The Chocolate War Revisited

Mention YA films – a term most often associated with films adapted from books for young adults – and most people think of sci-fi/fantasy franchises. It’s understandable as they’re the most common and popular examples, with the seventeen highest grossing YA adaptations consisting of films from just three franchises. Keep reading down the list and you’ll find only eight of the top fifty tell real-world stories without genre trappings. (And that’s including The Princess Diaries and its sequel, both of which should probably count as fantasy if we’re being honest.) Non-genre YA titles typically focus on young love, sometimes with a dash of cancer, and while those are perfectly valid topics they’re often no more thought-provoking than that Shailene Woodley franchise where she plays a girl who saves the world by being really good at multitasking.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing it, but there are actually some truly challenging and provocative YA adaptations out there too. They’re just not typically the ones that make a splash at the box-office. From Lord of the Flies (1963, 1990) to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), smart and stimulating adaptations for developing minds do exist, and one of the absolute best turned thirty years old this month. The Chocolate War is a fantastically affecting film based on a brilliant novel that should still be required reading in schools.

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The Best YA Adaptations You Probably Haven’t Seen

maze runner

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we take a look at the best adaptations you haven’t seen of young adult novels.)

Young adult (YA) adaptations typically fall into two categories – those featuring characters named Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, or Bella Swan, and those that don’t. The movies in the latter group aren’t as well known and haven’t made nearly as much money, and if we’re being honest, a healthy percentage of them deserve that fate. There are plenty of other good ones, though, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower to The Outsiders, but I’m here to tell you there are also some great ones you’ve probably missed.

One such solid YA movie is 2015’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials which in addition to featuring some fun 28 Days Later-like “zombie” assaults also includes some kick-ass action sequences. It’s good! You can skip the dull first installment – teens are forced to run out of a maze, there, now you’re all caught up – and just jump to this second film. Once you do that you’ll be ready for the trilogy’s concluding chapter, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, which opens this week. You’re welcome.

In the continuing spirit of identifying YA movies that are deserving of more love, I’ve done what I do best, or at least what I do bi-weekly, and selected a handful of good to great titles that were released and quickly forgotten to time.

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