen. It’s an established fact that copies of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret materialize out of the ether in every bedroom in America as soon as the occupant turns eleven. Really. We read it in Scientific American.

Since Hollywood has dragged its feet so shamefully in this instance, we thought we’d take it upon ourselves to point out some other places where they might yield a harvest of box office dollars from the fertile fields of Young Adult.

The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander
Let’s do this up front: We’re not going to count the animated film very loosely adapted from this book and The Black Cauldron during Disney’s Early Eighties Fallow Period. Agree? Good. Because this book and the rest of Alexander’s much-loved Chronicles of Prydain deserve another shot. Based on Welsh mythology, the series has a young hero who heeds the call to adventure, a dashing prince, an evil sorceress, a bad guy with big horns on his helmet, and a pig that can see the future. All of this and you don’t ever snap to attention years later and blurt out, “Wait a minute – Aslan was Jesus?!” There are five books in the series, so the first studio to hire Peter Jackson for this gets fifteen movies and Andy Serkis mo-capped as Hen Wen, the pig who (can’t stress this enough) has the gift of prophecy.

Feed, by Matthew Tobin Anderson
In a future version of America, nearly every citizen is implanted at birth with a computer device known as a “feed.” This allows everyone to access the “feednet,” a futuristic version of the internet that allows for a sort of mental IMing that borders on telepathy. It also allows the corporations that control the feednet to engage in levels of data mining and targeted advertising that are fundamentally altering society and humanity itself. The novel follows young Titus and Violet as they alternately try to resist and adapt to a societal paradigm in which privacy is a memory and your only value lies in you effectiveness as a consumer. Fast paced, well written, and full of obvious resonance for our own time, this would make a great sci-fi thriller.

Hold Still, by Nina LaCour
The most direct spiritual successor to Judy Blume on this list, this lovingly rendered novel follows Caitlin, a teenager trying to come to terms with the suicide of her best friend, Ingrid. Accompanying Caitlin on her journey is Ingrid’s diary, which serves to pull Caitlin back toward the land of the fully alive even as it chronicles her friend’s steps toward a fateful decision. Author Nina LaCour takes subject matter that could be dispiriting or sensationalistic and crafts a work of real beauty, tenderness, and grace.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, by E. Lockhart
In the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of high school, Frankie Landau-Banks transforms from a geeky wallflower to a young knockout. Said transformation lands her in the arms of the handsome senior Matthew Livingston. But there’s a catch: Matthew is a member of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a secret society that is men only. This doesn’t sit well with Frankie, and she marshals all of her considerable wit and determination in an effort to infiltrate and influence this exclusive fraternity. Strongly reminiscent of the novels of P G Wodehouse – a favorite of Frankie’s – it’s a fast paced and very funny tale that doesn’t skimp on emotional resonance. And any film that increases the chances that the The Kids These Days might start reading Wodehouse deserves a $100 million budget.

Sharks & Boys, by Kristin Tracy
Enid is having a heck of a time. First she felt betrayed by her friends. Then her father betrayed the family unit. And now her boyfriend is leaving her to go to camp. So she does the only rational thing: She drops everything to follow him 500 miles, spy on him at twin camp, and eventually stow away on a boating expedition he’s taking with other campers. Now the boat has capsized, four sets of twins are stranded on a plastic raft, and the sharks are circling. Kristin Tracy’s novel is an astonishing high-wire act. Part “Lord of the Flies,” part “Lifeboat,” and part “Jaws” (there’s your pitch, Hollywood agent), it takes every emotion to which the teenage mind is heir and funnels it into a gripping narrative. Funny, thrilling, and moving in equal measure, it’s the type of thing that should be bumping prequels and reboots off the screens at the local multiplex.

What YA novel are you desperate to see come to theaters?