In an article about upcoming young adult film adaptations, a screenshot from Chaos Walking

5 Young Adult Books To Read Before Their Upcoming Screen Adaptations

Check out these novels before their film versions hit the theaters and streaming services.
February 21, 2021
11 mins read

Are you tired of rereading your favorite young adult books? Are you looking for a new movie or show to look forward to? Book-to-screen adaptations often provide a fun connection between the two desires, and this list of young adult novels will delight book lovers and movie enthusiasts alike.

1. “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go” is the first in a hit young adult dystopian book series by Patrick Ness. The captivating novel tells the story of Todd Hewitt, the only boy living in a town of men. Ever since the settlers in his town were infected with the Noise years ago, Todd hears everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. In Prentisstown, there is never silence. A month before his 13th birthday, Todd learns a secret the town is keeping from him, which prompts him to quickly leave. In his escape, he stumbles upon a strangely silent figure, unlike anyone he has ever seen before.

The story is told in first-person, through Todd’s charming stream-of-consciousness narration and thoughts, presented from the Noise in his mind.

“‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ is a gripping and provocative read,” wrote book reviewer CW from The Quiet Pond. “It comes bearing with heavy and challenging themes, but they are executed with sensitivity and thought. At times, it may be a difficult book to read because of its dark themes, but I implore readers to soldier on and employ introspection to question themselves, and ask why they were disturbed and why it was unsettling.”

Ten years in the making, “Chaos Walking” is a film based on the series as a whole. Deriving most of its plot from the first book in the series, the film will star Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, along with Nick Jonas, Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir and Cynthia Erivo. Following several rewrites and reschedules in order to live up to Ness’ original vision, the film will be released in March of 2021.

2. “Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman

Caden Bosch is many things. He is a pirate on a ship headed for the deepest point on Earth, known as Challenger Deep. However, he’s also a bright high school student just trying to get by. When his family and friends begin to notice his new and strange behavior, they realize there must be something more going on in his mind.

Challenger Deep” is an exceptional and powerful story about schizophrenia, and how mental illness can affect everyday people and their loved ones. Told through short, alternating chapters from Caden’s past and present, the young adult novel is a personal work of dedication and love. Heavily based on his son’s experience, Shusterman’s award-winning novel handles themes of suffering and emotional recovery in a delicate manner.

“[Shusterman] somehow took the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that millions of people have and put it to paper,” wrote Emma, a YouTuber and dedicated reviewer. “As someone who suffered from a form of psychosis similar to schizophrenia, ‘Challenger Deep’ was so validating to read. Color me entirely impressed by the fantastic portrayal of mental illness.”

As of 2020, Disney+ has acquired the rights to “Challenger Deep,” and plans to release it on the streaming service. Will McCormack, a co-writer of Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” is set to write the script.

3. “The Girls I’ve Been” by Tess Sharpe

 This twisty young adult page-turner is perfect for anyone who loves mysteries with a bit of a thrill.

The Girls I’ve Been” follows Nora, the daughter of a con artist. While at the bank with her ex-boyfriend and current girlfriend, the awkward rendezvous turns into a deadly nightmare when robbers attempt to hold them hostage during their heist. Luckily for Nora, the robbers have no idea who they’re dealing with, and she will have to pull her greatest con yet to get her and her friends to safety.

“Tess Sharpe’s books are always cutting, both her characters and her writing sharp and smart, and this is especially true in this novel,” wrote May, a reviewer who gave the book high marks. “I love her portrayal of messy, morally gray girls, a little broken and battered but still fighting to survive. The way she writes trauma and abuse in ‘The Girls I’ve Been’ is heartbreaking and nuanced, and I appreciate how Sharpe never shies away from the messier sides of survival and treats characters with so much grace and respect.”

According to Deadline, “The Girls I’ve Been” is set to be made into a Netflix film, landing Millie Bobby Brown as the main character, and Jason Bateman as the producer.

4. “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

Monster” begins with 16-year-old Steve Harmon, an African American teenager trying to relay the story of his murder trial. Innocent or not, Steve is in the hands of the system, surrounded by cynical authority figures. As an amateur filmmaker, he attempts to interpret his side of the story in the form of a movie screenplay, though he learns that reality can become blurry when he needs clarity the most.

Published by HarperCollins in 1999, this fiction drama novel was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and won the first Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature in 2000.

Myers uses a variety of formats to unravel the story from the perspective of the main character, Steve Harmon. Some sections of “Monster” are told in a third-person screenplay format and others in first-person diary entries.

“This was a short, thought-provoking read,” wrote a reviewer by the name of Drew, on Goodreads. “It was a powerful punch highlighting an African-American boy’s hard life, what it’s like to experience prison, and what it means to be guilty or innocent.”

The film adaptation for “Monster,” newly titled “All Rise,” is a legal drama film directed by Anthony Mandler and stars Jennifer Hudson, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jennifer Ehle. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to be released on Netflix in 2021.

5. “They Wish They Were Us” by Jessica Goodman

 Jessica Goodman’s debut novel, “They Wish They Were Us,” is a smart and complex murder mystery. Set in an exclusive prep school on Long Island, everything seems perfect to Jill Newman from the outside. However, Jill found out three years ago that nothing is ever as it seems, especially at first glance.

During their freshman year, Jill’s friend Shaila was killed by her boyfriend, Graham. After Graham’s confession, the case was closed. Currently, in her senior year, Jill is trying to move on from the incident. When Jill receives numerous texts testifying to Graham’s innocence, she has to put her dreams of the perfect senior year on hold. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? In this thrilling YA debut, Jill promises to find Shaila’s true killer, even when digging deeper into the suspect list could put her and her friends in danger. If you love dark prep school mysteries, this book is for you.

Goodman’s thriller writing style and clever surprises make for a quick and entertaining read. Book reviewer Angela wrote, “I was pleasantly surprised at the twist. I really give props to the author for making it a believable murder. Sometimes twists in books are too far-fetched, [but] this was a compelling book.”

Although this book was released in late 2020, the adaptation already has a star-studded cast. As of early 2021, Sydney Sweeney of “Euphoria” is slated to play the main character, while singer-songwriter Halsey will co-star as Rachel Calloway. HBO Max announced that the book would be adapted into a television series and re-titled “The Player’s Table” for the major streaming service.

Alexandra Cortez, Trinity University

Writer Profile

Alexandra Cortez

Trinity University
English and Communication

As an English and communication major, Alexandra is passionate about all things reading, writing and social media. In her free time, she enjoys writing fiction stories and watching her favorite Disney films.

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