While watching the Oscars a few months back, I noticed something strange: a large number of nominations were for movies based on children’s books, particularly young adult novels. I counted and it was a whopping 21 nominations this year: 1 for Tin Tin, 3 for Harry Potter, 6 for War Horse, and 11 for Hugo.
And then there is the staggering success of The Hunger Games movie. Best-ever opening weekend. Already surpassed grosses for all the Twilight movies combined. I went to my very first midnight opening and was amazed to see hundreds of grown people standing in line for 5 hours. For a movie. On a school night!
What is going on? Why are these movies suddenly so popular, with adults as well as kids? I think it is the same reasons YA novels are so popular right now, with adults as well as kids:
Today’s YA novels are incredibly well-written AND incredibly fun to read.
Soon after the Oscars I came across a great piece in the New York Times that eloquently expressed my feelings about why YA is sweeping the nation (and the Oscars). Lev Grossman, book critic for Time Magazine, wrote an op ed that’s title says it all: “Nothing’s Wrong with Strong Plot and Characters.” In the article he admits to being in a YA-only book group (another trend I’m noticing these days) and lays out some ways that today’s YA novels are different from adult literary fiction:
- YA novels tend toward strong voices and clear, clean prose. Adult literary fiction, by contrast, can be more focused on style: dense, descriptive prose, full of carefully observed detail, which calls attention to its own genius rather than urging the reader forward.
- YA novels focus on storytelling. Much of adult literary fiction, on the other hand, explores ways to break down storytelling, fragment it and make it non-linear. This kind of reading demands a lot of work from the reader.
- YA novels are rarely boring. They are written to grab your attention and hold it.
These are the same reasons I believe so many people, young and old, are flocking to see YA movies these days. The stories are great. The characters are great. The themes are meaningful. And they are not boring to watch.
Grossman ends his piece with a sentiment that pretty much sums up why I love reading YA so much (and by extension, going to YA movies as well):
“I’m not as young as I once was. At my age, I don’t have time to be bored.”
And for those of you who, like me, love seeing your favorite YA books up on the big screen, you are in luck. The floodgates are open and just about every YA hit I can think of is “in production.” Here’s a short list of what I found on IMDB:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sept. 2012 (starring Logan Lerman from Percy Jackson, and Emma Watson from Harry Potter)
Uglies, Nov. 2012
Incarceron, 2013 (starring Taylor Lautner from Twilight)
The Giver, 2013 (starring Jeff Bridges)
Ender’s Game, 2013 (starring Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Abigail Breslin)
Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2013
Maze Runner, 2013
The Fault in Our Stars (TBA)