The Best YA Adaptations You Probably Haven’t Seen

youth in revolt

Youth in Revolt (2009)

Nick Twisp is a typical teen with an unfulfilled desire to fornicate. A vacation trip leads him to meet and immediately fall for a girl he hopes will help rid him of the dreaded scarlet ‘V’ he wears across his chest, but while she’s cute, smart, flirtatious, and knows her Ozu from her Miyazaki, she also has a boyfriend and a different zip code. So what’s a shy, gangly boy in love to do? Go rogue, obviously, by creating a more self-assured persona named Francois Dillinger.

As coming of age novels go, C.D. Payne’s 500-page tome is on the heavy side, but the film is anything but. It’s a fast-moving, laugh-filled comedy that gives literal body to the dueling nature of horny teenage boys. The goal is the same as any number of teen sex comedies – have sex! – but the path poor Nick takes involves fraud, deception, and massive amounts of property damage. Fans of the recent Call Me By Your Name might also appreciate a certain line of dialogue involving a tomato.

As great as the supporting cast is – Steve Buscemi, Portia Doubleday, Fred Willard, Justin Long, Rooney Mara, M. Emmett Walsh – the film belongs to Michael Cera and Michael Cera, who play Nick and Francois, respectively. He begins the movie in basically the same role he played in Superbad, but when Francois appears Cera manages to steal the movie not only from the other actors, but also from himself. His demeanor, expressions, voice, and even the way he carries himself all change visibly and dramatically from Nick to Francois. And he is hilarious.

Buy Youth in Revolt on Blu-ray from Amazon.

tomorrow when the war began

Tomorrow, When the War Began (2009)

When a foreign military invades Australia, the streets light up in battle, but it’s not too long before the intruders gain the upper hand and take control. A group of locals slip through their fingers, though, and now those teenagers must find a way to work together and start fighting back.

This is a solid action film debut from director Stuart Beattie, who, before this point, was best known for writing Collateral, 30 Days of Night, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. Okay, fine, he’s still best known for his writing as this film went nowhere fast in North America, but the point remains that it’s a fun little action picture. The teens are a mix of personalities who learn that they’re bonded by their desire not only to survive, but also to fight back. Gunfights, explosions, and vehicular action keep things moving in between hormonal outbursts.

Yes, of course it’s essentially Red Dawn with an Australian accent, but John Marsden’s multi-book series offers up a far larger canvas against which to unfold the story. The film encompasses just the first book, and as it’s been nine years the odds seem slim we’ll get a sequel, but a second adaptation actually went the television route and might be worth seeking out.

Buy Tomorrow, When the War Began on DVD from Amazon.

beautiful creatures

Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Ethan is a teenager whose ambition and knowledge have outgrown his small Southern town, but his desire to leave hits a speed bump when he meets Lena. She also feels ready to move beyond her family, but as the two grow close they also discover secrets that connect them and make escape seem unlikely.

Of all the YA films that failed to connect with audience,s this is the one that hurts the most. I never read the books, but this is a terrifically entertaining movie that immediately gets right what so many of these films don’t. Ethan and Lena are relatable from the very beginning as interesting, fleshed-out teens, and Ethan especially comes across as extremely likeable, smart, and humorous. Much of the film itself shares those traits with a casual likeability, some very funny jokes, and a strong production design capturing the beauty of Southern exteriors alongside some CG-assisted interiors.

It has a killer cast too with Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Margo Martindale, and more. The talented and lovely Emmy Rossum also stars and is alone worth the price of admission (or a rental, as the case may be). It’s a shame that films like Divergent and Percy Jackson got sequels but this gem didn’t, as unlike those lesser creations, Beautiful Creatures never talks down to its audience. These teens are intelligent, literate, and engaging, and they never feel like cardboard cutouts playing “hero.” Give this one a watch so you too can be depressed that we’ll never get a sequel.

Buy Beautiful Creatures on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

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