Why are the brilliant British young adult authors not inspiring the next Hunger Games?
American novels may be taking over our cinemas but there are brilliant British book-to-big screen adaptations just waiting to happen, says Sarah Doran
From Katniss Everdeen to Tris Prior, Maze Runner Thomas to Book Thief Liesel and just about every character John Green has ever written, there’s no shortage of fictional book teens taking over our cinema screens.
They’ve all got one thing in common, though: none of them have been created by authors from the UK. And that’s a crying shame considering how many wonderful books writers a little closer to home churn out.
Surely there’s someone out there who can fill the Harry Potter void?
Just yesterday Irish author Louise O’Neill claimed the UK’s first YA Book Prize, the first award solely dedicated to young adult novels written or published within the UK and Ireland. Her brilliant (I’ve read it and I’m Irish – it’s a delightfully double bias) debut novel Only Ever Yours is just one tale that’s absolutely begging to be adapted for a cinema audience.
Set in a dystopian future where women are bred to serve man’s great plan for humanity, Only Ever Yours tells the tale of 16-year-old would-be wives of the rich and powerful, Freida and Isabel. They’ve trained all their lives in the hopes of being selected as “companions”, but may yet find themselves serving another purpose as “concubine” or “chastity”.
From bulimia to bullying, there’s no issue O’Neill doesn’t touch upon in the dark and partially disturbing novel, but it’s the kind of “teen movie” the dystopian market needs.
The mind is ten times more powerful than any weapon: bows, arrows and gun barrels can’t compete with a barbed tongue.
Of course, Only Ever Yours isn’t the only YA Book Prize finalist worthy of the cinema screens. Take Sally Green’s Half Bad, for example. 16 year-old Nathan lives in a world of white and black witches, of dark and light magic. And it just so happens that he’s a child of two worlds who’ll have to escape the cage he's trapped in before his 17th birthday or he'll die.
This book set the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a debut author pre-publication when it was sold in 45 languages prior to its UK publication by Penguin Books.
And Half Bad is only the first in a planned trilogy of tales, so is it any wonder that Fox 2000 bought the rights to the film before the book was even released? Deadline broke the news back in 2013 but there’s been nought but rumblings about it ever since. Could this be the franchise that brings British YA authors back to cinema’s big leagues?
Of course, we can’t forget the standalone successes, either. John Green’s Fault In Our Stars will be followed by Paper Towns this year, but British teenagers do just as good a job at breaking hearts and coming of age.
Dawn O’Porter’s shortlisted Goose (and its predecessor Paper Aeroplanes) capture every aspect of 1990s teenage life, while Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s Lobsters is an homage to those awkward love affairs we’ll never forget.
Non Pratt’s Trouble could rival Juno in its depiction of teenage pregnancy while A Song For Ella Grey (by David Almond) weaves a lyrical love story based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
There’s unrivalled joy in reading (in my opinion, at least), but often a wonderful book can make a decent movie and surely there’s one to be found in the British back catalogue?
Young adult fire is catching and we shouldn’t forget about our own bright sparks.