Why the Young Adult Phenomena Works

TV Movies
TV Movies
Adapting books to the silver screen or for a TV show is no new idea. Classics, such as Gone With the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre have been adapted over and over. Newer novels, such as the Bones series, Jason Bourne and James Bond receive almost equal acclaim.
But the teen and child audiences may crave something a bit more juvenile. That’s where the YA Phenomena comes in. These books are all about passion, emotion, and the struggle against the world…something that everyone, especially young adults, can connect with. They’re less mature, yet still mature enough to balance that thin line between child and adult.
What are some factors that make the influx of YA book adaptions so wildly successful? Let me list a few…

They Already Have an Audience

if i stay
If I Stay
Books have always been a popular form of literature. Readers get vicarious pleasure out of a good novel. They feel as if they’re with Mia Hall from If I Stay, struggling to live, or exploring the Parisian train station with Hugo. When made into a great movie, these fans will literally see their favourite fantasy “come to life.” However, movie makers beware: if you mess up their favourite novel, those same fans will tear it to shreds. For example: City of Ember, Eragon, Alex Rider, Percy Jackson…need I continue?

It Can Appeal to Many Different Ages

The Hunger Games
These books are targeted to a younger audience, but the point is that everyone was young once. Whether old or young, people remember/experience the passion and emotion that the books are written with…thus making them feel a connection between themselves and the book. Because they feel like they have that emotional relationship, seeing their book as a show or movie exemplifies that feeling. Also, since authors must be on top of their game to compete with video games, tablets, smartphones, and other media, they take daring risks that aren’t often seen in the “adult” fiction. That connection will result in more ticket sales/viewership ratings, and of course, more money, which leads to the next item on the list…

Hollywood is Running Out of Ideas, And Books Are the Answer

The Maze Runner
When trying to come up with the next big hit, moviemakers must be careful of copyrights…and lawsuits. Adapting a book while striking a deal with the author gives them not only a “safer” route, but guaranteed angst, as successful YA novels are full of action, violence, magic, dynamic characters, and have a good plot that hinges everything together. Also, since the books come in trilogies or series, there’s minimum risk and maximum profit.

Successful Movies + Cool Merch = Big Money

Harry Potter Wizarding World
Everything is about merchandising. The original Star Wars totalled less than $5 billion in ticket sales, while upwards of $20 billion in merchandise, according to Forbes magazine. And the Harry Potter Wizarding World has grown attendance to Universal Studios by 70% after June 18, 2010. Movies pay back what they earn, but when a book franchise is made, there are trademark features that filmmakers capitalize on…be it Tris’ tattoo, Katniss’ pin, or The Deathly Hallows. All YA books even own memorable quotes that can be sold in poster format. Besides t-shirts, cloaks, wands, swords, crowns, pendants, any other object embellished with a film’s leitmotif, digital games and apps based on the content, the merchandising options are limitless. (And impossible to list). As Disney rushes in to cash in on a theme park based on a book after seeing Universal’s wild success, the money made from merchandising is probably enough to buy a small country.

People Live Through the Characters And/Or Story

Tris and Jeanine from Divergent
I already touched on this briefly in #1, but I wanted to expand on it. After all, not everything is about money. Books are designed to entertain us, to take us on journeys through fantastical worlds and/or complicated relationships. As we “experience” these things, we learn from them. To live through stories we consider ours in reality, giving faces to characters and locations to places, touches something within our soul as we relive and remember what we enjoyed and what we learned. It may be different from our imagination, but it is the closest thing to encountering our heroes and villains in real life.

It Opens Up New Doors of Imagination

The Great Hall at Hogwarts in Harry Potter
As we venture into the worlds of stories, we are forced to imagine what may be happening and what the situation looks like. Imagination is a wholly difficult concept to define fully, but it’s something that actually benefits us and isn’t just entertainment. It’s a different form of intellect that makes our brain work a different way. It can enhance your memory, make you more empathic, and help you discover more about yourself.
When we see a movie based on something we imagined, despite differences, we can rearrange our fantasies to fit this version of it. We continue to dream, but since we have a “real” group of characters, the dreams become more tangible. We learned more about ourselves through such dreams, as we all dream with a different mind. That’s another reason we enjoy entertainment…it allows us to confront ourselves about what kind of person we are, especially if we were in the same predicaments as the protagonists.

Both Books and Movies/TV Shows Ask Deep Questions

Pretty Little Liars
Good adaptations should be faithful to the source material, but great adapataions must be able to ask the same deep questions that the books themselves did. Would we act to save ourselves, or someone else in the Hunger Games? Would we kill A in PLL? Is our government getting to the point all these dystopian novels are making sense? (Don’t answer that last one…)
Any book fan knows it’s hard to write a good story, let alone adjust it to screen. However, when it’s done right, and done well, it attracts fans from all directions. The angst of YA give moviemakers a suitable conflict and characters already made, with an audience who will swarm the theatre. If they put in the effort to make it an adaptation worth remembering, it will succeed…both among book fans and non-book fans.
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