The audiences for Young Adult books is massive and voracious. We devour new books. We stan them all over the Internet. In fact, studies show that teens and young adults read more than most adults.
We’re also consumers of media, like movies, TV, and web shows. We watch, we comment, we run campaigns. We practically beg for our favorite YA books to be adapted into various screen formats.
So why the hell don’t YA book lovers show up for YA book adaptations?
The Darkest Minds came out on August 3rd. It’s based on the beloved bestselling series by Alexandra Bracken. A new book in the series– the best one so far, imo– hit shelves last week. There was PLENTY of chatter about this movie in the YA community. The movie has stars like Amandla Stenberg and Mandy Moore, plus a mix of up-and-comers and unknowns. The cast is diverse. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson is a POC and one of three female directors repping a major studio film this year. While it has some flaws, the adaptation is remarkably faithful compared to many others and all those involved handle their roles deftly. Sounds like a DREAM, right?
Well, The Darkest Minds had a budget of $34 million. In its opening weekend, it made $5.8 million domestically. That lands it at #11 on list of the worst wide release openings since 1982. It was #8 overall among current films, beaten by movies that have been out for weeks. International releases are ongoing and will play a role in the final gross, but studios get a much higher cut of domestic profits than international ones. Basically, unless TDM does gangbusters in a massive foreign market like China, the franchise is dead in the water. The release was a freaking slaughter.
As much as we plead for our faves to finally get that movie adaptation we so desperately crave, YA reader audiences aren’t putting their money where their mouth is. Logic says that at least some of that abysmal audience turnout was people who haven’t heard of or read the books, which means that a lot of YA book folks didn’t bother. Meanwhile, these same readers who didn’t throw their support behind the latest YA adaptation are probably out there campaigning for another book they love to be adapted, not recognizing how they just shot themselves in the foot.
It’s easy to think that the failure of one movie won’t have an effect on the next, particularly when they’re different– Say, contemporaries versus fantasies. But film studios and media are exceedingly critical of youth stories. When teen characters lead the way, studios see YA as the genre and as such, the failure of any YA adaptation is the failure of all YA adaptations. It doesn’t matter if the character is navigating a brutal dystopian future or just trying to survive high school.
Maybe The Darkest Minds series isn’t one of your top favorites. That’s totally fine! But by not showing studios that there’s a healthy interest for YA adaptations in general, you’re damning your favorites in the process.
Yes, there are factors to consider: Summer releases don’t tend to be major moneymakers anymore and 20th Century Fox didn’t put half the advertising power behind The Darkest Minds as it did Love, Simon, probably because the latter cost half as much as make and more of the overall budget could be attributed to advertising. It came out against a Disney nostalgia flick and female buddy comedy, which probably wasn’t the wisest decision. But if you’re following anything YA related on social media, it was damn near impossible NOT to know this movie was coming. And if we really want those future adaptations, we better prioritize the ones that are happening right now.
If you want more adaptations, show up for The Darkest Minds in the weeks to come to help it get some bounce-back. Show up for The Miseducation of Cameron Post if it’s playing near you. Show up for To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before when it drops on Netflix on August 17th. Show up for Sacred Lies on Facebook Watch for FREE. Show up for The Hate U Give on October 19th. Show up for Dumplin when that yet-to-be-announced release date comes around. We need to support ALL THE ADAPTATIONS.
If you don’t offer a wide range of support, but you’re frustrated about optioned projects like Red Queen and Legend seeming to be forever in limbo or about your favorite not being optioned at all, the only person you have to blame is yourself.