Despite being the Frank Lloyd Wright of young adult fiction (in that she’s the towering, influential force, and the first name that comes to mind for her respective discipline), there has never been a big-screen adaptation of a Judy Blume book until now. Tiger Eyes, a bit darker and more brutally adolescent-centered than stuff like Superfudge and Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, opens this week. Here’s a look at 10 other movie versions of classic YA novels. Prepare for the weepiest, angsty “10 Movies” column ever!
Do it for Johnny! While the book and movie both took place in “the present day,” the whole endeavor always seemed kind of dated—it felt like the ’50s, what with all the talk of Socs, Greasers, girls named Cherry Valance, and cars, cars, cars. Then again, I can’t think of a better movie that explains the intractable bond between close male friends, written with such knowledge by teenage author S.E. Hinton. (It’s also nice to see C. Thomas Howell not in blackface.)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
In which Rory Gilmore, Ugly Betty, Joan of Arcadia, and Gossip Girl all share a magical pair of pants, which they mail to each other at their various summer internships and beach flings with unmemorable boys.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Now this is a remarkable work. The novel is one of the few YA novels to truly capture those intangible feelings of being a teenager—awkward, not fitting in, trying to tell the difference between growing pains and severe depression, the mystic importance of friends. And then the movie did the same thing, capturing those same emotions on screen. It helps that the film was written and directed by the book’s author, Stephen Chbosky.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
What’s the one thing more important on an almost-spiritual level to teens as their friends? Music. This whole site upon which you are currently reading is written by people who never lost their teenage zeal for music, and the discovery of music. The book and movie showcase how music soundtracks our emotions and experiences…almost like in a movie.
It’s about a kid from a “cursed” loser family who accidentally gets sent to a prison camp for wayward youth, and ends up finding confidence and treasure. Author Louis Sachar primarily wrote books for children-children, not “young adults” which just means “twelve.” As such, Holes is an incredibly simplistic and unfulfilling read for a grown-ass man, which I undertook after seeing the movie Holes, which was far better the book.
A Walk to Remember
All these Nicholas Sparks books-cum-movies that get churned out at a rate of two or three a year are all the same pandering, heavy-handed tragic romance with a perfect male and flawed female in need of rescue, all wrapped up with a predictable ending. These books and movies are aimed at adults, but are, at their very worst, exactly the same as cynically-conceived teen romance novels. They are the narrative equivalent of those chewable vitamins they make for adults now. At least Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember is honest in its approach—it’s the same Sparks stuff, but it’s about teens and aimed at teens.
RORY GILMORE FOREVER.
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Remember that intense crush you had all throughout high school? And how it ended almost immediately after high school was over? The kid at the heart of this didn’t quite experience that. Still, the book and the movie capture that teenage feeling of wanting someone you know is out of your league, and going for it anyway, because you’re young and stupid.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
The best YA fiction does not pull punches, and treats its audience with sensitivity and intelligence—good authors know that teenage life can be tough and don’t patronize or condescend, and that teens don’t want the attitude that they can get from their teachers or parents, which so often is “you haven’t even begun to experience the hardships of life. Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a sensitive, first-person account of a kid going through some really tough stuff that lands him in a mental institution where he learns that maybe he doesn’t have it so bad after all.
Bridge to Terabithia
I can’t even talk about this without spoiling the ending…or crying. So maybe I just spoiled the ending? (And also I’m crying now.)