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Culture > Entertainment

The Renaissance of Book-to-Screen Adaptations

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Conn Coll chapter.

Just as I am sure that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) is the best book-to-film adaptation to grace our screens, I am sure that we have entered a new (and possibly better) era of popular books being made in films and television shows. We all lived through the early 2010s and saw the rise of the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games franchises, when production companies saw how much success book to film adaptations could be. 

This led to a rush to make every shiny and new series into a film franchise, including splitting books into two films for a cash grab. Some of these came closer to success, like The Maze Runner, but some crashed, burned, got panned, and were never finished: Divergent, Percy Jackson, The Mortal Instruments, and The Darkest Minds come to mind. John Green’s novels’ The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns did well in the box office and critically as stand alone films.

Since this notable young-adult-dystopian age of film, we have seen a few of our favorite books come alive on screen and on streaming platforms, but none have been as outstanding as some of those original larger franchises. For example, Love, Simon was popular in 2018, Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy started with a high note on Netflix in 2018, but then lost audience interest. Now her The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy has found a home as a new Amazon Prime series and received decent reviews this past summer 2022. 

But in the last two years, I believe there has been a huge increase in popular and successful book to screen adaptations. This renaissance may be due to the rise of book sales and interest in young and new adult books and more social media promotion, but I think it also has a lot to do with authors becoming involved in projects and clearly showing love and passion for these adaptations. Fans of recent shows and movies have been more satisfied because adaptations are staying loyal to their original content: this includes accurate ages and depictions of characters, dialogue, world building, and even music soundtracks. 

And very importantly, I think newer adaptations are casting more diverse actors in order to accurately represent characters instead of white washing them. A perfect example of this is Netflix’s Shadow and Bone series that many fans believe has a cast that walked right off the book pages and onto our screens in 2021. Netflix also had a huge success and great reception to Heartstopper, released this past spring 2022. Although not always perfect, Netflix has gotten a grasp on how to create satisfying on-screen adaptations of beloved books and have cast actors who interact with fans and clearly love their projects. Personally, I’m looking forward to Season 2 of both those shows.

Today, production companies know that they can take a popular book series that has young adult fans who are active on social media and build a successful franchise off of the content. But, their critical response also relies on the book fans’ acceptance of their adaptation. Having authors get involved with writing, casting, and promotion of these projects assures fans that it is worthy of their approval. Author Colleen Hoover has kept fans updated about the upcoming It Ends With Us movie adaptation, and Taylor Jenkins Reid is producing the limited series Daisy Jones and the Six, coming out soon on Amazon Prime. 

I predict there will still be adaptations that fall flat and don’t get enough production attention and online buzz, just like what we saw with the downfall of young adult lit franchises after the Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn, and Mockingjay Part IIs. But I believe there are many upcoming projects to look forward to and will be successful and beloved by audiences. Most notably–and what I and many readers are most excited for after our middle school selves were so disappointed in the original films–the Disney+ series for Percy Jackson. 

This television show (now in its filming stage) is a perfect example of what has changed since the 2010s. Disney knows that it can get over 10 seasons out of the Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus book and is clearly putting in a lot more effort to keep this adaptation accurate and alive than when the original two movies were panned in 2010 and 2013. Author Rick Riordian has put his stamp of approval on this series, is an executive producer for the show, and has been active online in defending the diverse young actors cast for his characters. Between this show on Disney+, other Netflix productions, and new Amazon series, readers will have a hard time keeping up with new content! 

Although books are constantly being made into films and shows, younger audiences (“young” being not yet mid-20s!) are more critical of seeing their favorite characters and stories appear on screen. I believe new and young adult literature will continue to be used to bring in film audiences, but now production companies are putting more careful thought and effort into projects in order to create faithful and entertaining adaptations that can build lasting franchises. Since the rise and fall of young adult dystopian fiction in the 2010s, I hope to see this rise of young and new adult fiction continue to be successful and satisfy book lovers of all genres, including myself. 

Maria Sell

Conn Coll '23

Maria (she/her/hers) is a senior at Connecticut College studying American Studies and Sociology and is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves getting to play on the Women's Water Polo Team with her teammates here and enjoys reading, baking, and coaching water polo outside of school!