10 Offbeat YA Books that Made it to the Big Screen

KC Frankenburger

Read Time 3 minutes

RJ Cyler and Thomas Mann in “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

When you think of YA film adaptations, your brain most likely gravitates toward the big franchises: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and even Narnia. And for good reason. These books have been on our nightstands and our TV screens for the better part of two decades. But not every YA book-to-movie adaptation has to turn into a franchise. Sometimes, one could argue, it’s even better that way.

Here are a just a few offbeat young adult adaptations that you need to add to your watch list ASAP.

Warm Bodies — Rent or buy for $1.99 and up.

The premise of a zombie/human love story just sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But somehow this movie, based on the book by Isaac Marion, is not even close to ridiculous. Instead, it is heartwarming and funny, and will leave you happier than it found you.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant — HBO

Based on the novel by Darren Shan, Cirque du Freak is definitely a little bit campy, but it comes with it a healthy dose of atmosphere and a whole lot of fun.

Tuck Everlasting — Rent or buy from $2.99 and up.

Would you choose to live forever? That’s the question that Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt forces you to ask yourself by the end. That question is no easier to answer whether on page or on screen, but it is lovely either way.

How I Live Now — Hulu

How I Live Now contains a controversial teenage love story. But given the world these young people are forced to survive in, based on the novel by Meg Rosoff, it makes a certain kind of sense. Here the post-apocalyptic landscape is more isolated than it is terrifying, focusing on the richer human drama rather than the external events that have them trapped there.

City of Ember — Rent or buy from $2.99 and up.

Also starring Saoirse Ronan, this movie is a bit of a puzzle which is part of what makes it fun to watch. Based on the novel by Jeanne DuPrau, and set in a decaying dystopian underground, this YA adaptation will keep you thinking until the very end.

Everything, Everything — HBO

If you recognize Amandla Stenberg here, that’s because she played Rue in the first Hunger Games movie. In this adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, Stenberg is making us all feel very old by being suddenly all grown up and in love. While there is something quietly sinister at the core of this story, the real pleasure here is watching the romance between its lead characters blossom, despite its constraints.

Tomorrow, When the War Began — Amazon Prime

Based on the novel of the same name by Jon Marsden, this movie is another take on the “what-teenagers-do-in-an-apocalypse” trope. This one taking on a more exciting, proactive stance on the subject. There are a few recognizable faces here; chief among them, The Originals’ Phoebe Tonkin.

Inkheart — HBO

I haven’t actually read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, but after seeing the movie, it has moved to the top of my to-read pile. Reading a book out loud and thus bringing it to life does have a bit of a Jumanji feel, but there’s something kind of magical about this story that makes it worth the while.

The Perks of being a Wallflower — Freeform

I once had a friend tell me that this movie, based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, made her sad because the characters in it weren’t actually real people. For the uninitiated? That’s when you know you’re onto something good.

Me, Earl & the Dying Girl — Rent or buy from $2.99 and up.

A little bit lost in the wake of The Fault in Our Stars, this adaptation of Jesse Andrews’s novel fulfills the trailer’s promise of not being a love story. Except, in a way, it really is about love after all. Because who do we love harder and stronger, and who breaks our hearts worse, than our very best friends?

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