5 Books to Read Before They’re Movies
By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer
The book-into-movie trend is hot. Last year, best-selling young-adult novels such as Catching Fire, Ender’s Game, The Book Thief, Warm Bodies, and The Spectacular Now hit the big screen. This year, the YA trend continues with a slate of new page-to-screen adaptations, including the second-to-last Hunger Games release, Mockingjay Part 1, and the final Hobbit installment, The Battle of the Five Armies (yes, Tolkien is marketed to teens, so it counts!).
Although it’s great that Hollywood uses so much popular classic and contemporary literature as source material, it’s even better when moviegoers take a “read it, then see it” approach to adaptations.
Why should you read the books first? Because as amazing as some adaptations are (Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings), it’s nearly impossible for a movie to be better than the book on which it’s based. And it’s a smart way to get kids interested in reading. What’s more, parents looking for a way to connect with their teen or tween can propose a family book club leading up to a movie’s release. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming adaptations you really, really should read first.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (In theaters June 6)
Why read the book? Author and social-media genius John Green is the closest young adult literature has to a rock star, and this is his magnum opus. The epic romance tells the tale of Hazel Grace and Augustus, two impossibly precocious teens with cancer, who despite all odds manage to first find friendship and then to fall deeply in love. As you can imagine from a story about sick kids, it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful. Smart and funny and so poignant you’ll need Kleenex on hand, The Fault in Our Stars should be required reading in high school English.
Why see the adaptation? If the movie’s as good as the book, this could be one of the year’s best dramas. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are already friends from Divergent, so they should nail the chemistry between Hazel Grace and Augustus.
Watch the trailer.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (In theaters Aug. 16)
Why read the book? The Newbery Award winner is 20 years old but remains one of the most beloved contemporary children’s books, having sold over 5.3 million copies. Part of most middle-school reading lists, The Giver starts off a utopian tale, but by the end is more of dystopian novel. Young Jonas is ready to take his place in society, and he’s selected to inherit the role of “Receiver of Memory.” But when the elderly Giver tells him the truth of their society, Jonas realizes he’s not in the peaceful utopia he imagined.
Why see the adaptation? Here’s the cast list: Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges (who’s also the producer); Katie Holmes, and Alexander Skarsgard; country superstar Taylor Swift; and a host of other rising stars.
Watch the trailer.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (In theaters Aug. 22)
Why read the book? Forman’s emotional novel follows 17-year-old Mia, who’s in a coma after a car crash killed her parents and her little brother. Mia’s a Juilliard-bound cellist whose spirit can see everything that’s happening to her, and ultimately — with the help of her best friend and her amazing boyfriend Adam — she must decide whether to follow her immediate family and let go or stay behind and live without them. You’ll need that stash of Kleenex again. Also read the companion novel, Where She Went, which takes place three years later and is written from Adam’s perspective.
Why see the adaptation? Talented actress Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie, Hugo) plays cello prodigy Mia, and she’s always worth seeing in a film. Parents will appreciate how pivotal (and amazing) Mia’s parents are to the tear-jerking tale.
Watch the trailer.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (In theaters Sept. 19)
Why read the book? Dashner is the first to admit he was influenced by The Lord of the Flies, to write this dystopia about a group of boys locked in an enigmatic Glade with seemingly no way out. All have had their minds erased except newcomer Thomas, who can remember way more than his peers. Things in the Glade get even more complicated when a knowing girl named Teresa drops down out of nowhere. Realizing there’s more to life than their caged society, the boys must decide whether to face the dangers of an escape attempt or remain in their cold and limited world.
Why see the movie? As Thomas, the charming Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) leads a talented and diverse cast of guys (plus English star Kaya Scodelario as the sole girl, Teresa) in this action-packed adaptation.
Watch the trailer.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Starts production in 2015)
Why read the book? It’s one of the best teen romances by one of YA’s most talented discoveries of 2013. In 1986 Omaha, Park, a half-white, half-Korean-American boy who loves new wave music and graphic novels, begrudgingly allows an eccentric chubby red-head, Eleanor, to sit next to him on the bus. That one moment changes everything, as the two misfits ever so slowly develop a bond over pop culture that leads to the kind of first love that could just be the real thing. The award-winning best seller is a must-read for mothers and their teen daughters.
Why see the movie? Because author Rainbow Rowell is adapting her own book into a screenplay, and Dreamworks committed to making sure the casting is true to her words.
Books Also Coming to Theaters:
These books have been optioned for the big screen, but we don’t know exactly when they’ll be released. Get your teen to start reading now and they may finish this whole list before the movies come out.
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Starring Victoria Justice as the beautiful Naomi, this is a friendship story about Manhattan BFFs, except Naomi secretly pines for gay Ely — until he steals her boyfriend.
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The second installment in Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy is scheduled for spring 2015, exploring what happens when Tris and Four make unlikely allies to defeat Janine Turner’s Erudite control.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Chloe Grace Moretz has already been cast as Cassie, the brave young heroine of this gripping alien-invasion thriller (plus romance) that’s difficult to put down once you start.
Paper Towns by John Green
Another John Green book will star Nat Wolff (who’s in The Fault in Our Stars) as “Q,” a high school senior obsessed with finding his quirky neighbor Margo after she goes missing.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
English actress Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) will play a mom with cancer in this weepy, intense mother-son tale about a tree that haunts a 13-year-old boy as his mum’s dying.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Tim Burton‘s directing this dark tale following a teenager who’s transported to a secret island where he encounters a frightening old orphanage, kids with special powers, time loops, and creatures.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Karou, a worldly blue-haired teen, works for her mysterious guardian — a chimaera who grants wishes in exchange for teeth — until Akiva, an even more mysterious angel, makes her question everything.
Half Bad by Sally Green
Nathan, an imprisoned 16-year-old witch, is half-White, half-Black; a pariah among (and danger to) white witches, he must escape to receive his rite-of-passage “gifts” by his 17th birthday.