The young adult literary genre has been booming for a while, and film studios are trying to catch up. In the past several years, multiple best-selling book franchises have been transformed into big screen-hits. However, not every box office success is a cinematic masterpiece. Sometimes films just can’t live up to the greatness of the book it was inspired by.
We’re here to check out some of YA’s best film adaptions as well as a handful that missed the mark. In no particular order, here are the best and worst young adult movie adaptions to hit theaters.
10 Best: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Adapted from the 1999 novel of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age story about a teenager with anxiety and depression who chronicles the trials of his freshman year of high school. The film is carried by Logan Lerman and supported by the talented Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
The cast was praised for their sincere performances, and the story was lauded for being heartfelt. It gave viewers a fresh perspective on high school, all without straying too far from the book.
9 Worst: Eragon
Eragon was the thrilling first book in The Inheritance Cycle series, written by author Christopher Paolini when he was still a teenager. While the book became a staple for young fantasy readers everywhere, the movie failed to fly to the same heights.
The Eragon film tried to be as daring as Lord of the Rings and as brave as Star Wars, but the legacy it actually left behind was one full of bland characters and bad writing. It was a huge disappointment to readers who saw all the details of the book get replaced by cinematic ploys that were not only unnecessary but failed to captivate viewers. Critics equally hated it, making it one of the worst reviewed films of 2006.
8 Best: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The second movie in the popular Hunger Games series saw Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) returning to the arena after a rule change to the 75th Hunger Games has the tributes being drawn from the current pool of victors.
The sequel’s visuals and camerawork were a giant step-up from its predecessor, and the entire cast’s acting was once again worth praising. Additionally, the social and political themes were cinematically executed in a way that made them feel weighty and realistic instead of cheesy or implausible. The film was given generally positive reviews by critics and book lovers alike, with the story keeping true to the original narrative.
7 Worst: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
While the second Maze Runner movie had all the workings of a box office success, it did so at the expense of everything that made the book series so great. Sure, there are going to be changes when a book is adapted into a film. While the previous Maze Runner movie had its differences, it still had the essence of the book.
However, The Scorch Trials — which follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the gang as they navigate an endless dystopian dessert known as “The Scorch” — replaced the fine details that made it unique with endless story twists that made it “look better” on screen. Gone was the expansive character and plot developments of the original, making the big screen version a miss for hardcore fans of the books.
6 Best: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was a charming young adult romance novel that was light in the best way possible. It was transformed into a fluffy teen rom-com film that was just as satisfying. While the movie starred Lana Condor, her love interest was played by Noah Centineo — and though he had a taste of fame beforehand, his popularity skyrocketed upon the release of the film.
The charming cast makes the predictable plot digestible, and due to the movie’s popularity, the second book in the series is also set to get its own film.
5 Worst: The Host
This romantic sci-fi thriller was based on Stephenie Meyer’s 2008 novel of the same name. And if "Stephanie Meyer" rings a bell, it’s because she’s the author of The Twilight Saga.
The Host picks up at a time when humans are being inhabited by parasitic aliens called “Souls.” It tells of what happens after Melanie Stryder (Saorise Ronan) becomes inhabited by a Soul herself. The film got horrible reviews that called out the poor script, ineffective drama, unoriginal story, and overall unbelievability. Though the book topped the New York Times bestseller list, the film failed to draw the same kinds of crowds.
4 Best: If I Stay
If I Stay follows a teen girl who dreams of studying classical music at Juilliard. However, after her family dies in a car crash and she finds herself hanging on for dear life, she must decide whether it is worth staying behind with her rockstar boyfriend.
Though the film did not receive the critical acclaim of others in its genre, it was led by the strong acting skills of Chloë Grace Moretz. The film’s story is relatable to the teen audience it was designed for, so while it might not be a cinematic masterpiece, it remains emotion-evoking for book fans and moviegoers who relate to the coming-of-age narrative.
3 Worst: The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Here’s the hard cold truth: this film’s relatively poor box office performance led the Divergent film series to be canceled right before the dramatic concluding movie. This third film wasn’t even liked by lead actress Shailene Woodley herself, who said the movie's poor quality almost made her quit acting.
With characters not developing and the plot dragging along, the film was just begging to be put on a worst YA adaptions list. Being that Lionsgate had produced successful YA book-to-movie franchises before this one, most notably The Hunger Games series, this third installment was disappointing, to say the least.
2 Best: The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now is a compelling coming-of-age romance that shows what happens when a party boy with life troubles meets an introvert with big plans. While it might look like every other YA narrative on the outside, it is weightier and contains a narrative with more complexities than many other films in its genre.
Additionally, the story is carried by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, each of who prove their full acting potential through their performances. Critics similarly praised the film, so although the R rating might push away some younger viewers, it remains an important young adult story.
1 Worst: After
Before this 2019 romantic drama went to the big screen, it started out as Harry Styles fanfiction. Yes, you read that right. After started out as the bad boy fantasies of a passionate One Direction fan. These ideas were later built upon and turned into a four-book series, and just a handful of years after that, the story was turned into a movie.
The clichés are rampant, the plot points are flawed, and the narrative is anything but believable. It may be entertaining, but not in a good way.