Next time, I'll be doing my annual roundup of the best YA books released in 2014. In line with that, I wanted to 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.
Divergent is the first in a planned four-movie set based off of the YA sci-fi dystopian series by Veronica Roth and starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.
Before this year, YA book-movies were hit-or-miss for me. It seemed like only the major blockbuster phenomena like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games were any good. The adaptation of Ender's Game last year surprised me by actually being quite well-done, but I considered that a fluke.
So I decided to see Divergent this year kind of reluctantly and mostly because a) everyone else was seeing it and b) my mom had also read it and was coming to pick me up from BYU - Idaho while the movie was in theaters. We watched it together, and I was floored. The movie does a fantastic job of adapting the book, and Shailene Woodley, whom I'd been sort of worried about, portrays Tris in an honest and emotional way. The scene where (spoiler, highlight to see) Tris's mother dies just killed me.
This one is therefore a thumbs up. I'll definitely be seeing the next movie in the series, although I have some worries because of how the book series ended. That's a different topic. (For thoughts that 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 and starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.
After Divergent, I felt a lot better about both YA book-movies and Shailene, so I was happy to go see TFIOS, which was a Big Deal in the YA book community. I watched 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. 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. 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. But overall, thumbs up on this one too!
The Giver is based off of Lois Lowry's MG/YA sci-fi dystopian novel and stars Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites. The book itself is the first in a quartet, but the movie is currently planned to be a standalone.
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 while I admired Thwaites's performance, the overall result felt iffy to me because of the attempted Hollywoodization. I'm not against adding more flair in movie adaptations, but it did remove the simplistic, heartfelt feel of the book and 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: the random TSwift cameo, which was super distracting, and the ending, which didn't fit with the beloved book quartet. Sure, the studio might not be adapting the rest of the books, but they could at least hold on to the possibility of them! That disappointed me a lot.
(Then there's the fact that the actors were too old to fit the book's twelve-year-old characters.)
IF I STAY
If I Stay is based off of the standalone YA speculative contemporary novel by Gayle Forman and stars Chloe Grace Moretz.
If I Stay was another last-minute movie with my mom. 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, the creators 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.
THE MAZE RUNNER
The Maze Runner is the first in a potential movie trilogy based on the YA sci-fi dystopian series by James Dashner and starring Dylan O'Brien.
I watched this one with some acquaintances at the beginning of the semester, and I was blown away by it. I don't know how, exactly, but this movie captured the spirit of the book while at the same time creating something powerful and individual. Thumbs up for sure. 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 in a quartet based off of the bestselling YA sci-fi dystopian trilogy by Suzanne Collins and starring Jennifer Lawrence.
I saw this with my roommate on premiere night and had a difficult time with it. So please do note that this movie is triggering for those who have dealt with abuse/domestic violence. It threw me off for a couple of days and still nagged at me for a while after. The ending is horrific. With that said, I'd call this a thumbs up. I'm leery about how they split this book, and I felt they lacked some of (spoiler, highlight to see) the awesome comparison the books created with District 13/Coin and the Capitol/Snow, but on the whole, it was really well-done. I've never related so painfully to Katniss before. Bonus: It had some legit disability representation in it!
So those are my thoughts on the YA movie adaptations released this year. Overall, the creators did well! My advice to those seeking to adapt books like these? Capture the "integral meaning" or "spine" of the books, as my Literature into Film professor called it this past semester, and involve the authors as much as possible.
What do you think?
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Images via IMDB.
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