10 Young Adult Novels More Deserving of Feature Film Treatment Than the “Twilight” Series

On November 20, Earth will be invaded by yet another round of twee vampires and unwashed werewolves, bad dialogue, inscrutable motivation and lots of moist forest scenery. With the release of “Twilight” sequel “New Moon,” many will be made happy, including the studio (which will rake in tens, if not hundreds, of millions) and the mooning (heh) teenaged or teenaged-in-their-hearts hordes who will part with those tens, if not hundreds, of millions. Bloody hell. Here are ten far superior, and superiorly-creepy young-adult (and one book I read as a young adult but is probably more appropriate for older readers) books that either deserve their own big-screen adaptations, or deserve a modern-day update on them. Collectively, let’s all go tell the “Twilight” books to suck it.


1. “Fade,” by Robert Cormier
From the man who made chocolate distribution and nursery rhymes resonate with paranoia in “The Chocolate War” and “I Am the Cheese” comes a Stephen King-endorsed book about a family genetic mutation in which certain members can just … vanish. What sounds like an awesome superhero trait actually is a lifelong burden, and wrought with its own dangers and evildoers.


2. “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” by E.L. Konigsburg
All right, not as creepy as vampires and government conspiracies, but it’s got a darkly cool factor: Who wouldn’t want to run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, scavenging the reflecting pools for spare change and discovering a secret about the statue of David? There was a 1995 movie for ABC with Lauren Bacall, but … TV! This is a book that deserves a Disney big-screen adaptation all the way.


3. “Go Ask Alice,” by Anonymous
So it’s not really based on a young girl’s diary, in which she spirals into drugs and casual sex and kills herself at the end (that’s no spoiler; you can learn that from reading the back of the book). Who cares? She’s just like you and me (or, a dated version of such, since the book came out in 1971), and that’s the creepy part. It’s hard to pin down Where It All Goes Wrong. There was an awesomely-cast film in 1973 (William Shatner and Andy Griffith!), but maybe it’s time to switch out the LSD for meth and the diary to a blog….


4. “House of Stairs,” by William Sleator
Arguably, 1997’s “Cube” was this movie writ large, but there are significant differences. Rather than being trapped in a maze of trapped, shifting cubes, in “Stairs” five orphaned 16-year olds wake up in a vast chamber of nothing but staircases and small landings. They have to perform in order to get a machine to spit out food, but the rules keep changing – and soon the machine wants them to do horrible things to each other.


5. “The Girl Who Owned a City,” by O.T. Nelson
Nelson only wrote this one book, in order to earn cash to start up a college painting service – but one was enough. Basically, in “City” the world ends when everyone over age 12 dies from a virus. One gal takes on the roving adolescent gangs and sets up her own little clan inside a school. Got me well into apocalyptic fiction at an early age and never let go. Plus, having a female heroine was a big change from many of the books I was reading at the time – Lisa never needed to be saved by some creepy vampire, I tell you what.


6. “The Executioner,” Jay Bennett
Bruce is drunk, but he drives anyway – and the resulting accident kills his friend Ray. He manages to escape legally unblamed, but his conscience isn’t letting him off so easily. Things start going “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (by Lois Duncan, see below) on him, as his fellow surviving passengers get bumped off one by one. There’s a great twist in the ending, and Bennett was a well-seasoned mystery writer (who just passed away in June) who knew how to craft suspense and thrills.


7. “Paul’s Game,” by Mary Towne
There was a time when everyone was a little freaked out over ESP – you know, extra-sensory projection. What could it mean if someone could read your mind! What if you could read someone else’s? Here, not only did you have two girls who had mind-reading abilities – but a control freak guy who decided to use those abilities for nefarious purposes. A big-screen version with excellent special effects could be excellent on a mind-reading level … and on an abusive-boyfriend level. Sadly, that latter one hasn’t gone out of fashion yet.


8. “Daughters of Eve,” by Lois Duncan
Duncan’s books have been made into a number of horror-fest films – from “Killing Mr. Griffith” to “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” “Eve,” however, has been ignored unnecessarily, mixing extreme feminism with cult behavior, misogyny and revenge tactics as nice girls in high school are led down a very dangerous path by their unstable and dogmatic teacher. Duncan in many ways is a modern-day Shirley Jackson, taking the everyday of the suburbs and turning it into something dark and squishy – and she did it long before David Lynch ever conceived of “Twin Peaks.”


9. “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry
The award-winning “Giver” takes the reader to an alternate universe that seems utopist – but that tends to mean “too good to be true.” In the name of safety and stability, peoples’ lives are tightly-regulated, and all emotion has drained out of them. One person is chosen as the repository of all of the memories and emotions of the society’s past – and that makes him realize just how hollow everything is, and look for a way to escape. Bonus: “Harry Potter” director David Yates has this book on his development slate for 2011.


10. “Fun with Your New Head,” by Thomas Disch
The late, great Disch was never a young person’s author. But this collection of short sci-fi and horror stories is an excellent introduction to his work, and likely to leave you with creepy nightmares. There’s the woman who gets a little too personal with the roaches in her apartment, the man trapped as a human exhibit in an alien zoo, and the title story, which starts out as absurd advertising copy – and slides too easily into disturbia. Any one of these stories could work as a short, “Twilight Zone”-esque film.

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13 Responses

  1. Hawkes Klein says:

    I literally almost picked up “From the Mixed Up Files” this morning to read on the train. It literally CHANGED MY LIFE! I’ve read it a hundred times. It’s on the list of reasons why I live in NY (along with “Felicity” and “Easter Parade”) and #1 on my list of why I went to NYU for Art History!
    JUAN CARLOS make it into a movie! pleaaaaaseeeeee!!!

    “Go Ask Alice” scared the crap out of me.

    And A GIVER MOVIE!!!!!!! yessssss freaking about time.

  2. I’ve got to check out some Thomas Disch- that guy sounds amazing!

    And, agreed- why the hell haven’t we had a Basil E. Frankweiller movie? I read that book every year to my students- they loved it. And it inspired me to hit the Met approximately 100,000 times…

  3. HOFF says:

    Fade is being made into a movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1356400/

  4. Liz french says:

    “From The Mixed Up Files” is already a movie, it used to be one of my favorites growing up

  5. Acrobat says:

    I’d really like to see the ‘Tomorrow’ series of books, written by Aussie author James Marsden turned into films. The first, ‘Tomorrow when the war began’ was written about an invasion force taking over a small town in Australia whilst a bunch of kids are out camping in the bush and these kids then trying to liberate the town and stop the impending take-over. I read it in High School in one night as the book was amazing and captivating. There was, of course, a lot more to it all and the following books continue the story (6 in total… I think) and would be a shitteload better than Twatlight… ahem.. Twilight any day.

  6. alison says:

    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my fave kids books! i agree with the other two comments! MAKE IT A MOVIE!

    i read all of lois duncan’s books as a teen. she was awesome!

    all your suggestions are excellent, hope someone is listening/reading!?!

  7. Randee says:

    @Hoff: Thanks for the tip! I hadn’t seen that when doing research. Love me some Cormier.
    @Acrobat: That actually sounds quite good. The Aussies did really good apocalyptic films in the 1980s, so I trust them when it comes to this kind of storytelling.
    @Alison: Thank you! One can hope….

  8. ann says:

    all those books sucked except go ask alice!!

  9. I have to say in Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best books ever! And, MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers is also phenomenal. Actually, anything Walter Dean Myers writes. Also, I’d be interested to see “Love that Dog,” and “Hate that Cat” by Sharon Creech turned into some sort of movie as well. Dope post.

  10. Evelyn says:

    My students tell me that The Giver is being made into a movie. True?

    Jason, I LOVE Speak. Walter Dean Myer’s Shooter scared the crap out of me, but he’s a good author. Sharon Creech is awesome, too.

  11. Cody says:

    Yo. Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler has been made into a movie. Twice.

  12. I ADORE William Sleator! I recommend him all the time at the bookstore where I work.

    I think Boxes would make a great movie, as well.

  1. January 11, 2013

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