Ever since my senior year of high school, I’ve come to have a bit of an obsession with young adult (YA) contemporary lit. Besides being super relatable and easy to read, I love the way the genre explores the struggle of growing up as teen characters deal with family, friendship and romance in an everyday setting. And more than that, I love the diverse myriad of voices and stories the genre has to offer, allowing me to get a glimpse into many different coming-of-age experiences.
That being said, I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone that I can’t shut up whenever I learn a YA contemporary book I’ve read is being turned into a movie. My excitement builds tenfold with every new casting announcement and trailer, and once tickets go on sale, I’m practically counting down the days until the eve of the release date. (Thursday night showings, FTW.)
Better yet, more and more YA contemporaries are starting to be adapted for the big screen. The next year promises to introduce some of my favorite YA stories to movie-goers across the country; and while most of the films are months away from release, I have a good feeling the following three adaptations will wow audiences the same way their book counterparts wowed me.
Release Date: March 16, 2018
Possibly one of the top contenders for my all-time favorite YA book, Becky Albertalli’s debut novel couldn’t be a better choice to depict the actual awkwardness and drama that happens in the everyday high school halls on-screen. The story follows 16-year-old Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen who exchanges goofy and personal e-mails with another gay boy who goes under the alias, Blue. However, Simon’s classmate, Martin, discovers his e-mails and threatens to make them public unless Simon helps him get closer to his crush. And knowing his sexuality and Blue’s privacy could become everyone’s business, Simon agrees to play wingman for Martin, all while dealing with his fracturing friend group and growing attraction to his online pen pal.
Being a high school story, there’s no doubt that teen audiences will relate to Simon’s anxiety to keep everything in his life from spinning out of control, as well as the flaws and insecurities that emerge from the supporting cast of characters. And for what it’s worth, fans of the novel can expect to see Simon and company done justice on the big screen, as several cast members have credits in other YA adaptations—namely Nick Robinson (“Everything, Everything”) who’s playing Simon, Katherine Langford (“13 Reasons Why”) who is playing Simon’s best friend, Leah and Logan Miller (“Before I Fall”) who is playing Martin.
Release Date: TBA
The opening novel of Jenny Han’s young adult trilogy emulates a teen rom-com from start to finish, so it’s only natural that it would be made into a major motion picture. “To All the Boys” tells the story of Lara Jean Song Covey, a sixteen-year-old girl whose written a love letter to every boy she’s ever loved. Granted, she doesn’t sugarcoat anything she says in the letters, as she has no intention of ever sending them out. But one day, someone actually mails all five of her letters—including the one addressed to her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. And because the letter could potentially harm her friendship with him, Lara Jean begins fake-dating her childhood friend, Peter, in order to avoid talking to Josh about what she wrote.
While it may not be obvious from the premise, “To All the Boys” centers on an Asian-American family, with Lara Jean and her two sisters, Margot and Kitty, being Korean-American. For Han, it was important to have her characters represented the same way on-screen, as there aren’t many stories in the media that revolve around Asian-American characters—let alone Asian-American women—and Hollywood has a tendency to whitewash characters such as Lara Jean, Margot and Kitty when race isn’t a large component of their story. But rest assured, the actresses playing the three Song girls—Lana Condor, Janel Parrish and Anna Cathcart—all come from Asian-American backgrounds, and will allow audiences to see that the life of an Asian-American teen isn’t always so different from someone’s whose white.
Release Date: TBA
Inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, “The Hate U Give,” based on Angie Thomas’s No. 1 New York Times Best Seller, is bound to elevate the conversation about equality and gun violence once it starts playing in theaters. The story looks at the life of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl who travels between the worlds of her poor neighborhood and her fancy suburban prep school. Starr is used to her two worlds being separate, and doesn’t particularly want them to collide. But when she witnesses her friend, Khalil, get shot by a police officer and his death becomes a national headline, she has to endure the media and her prep school friends saying Khalil was a thug and deserved what happened to him, even though she knows he was unarmed the night of the shooting.
Compared to what the protagonists go through in “Simon vs.” and “To All the Boys,” Starr’s problems are rooted in a much larger issue, one that tends to villainize the people in her community and prevent their side of the story from being heard. She has to be fierce and unapologetic in order to get others to understand Khalil’s shooting was unjust, even if it paints a target on her back. And with actress and intersectional feminist, Amandla Stenberg, stepping into Starr’s shoes, movie-goers will get to see Angie Thomas’s heroine not hold anything back as she defends her friend’s good name.