This morning, I'll be talking to host Tom Hall on Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, sometime between 9 and 10AM, on Maryland's NPR station, WYPR 88.1 FM. Later in the day, the audio of our conversation, plus my usual exhaustive booklist, will be up on the program's web site. Listen in!
Tom and I will be talking about movies that are being and have been made based on children's and young adult books - good, bad, and whether or not the book is always better.
While I was researching that conversation, I made some terrible and grotesque discoveries about the movies and young adult literature. Like for instance: OMG YOU GUYS APPARENTLY THERE'S AN APOCALYPSE COMING!! And love triangles! With some reincarnation and a few throwback vampires.
Thankfully, few zombies and no mermaids. YET.
But check it out, there are like a million YA series that have been optioned for movies - some of them, even before print copies have kissed sunlight - and half of 'em Look Like THIS:
- ONE Teenage girl
- TWO Teenage boys, one of whom has a TERRIBLE SEKRIT or POWERZ (Note: it might be the girl who has the powers)
- PLUS there have been bombs or some kind of plague
- ALSO PLUS A Big Government Conspiracy
- EQUALS Things are gross and it is up to the girl to SAVE THE WORLD
Last year it was kidnapping. Do you remember that? It was really dangerous to be a character in a YA novel last year. You were sure to be kidnapped, and then buried alive, raped, killed, held for ransom, or all of the above. But this year, it's teen apocalypse. Coming of age in the wasted land that one has inherited from one's forebears. Kind of a labored metaphor, don't you think?
But no, come on - I love a good postapocalypse. Riddley Walker is my favorite novel of all time. When it comes to literature with a capital L, I like The Road. When I had a job advising museum people and archivists, I invoked A Canticle for Leibowitz on a regular basis. Most recently, I quite liked Charlie Higson's postapocalyptic zombie novels - and I hate zombies!
(There's a secondary theme, for people who just can't take the dusty desolation of dystopia - call it the Somewhere in Time novel. There is a significant little set of teen novels optioned for movies that feature lovers separated by time and space, but not like, he's got a job in San Diego and she's going to college in Iowa. No, we're talking enough time and space that one must get reincarnated and/or travel to a parallel reality to get a little nookie.)
All right, so let's run these adolescent puppies down. Here we go:
Pure by Julianna Baggott. When the bombs came, the people who were under the dome were safe. Like Boy Whose Name I Forgot from the synopsis. But 16-year-old Pressia was not, and she has a doll's head fused to her arm. YES A DOLL'S HEAD. I don't care what the plot of that book is, I am going to read it because a) Julianna Baggott (aka N. E. Body) and b) DOLL'S HEAD.
Dark Parties by Sara Grant. When the bombs came, 16-year-old Neva was safe behind the shield thingy. The government says that everything outside was destroyed, but Neva begins to doubt.
Did these guys go to the same workshop and this premise was an assignment? Wow. The movie rights to Pure have been sold, no word on Dark Parties.
Incarceron and its sequel, Sapphique, by Catherine Fisher, will soon be a movie starring Taylor Lautner and his abs. These books are set in a very interesting future, in which a dreadful worldwide conflict has shocked society into an enforced cultural stasis. I quite liked these books, just as I am quite sure that Taylor Lautner is both too healthy looking and too stupid-looking to play the desperate, crafty main character, Finn.
Dark Life by Kat Falls and the sequel Rip Tide (coming August 1 - YES!). And then look for Dark Life the movie in 2012. Perhaps not technically postapocalyptic, but certainly post-catastrophic-event...ic, Dark Life is set in a wetter, hotter future, one in which The Government has intiated a deep-sea homesteading program. This is an extremely exciting book (my review here), and I hope to heck Robert Zemeckis is going to treat it well. Think Back to the Future, Bob, not Polar Express.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. This one's getting a lot of buzz. I haven't seen any movie news about it, but I bet it's just a matter of time.
Matched by Ally Condie. Love triangle set in an overcontrolled future.WhatsHerFace is supposed to marry WhosieWhat, who has been her best friend all her life, but her grandfather wrote some poetry, and that act is subversive enough to make her think she should consider ThatOtherGuy. I haven't read this one (hm could you tell?) but lots of people really like it. Disney owns the movie rights.
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. If you haven't read it, this is a great series of books (ooh! interesting new covers!). In the future, after a bacteria-based cataclysm, children are given extreme cosmetic surgery when they turn 16. This surgery makes them pretty, but also compliant - unlikely to cause conflict. Optioned years ago for the movies, no news recently.
Blood Red Road, by Moira Young, hits the streets - as a book - June 7. The movie, directed by Ridley Scott, will probably come out next year. Reading it right now on the extremely reliable advice of my Psychic Friend, Eerily Similar Paula.
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The genesis of all this dystopian dust-up. Part Battle Royale, part Survivor - The Hunger Games is a televised battle to the death between teams of teens in a post-apocalyptic world. There are three books. Everyone from your mother to my son has read them. The first movie is set to be released March of 2012. When I asked Mao if he was Team Peeta or Team Gale, he made a face like I'd made him eat sea urchin and said, "I can ignore the gross boy-girl stuff because it's all wrapped up in good gory violent stuff."
If all this apocalyptic fiction makes me hum that REM song that I allude to in the title, Cassandra Clare's City of Bones books always puts Siouxsie and the Banshees into my head. "Ohh-ee-ohh, oh your city lies in dust." Which is also apocalyptic. I saw that band at the first Lollapalooza Festival. They played at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I was shocked that they did not burst into flames upon contact with sunlight.
Anyway, they're casting the first movie based on this series right now. Alex Pettyfer will apparently NOT be the Hot Guy Love Interest With a Secret, which is a change. He was also NOT in the Eragon movie or in Twilight, but seems to have been or will be in each and every other movie based on a YA novel. That kid is nice to look at, but come on.
On the gentler side:
Movie rights to the forthcoming three-book series by Ann Brashares, My Name is Memory, sparked a bidding war, I am assuming largely on the (very strong) strength of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. What's the plot? Boy loves girl, claims to have done so for 1200 years. Girl, quite sensibly, bolts.
Beastly, by Alix Flynn. Now playing, Beastly the movie, starring Alex Pettyfer. It's a gender swapped Beauty and the Beast story.
In other YA fairy tale news, this year's execrable Red Riding Hood has not apparently stopped people from making Snow White movies. There are two of them coming out (neither of which look like they're going to be quite as sumptuous as Annie Leibowitz's vision, above). And then after that - Peter Pan movies. In one of the Peter Pan movies, Pan is a kidnapper and Hook and Smee are the dogged flatfoots who are trying to stop him. Hmm. I say hmm to that.
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Paranormal contemporary Southern gothic romance series. Not dystopian, no time travel or dead lovers, and much loved by adult and teen readers. The movie will be Beautiful Creatures, directed by Richard La Gravenese, who wrote the screenplay for Water for Elephants... okaay... and The Ref... whew! Might be ok.
And my goodness, there are so many more!
The Moth Diaries, by Rachel Klein.Vampire boarding school possible insanity horror. Filming right now in Canada. Not to be mean, but in this case, the movie could turn out to be better than the book.
Pamela Sargent’s Seed Trilogy. Test tube teenagers in space. Three years ago I predicted sci-fi to be the Next Big Thing in teen fiction. It doesn't happen all that often but look - I was right!
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore (aka James Frey) was the basis for the movie of the same name, out now on DVD, starring - say it with me - ALEX PETTYFER. Movie kind of dribbled at the box office, book is kind of dribbling on the shelf.
Andrew Smith's Marbury Lens. Two realities: one contemporary London, the other a very impressively bleak and twisted haunted world. One tormented traveler named Jack. Sick and profound. I reviewed it last year.
Through to You, by Emily Hainsworth. Star-crossed lovers, parallel realities. Very interesting production team attached.
Fallenby Lauren Kate. Two fallen angels in love with the same mortal girl. Disney owns the movie rights but I'm going to make a prediction: this one will fall victim to the "It's Not Twilight" backlash.
Forgotten, by Cat Patrick, is due to be published on June 7. The movie will star Hailee Steinfeld, the girl from True Grit. It sounds like a paranormal Memento - the girl forgets everything at 4:30 am every day, but has "memories" of the future.
Trash, by Andy Mulligan. Will be directed by Richard Curtis, the Four Weddings and a Funeral guy. That makes NO SENSE to me, as Trash is a mystery set in a third-world garbage dump, not a romance set in Pottery Barn London.
The Mortal Engines Quartet by Philip Reeve.
The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. Hott werewolf action.
The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore. Teenage secret agents! I'm trying to read the second book right now - after all, there is not much non-fantasy contemporary boy-oriented teen thriller fiction out there, and I'd really like this to work - but while it is certainly fast-paced and thrilling, I am less than pleased by the unnecessary biased writing. These teens - and truth be told, this author - do not think twice about using hurtful or demeaning language that enforces stereotypes. And yes, in addition to being an advocate for exciting and/or funny literature for children and teens, I am also that person.
There are also a few picture books that are due to be developed into movies soon, much as Where the Wild Things Are was turned into an inexplicably titled film about fear and childhood. I am always amazed that people can stretch a 32-page illustrated book into a 190-minute feature film.
Wouldn't it be amusing if Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was turned into Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Life-Threatening World-Ending Day, just to fit in with this year's apocalypse theme? But Lisa Cholodenko is directing the movie, and since she's the spiky-haired mind behind last year's domestic dramedy The Kids Are All Right , Judith Viorst's funny classic is probably safe in her hands.
Long live public radio, and here's hoping they don't eff up Dark Life. Happy weekend, everybody!