Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, The Hnger Games Mockingjay Part 1

From Book to Screen, Here Are 10 of the Best YA Adaptations

Young adult fiction, despite the name, can be enjoyed by many different age groups, including adults (as an adult who still reads YA novels, I feel qualified to state this). Likewise, YA film adaptations really hit it big in the last two decades, so let’s take a look at some of the cream of the crop.

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1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

The Covey sisters sit together in To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
(Netflix)

This light-hearted romance novel by Jenny Han focuses on the character of Lara Jean Covey, a high school student too afraid to share how she feels about boys—that is, until her little sister sends out all her secret love letters. The book was well-received overall, but the film adaptation, which was released by Netflix, received overwhelming praise and thrust stars Lana Condor and Noah Centineo into the spotlight. The first film did so well that Netflix then did a second and third, as well as a spinoff series, XO, Kitty. Though YA covers many genres, one of the key elements is young people experiencing romance, and that’s exactly what To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before gives us.

2. Enola Holmes

Millie Bobby Brown as Enola and Henry Cavill as Sherlock in Enola Holmes
(Netflix)

Another Netflix YA film adaptation comes in the form of Enola Holmes. The film is adapted from the novel series The Enola Holmes Mysteries written by Nancy Springer and stars Netflix’s leading lady Millie Bobby Brown in the titular role. Enola, the younger sister of already established and revered detective Sherlock Holmes, sets out into the world herself after the mysterious disappearance of her mother. She comes to realize that not many people care for a young female detective, but that’s not going to stop her from solving the story’s big mystery: just who is trying to kill the rather handsome (future Viscount) Tewkesbury? A second movie was released, and now a third is on the way!

3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants cast.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Classic ’00s film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, adapted from the novel of the same name by Ann Brashares, has now reached somewhat cult status. When four friends of differing body proportions discover a pair of jeans that inexplicably fits them all perfectly, they decide to buy them and share them over the summer. They all go their separate ways, mailing the jeans to one another to keep the sharing going. Throughout the summer, each girl experiences personal growth and overcomes challenges. This coming-of-age story celebrates young women and friendship, as well as the rarity of finding the perfect pair of jeans.

4. Holes

Holes movie still.
(Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Another classic YA film adaptation is the 2003 film Holes, adapted from the novel by Louis Sachar, who also wrote the script for the film (that’s when you know an adaptation is going to be accurate). The film plays a lot with destiny and the breaking of generational curses, moving between the past and present events surrounding Green Lake. After a pair of shoes falls on his head and he is convicted of theft, Stanley Yelnats IV is sent to Green Lake juvenile detention center, where he, along with fellow inmates, is forced to dig holes in the former lake bed. Little do they know the reasoning for it and what they will eventually find.

5. Love, Simon

Two boys about to kiss in Love, Simon
(20th Century Fox)

Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the emotional film adaptation Love, Simon tells of a closeted gay high schooler trying to balance his family life and friends, while trying to deal with another student trying to blackmail him, threatening to out him to everyone. The film shows the pain and emotional turmoil that is inflicted when people feel the need to hide who they are for fear of rejection, of no longer being accepted by the ones they love. It seamlessly weaves together mystery, romance, and relationships, as well as showing the importance of support and allyship for those who need it.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Perks of Being a Wallflower movie still.

Another coming-of-age drama, The Perks of Being a Wallflower one is a little darker than some of the above, as it deals with past trauma and sexual assault. The novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, was careful about selling the rights to his novel but did so under the condition that he write and direct the film. It follows Charlie as he enters freshman year at high school, having just been released from mental health care institution after suffering from clinical depression. He struggles to make friends until he meets Sam and Patrick, who bring him into their little group, and the film explores the complexity of relationships, sexuality, and mental health.

7. Twilight

Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) sparkle in the sun in 'Twilight.'
(Summit Entertainment)

Love it or loathe it, we cannot help but include the famous Twilight series in our list. Regardless of how good or bad you think the novels and adaptations are, you can’t help but acknowledge the cultural movement that surrounds them. The franchise features many of the classic YA tropes, including fantasy beings such as werewolves and vampires, love-triangles, a brooding bad boy type who isn’t actually bad (but actually is, because he is a possessive, controlling, toxic individual), and a main character that is somehow boring but everyone is also in love with her. Twilight, you may be awful, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t watched you more than once.

8. The Maze Runner

Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Dylan O'Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster on a poster for Maze Runner: The Death Cure
(20th Century Fox)

Dystopian sci-fi worlds are also a huge genre within the YA community, and one of the more successful film adaptations of this type of genre has to be The Maze Runner series. YA will feature teenagers at the heart of the story, facing unsurmountable odds that only they can overcome, which is exactly the case in Maze Runner. Based on the novel by James Dashner, it follows Thomas as he enters a glade with the only way out being an intricate maze filled with monsters. Unbeknownst to them, they are all subjects in an experiment to find a cure for a pandemic that decimated the human population.

9. Ready Player One

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts in Ready Player One
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Steven Spielberg directed this film adaptation of the novel written by Ernest Cline. The Ready Player One story reads as a love letter to gaming, set in a world where humanity escapes to a virtual reality known as OASIS to live out their most thrilling fantasies. The OASIS has a competition within, one that makes the victor the new owner of the entire virtual world, but only the worthy can succeed, or potentially a greedy corporation with billions of dollars. The visuals in the film are beautiful and the story gripping, and it ticks off many of the boxes we desire in a YA story.

10. The Hunger Games

katniss and peeta in hunger games catching fire
(Lionsgate)

One of the most famous YA novel to film adaptations of all time has to be Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. This is the perfect encapsulation of many of the most beloved tropes of YA storytelling: a young female heroine going up against the system, games of physical and psychological torture, rebel movements, and love triangles. The film series is one of the highest-grossing YA series of all time, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire currently sitting as the highest grossing YA film of all time, having a lifetime gross of $424.6 million. It also served as a breakout role for the enormously talented Jennifer Lawrence, who shone in the role of Katniss Everdeen.

What do you think of our list? Let us know!

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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Author
Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.