Next time, I'll be doing my annual roundup of the best YA books released in 2014. In alignment with that, I thought I'd also do a review of the YA book-to-movie adaptations of 2014! There were so many this year. If this influx continues, this may also become an annual post. For right now: here are my thoughts on the movies adapted from YA books this year.
The first YA book-movie of 2014, Divergent is the first in a planned four-movie set based off of the dystopian series by Veronica Roth, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.
Before this year, YA book-movies were a hit-or-miss thing for me, so I was very wary about them. It seemed like only the major blockbusters (Harry Potter, Hunger Games) were any good as movies and the rest fell flat. The adaptation of Ender's Game last year surprised me by actually being quite good, but I'd thought that was probably a fluke.
So I decided to see Divergent this year kind of reluctantly, mostly doing it because a) everyone else I knew was and b) my mom had also read it and was coming to pick me up from BYU-I at the same time the movie was out. So we saw it together, and I was actually floored. The movie does a fantastic job of adapting the book (at least, as I know it), and Shailene Woodley, who I'd been sort of worried about, absolutely portrays Tris in an honest and emotional way. The scene where (spoiler, highlight to see)Tris's mother dies just killed me.
So Divergent? Thumbs up. I'll definitely be seeing Insurgent, although I have some worries mostly because of how the book series ended. That's a different topic entirely. (For thoughts on that which are pretty close to my own, see this post by Julia.)
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
The Fault in Our Stars is a contemporary teen movie based off of the John Green novel, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.
After Divergent, I felt a lot better about a) YA book-movies and b) Shailene, so I went right ahead to go see TFIOS, also because it was a Big Deal in the YA book community. I saw it with my mom, again, because I'm cool like that, and I enjoyed it! I think the movie captured the characters and the teen experience very well and Ansel and Shailene both did great.
One bit I especially appreciated was the part where Hazel has to climb the stairs at the Anne Frank house. You really felt how difficult and straining it was, how such a "small" task could seem insurmountable to someone sick, and as a disabled person, I totally appreciated seeing my absolute hatred of stairs depicted in a popular film.
Now, the movie couldn't capture all the internal stuff that made the book so powerful, but that was expected. The one real disappointment for me was how lightly they portrayed the effects of cancer. I wanted some grit there and I didn't get it. But overall, really thumbs up on this one too! Powerful and very enjoyable.
The Giver is based off of Lois Lowry's near-classic dystopian novel and stars Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites. The book is the first in a quartet, but the rest of the books will not, as of right now, be adapted into movies.
In the weeks before I left for college, I squished a couple of movies in last minute with my mom. The Giver was one of these. I enjoyed it, but my verdict is a thumbs sideways. While it captured the themes of the book quite well and I admired Thwaites's performance, the plot and feeling of it went iffy in the attempted Hollywoodization. I'm not against adding more flair in movie adaptations, but it did pull away from the simplistic, heartfelt feel that the book has and remove a lot of the believing-without-knowing aspect.
Despite that, I might've given this a lenient thumbs up if it weren't for two things: a) the random TSwift cameo, which was super distracting, and b) the ending, which totally devastated the awesome rest of the quartet by (spoiler, highlight to see) having him arrive at... random Christmas house? They might not be adapting the rest, but it still disappointed me a lot. It was not in the spirit of the book and seemed hokey.
IF I STAY
If I Stay is based off of the standalone speculative contemporary novel by Gayle Forman and stars Chloe Grace Moretz.
If I Stay was another last minute movie with my mom, almost immediately before I left for Fall semester. My rating? Thumbs up. I think it captured the spirit of the book and the relationships between the characters very well. Some parts of the relationship between Mia and Adam weren't quite what they were in the book, and I think there was a bit too much focus on their physical relationship, but overall it did well.
This also may be the movie with the new record for making me cry the most. I cried through almost the whole thing, as with the last Harry Potter movie, though for a very different reason, haha.
THE MAZE RUNNER
The Maze Runner is the first in a potential movie trilogy based on the dystopian series by James Dashner, starring Dylan O'Brien.
I watched this one with some acquaintances towards the beginning of the semester, and I was actually blown away by it. I don't know what it is, but this movie captured the spirit of the book while creating something powerful and individual at the same time. Thumbs up for sure, for me. The cinematics were striking and it unabashedly told the story it intended to tell while developing the characters pretty well.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the third blockbuster movie in a quartet based off of the bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, starring Jennifer Lawrence.
I saw this with my roommate on premiere night (duh, this is the Hunger Games) and had a difficult time with it. I'd first off like to note that this is triggering for those who have dealt with physical violence. It threw me totally off for a couple of days and still nagged at me for a while after. The end is just absolutely horrific. With that said, I'd say this is a thumbs up. I'm leery about the arc with how they split this book, the ending traumatized me, and I felt they lacked some necessary focus with (spoiler, highlight to see) the great contrast/comparison the books have with District 13/Coin and the Capitol/Snow--how Coin, in the end, turns out to be just as bad as Snow--but on the whole, it was really well-done. I've never related so painfully to Katniss in my life. Bonus: it had some legit disabled representation in it! Double thumbs up for that.
So those are my thoughts on all the YA movie adaptations this year. Overall, they did well! My personal advice to movie studios on adaptations? Capture the feeling (the "integral meaning" or "spine," as my Literature into Film professor called it this past semester) of the books, and involve the authors as much as possible! What do you think?
Please come back next time for our final roundup of the best YA books of 2014!
Images via IMDB.
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