20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
In the wake of The Fault in Our Stars‘ ride to the top of the box office on a wave of tears, there’s been a great deal of debate about YA novels and their film adaptations. While the genre has many defenders, both young and old, some critics believe that anyone out of their teen years should abandon YA novels in favor of more mature, intellectually stimulating, and therefore more rewarding books. Still, as anyone who went to see the hit tearjerker can attest, moviegoers of all ages turned out for The Fault in Our Stars, since everyone, no matter how young or how old, loves a good cry. Just like everyone who enjoys a fun, exciting action movie went to see the first two installments of The Hunger Games, which broke box office records. And both adults and children filled out theaters to watch Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort fight a corrupt government in Divergent.
The films seems to be enjoyed by a wide, varied audience, so why should the books that they’re based on be restricted to only middle schoolers? They’re just as dark, just as complex, and just as entertaining, if not more so, than their big screen counterparts. Yes, these books and films are being targeted at a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be a certain age to find meaning and depth in these stories. Luckily, the trend of YA franchise adaptations doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, with four major blockbusters due out before the rest of the year. That’s not to mention the countless novels that have either been optioned by studios or are currently in the middle of casting and filming. All of these stories have plenty to keep an all-ages audience entertained, so we broke down the biggest YA releases of the year in order to make a case for why you should take a chance on them, both at the box office and at the book store.
The Fault in Our Stars
What It’s About: When cancer-stricken Hazel Grace Lancaster is forced by her mother to attend a support group for other survivors, she meets the charming Augustus Waters, and after bodning over their favorite book and their illness, the two embark on a slightly twisted teenage love story.
Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley as Hazel, Ansel Elgort as Gus, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Laura Dern as Hazel’s mom and Willam Dafoe as Peter Van Houten.
Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though sometimes the pretension of the main characters can rub people the wrong way, it’s a genuinely touching love story that feels realistic, rather than simply being a series of rom com clichés. Hazel and Gus’ relationship really is all about the small moments, and they’ll win you over and warm your heart… before they shatter it into a million pieces.
Our Thoughts on the Film: Since The Fault in Our Stars did so well at the box office, we’re hoping it can help usher in a new generation of realistic, down-to-earth teen movies. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good fantasy adventure or dystopian future as much as the next person, but normal teenagers, without powers and without an oppressive government to overthrow can be just as moving and compelling.
Opens: August 15
What It’s About: Jonas lives in a futuristic utopian society that makes everyone equal through “Sameness,” which also eradicates emotions and color from their lives. However, when he starts his job as the Receiver of Memories, he gets a glimpse at the way the world used to be – messy, emotional, colorful, tragic and hopeful – and starts to question the world that he has always called home. Unfortunately, questioning is the one thing the government doesn’t want people to do.
Who’s In It: Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, Jeff Bridges as The Giver, Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, and Taylor Swift as Rosemary.
Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): It encourages people to question their surroundings, to search for more, to not be content with accepting the status quo just because that’s the way things are, which is an important message not just for children, but for adults as well. The Giver also argues that even though life can be difficult and heartbreaking, we wouldn’t truly be living without experiencing those things. Plus, the ending still gets people of all ages riled up more than a decade later, which means it must be worth checking out.
Our Hopes/Worries for the Movie: We’re pretty wary about this one, from what we’ve seen in the trailers. It looks like they’ve finally caught onto the fact that the lack of color is important to fans, but we’re still worried that the film has had some unnecessary action added to it in order to make it fit in better with the current slew of dystopian teen movies. Still, it has Streep and Bridges in the cast, so it’s got be good, right?
If I Stay
Opens: August 22
What It’s About: After a car accident puts her in a coma, Mia has an out-of-body experience where she can hear and see everything that’s going on around her. After learning about the death of her family, she must decide whether to go with them, or stay in a world full of tragedy.
Who’s In It: Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia and Jamie Blackley as Adam.
Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Everyone loves a good, cathartic cry, and this is just the book to cause one. But it’s also a story about the choices we make and how they affect our lives, as well as one about persevering through heartache and loss.
Our Hopes/Fears for the Movie: The trailer seems to focus more on Mia’s romance with Adam than on her love for music and her relationship with the family, both of which are just as crucial to the story. While their relationship is a major part of what makes If I Stay so great, we don’t want it to dwarf all of the other great aspects of Mia’s story.
20th Century Fox Film
The Maze Runner
Opens: September 19
What It’s About: Thomas wakes up in a place called The Glade with no memory of anything other than his name. As he tries to recall his past life, he learns about the society of boys that has been established there, and about the Maze that might be their only hope of escape. Nobody has ever survived a night in the Maze, but Thomas thinks that nighttime might be their only opportunity out, as more and more kids start dying. And then, one day, a girl arrives at The Glade, claiming to know Thomas…
Who’s In It: Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Kaya Scodelario as Theresa, Will Poulter as Gally and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt.
Why It’s Worth Reading (At Any Age): If you’re looking for a fun, exciting adventure with a slowly unravelling mystery at its center, The Maze Runner is the book for you. It’s a quick read, but an enjoyable one, and all of the characters at The Glade are funny, frustrating and compelling.
Our Hopes/Fears For the Movie: The film will succeed or fail on its version of the Maze and the Grievers that inhabit it, as both are such a key part of the story. They’ll need to be genuinely terrifying in order for the story to have any weight, but the Grievers are a tricky creature to adapt. However, we’re looking forward to a different take on the dystopian genre, and The Maze Runner should make for a fun fall popcorn movie.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Opens: November 21
What It’s About: After defeating the Quarter Quell, Katniss Everdeen becomes the eluctant face of the revolution to overthrow the Capitol and free the citizens of Panem.
Who’s In It: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore.
Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though it’s the least popular installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, it still has everything you loved from the first books: action, excitmement, high emotional stakes, a strong heroine, and compelling, flawed characters.
Our Hopes/Fears for the Film: Mostly, we’re just concerned with how and where the film will be split in two, as choosing that point of separation is always difficult. We’re also hoping that a third (and fourth) record-breaking opening will finally convince studios to make more female-fronted action films. Clearly, there’s an audience for them.
Opens: March 20, 2015
What It’s About: Tris and Four must continue to fight against a powerful alliance that will tear the city apart, and could lead most of the population to their deaths.
Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet, and Octavia Spencer.
Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Because you read or watched the first installment in the Divergent series and you’re dying to know what happens next.
Our Hopes/ Fears for the Film: Look, Hollywood, it’s a second successful female-led blockbuster franchise. Is that enough to help change your mind?