Fucked Up YA Adaptions: What Makes a Successful Versus a Flop YA Adaption

I’ve watched several YA adaptions and I’m now sort of seeing a pattern in what makes a successful transition in media versus a flop.  So, today I thought that I’d discuss what sticks out to me with the more successful adaptions versus (well, the flops):

1) Choose the Right Medium:

This is where I think a lot of poorly received adaptations failed. Let’s face it, some books are better off as TV shows than movies and vice versa.

Two particular adaptions stuck out for me in this category, those being Vampire Academy and City of Bones.  Both of these books had multi book series and spinoffs built off of them.  Trying to condense that into ninety minute segments for multiple times might not be the way to go.  Sure, there are some large series (Harry Potter) that were successful movie wise.  But really besides Potter, most of the successful adaptions have been smaller series.  Trilogies.  Four book series.

So, what’s the deal?

Larger series are harder to fund for one reason.  Keeping the cast is more difficult.  And staying true to the original script is even more difficult.

A TV medium would allow more flexibility and while it wouldn’t be an exact derivative of the series, it would allow such an adaption to do more with the series.  While the special effects might be cheaper, more could be done.

And it has been done.  The CW has taken a lot of long going series and turned them into big market shows such as The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl.  Lifetime has adapted Melissa de la Cruz’s adult witchy spinoff of the Blue Bloods universe into a show of its own as well.  While there have been certain changes made from the original series (Witches of East End), the TV show format seems to be a better fit for the universe because it allows this growth.  Movies can limit a series since their suppose to be more compact.

Likewise, some YA TV adaptations or attempts at TV adaptations might be better off as a movie.  Remember, The Selection?  Oh, you wouldn’t since it never got past the pilot stage (twice).  And the thing is, had they tried to adapt this as a movie instead of a TV show I actually think it might’ve succeeded.  Because the plot and the world seemed to be more contained to a movie than a TV show.

Really, how many seasons can America whine over Maxon versus Aspen?

Definitely not eight.  I don’t even think I could watch one season.

2) Looks Matter:

Sometimes these adaptations are just hideous to look at.  Everything just seems off.

Yes, but everyone’s imagination different and it’s not like you’re going to find an entire cast  of how you imagine the characters.

Yeah, but sometimes the shallowness goes beyond having Edward Cullen played by Henry Cavill’s hotter younger brother. Sometimes the movie or TV show just looks off.

In paranormal YAs this is often seen with poor CGI.  I can still remember the first time those wolves came out in New Moon all the fangirls in the theater glared at how much laughing I did.

And Vampire Academy, don’t een get me started at how wrong everything looked.

When your love interest immediately makes you think Professor Snape, you know there’s something wrong there.

But can looks really make up for an otherwise poorly cast movie?

Well, yeah.

Look at Twilight.

Robert Pattinson is not how Edward Cullen is described in the books (Meyer explicitly stated  that she imagined Henry Cavill at one point), but the styling made all the difference.  Well, it made him stomach-able enough where every fangirl had a crush on him that they could ignore the fact he didn’t look like Superman.

Same goes with The Princess Diaries.  While Mia didn’t look like Ann Hathaway, Hathaway was styled to look enough like Mia where I could give her a pass.

However, when styling goes wrong.  Forget it.

In addition to Dimitri’s awful Snape hair, other YA adaptations have been marred from poor visual cues.  In Beastly, Alex Pettyfer’s transformation to horrible looking beast never resonated  on me.  Because he didn’t look bad.  Just more like a bald guy with some facial scars with tats.  And honestly if I wanted to find a guy like that I’d just turn on TLC or go to my local Valero station.

3) Source Material

Yep, this one matters.  As many changes as you can make, you’re not going to be able to do a complete do over with the source material you buy.  Unless, of course, you don’t even attempt to do an actual adaptation and this has been done-see Lifetime’s adaptation of Meg Cabot’s 1800 Where R U.

However, if you try to follow the source material-at least where it’s recognizable-if the source material is bad the movie’s probably not going to be great.  Breaking Dawn  is a prime example of it.  The first half is almost unwatchable because of the horridness of the plot, and even though drastic changes were made to the second half it’s tolerable at best.

Even if the source material is arguably decent, if the book is followed too closely it can often hinder an adaptation.  City of Bones is a prime example of this.  While parts of the movie diverge greatly from the movie, there were scenes that were so faithful to the book it hindered them.

Yeah, I’m talking about that infamous falcon scene.

Knowing when to diverge from the book is important.  When done correctly it can make the film a success.  The first Princess Diaries film is a perfect example.  While that movie differed greatly from the source material, the changes that were made weren’t extreme enough to change the spirit of the story and made sense.

I mean, does anyone really think Mary Poppins could play a psycho grandma?

Though I do hate the fact they killed the dad character.  He was awesome. Just saying.

Concluding Thoughts:

Obviously, these are not the only factors that make or break a successful adaptation.  But I do think they are important to consider.

So, what do you think?  Is there anything that you notice that makes a movie or TV show version of a book better or worse from other adaptations?


4 thoughts on “Fucked Up YA Adaptions: What Makes a Successful Versus a Flop YA Adaption

  1. One (of the many, many, many) thing I disliked about the Twilight movies was how the vampires are supposed to be the most beautiful people you’ve ever seen and they hired all these really beautiful people, and then made them look awful with the white makeup and fake hair.

    • See for me, I didn’t mind how they looked (so much) because I thought it was going to be worse. Also, it probably helped that Pattinson sans horrid Eddie makeup looks nothing like Edward Cullen (so the powder makeup actually helped his case). Anyway, I just remember that before the film was released there was a lot hate going on about how he wouldn’t be able to pull off Edward. Surprisingly, I don’t think he was one of the worst picks ever for a YA adaption. I think Jaime Campbell Bower sort of one that award with his portrayal of Jace What’s His Face.

  2. This is a very interesting topic. I often wonder myself why Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy in particular — given the books’ large fanbase — hadn’t done so well.
    Long ago when I first heard the Song of Ice and Fire (I know it’s not YA, hehe) was going to be adapted into a series I was a little wary, but glad to say I’m impressed with what they’ve done. Imagine it being made into a *film* though …. no way on earth can even one book be condensed into a movie.

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