A Definitive Ranking of the Best YA Book to Movie Adaptations
As an avid reader, I always love when I get to watch some of my favorite novels play out on the big screen.
However, since I'm primarily committed to books and often read the story before seeing it, I am also severely critical of their resulting movie adaptations. The slightest incongruence or even a character that doesn't match the image I had in my head is enough to turn my smile upside down.
As a critical observer of the movie world, I decided to rank some of my favorite YA books, based on how well I thought their movie adaptations adhered to the novel (and how much I enjoyed them). But be aware: I've only included stories for which I've both read the book and watched the movie, otherwise this list would be much longer.
Check out my definitive ranking of the best YA book to movie adaptations below.
10. Paper Towns
As much as I love John Green, Paper Towns in general was a bit of a disappointment. Quentin's obsession with Margo and her completely irrational behavior just didn't hit the right note with me, so I was already wary going into the Paper Towns movie. Unfortunately, it failed to impress me. Cara Delevingne's performance as Margo felt awkward and forced, which didn't allow you to get a full glimpse into her struggles that led to her ridiculous spontaneity. I felt uncomfortable watching the story play out on screen, which easily earned this movie a spot at the bottom of my ranking.
(Paper Towns via Fox 2000 Pictures)
9. Ready Player One
Ready Player One only recently hit the big screen, and I'm sad to say that I was massively disappointed. I've never been a big gamer, but the novel easily drew me in with its complex characters and intricate storyline. The movie, however, just wasn't as enjoyable. The writers changed crucial elements of the storyline, and the resulting plot felt clunky and half-baked. While I loved the overall look of the movie, especially the scenes in the video game, I would have preferred the original storyline to the enhanced version that turned the characters into rebels fighting for a cause. It added unneeded action that detracted from what was happening in the game, and simply didn't need to be included.
(Ready Player One via Amblin Entertainment)
8. The Spectacular Now
Despite the fact that Sutter and Aimee's relationship is highly toxic, I really enjoyed The Spectacular Now. I felt that it took quite an interesting approach to relationships and the effect they can have on you. It also followed a main character (Sutter) who in truth accomplishes very little personal growth beyond coming to terms with the fact that he's incredibly self-centered and short-sighted.
The movie, however, didn't have a chance to portray the complexities of the characters quite as intimately as the book did. While we were able to see a glimpse of Sutter's internal struggles, watching the plot on screen just didn't give you the insight into the characters that you need to think of the story as a success. It was a wonderful adaptation, but it was difficult to live up to the complexity of the novel, moving this movie down to No. 9.
(The Spectacular Now via Andrew Lauren Productions)
7. The Divergent Series
I'm all about dystopian novels, so I quickly fell in love with the Divergent series. It's such a unique idea, and each plot point was expertly crafted to create a story that was both intricate and relatable. But the movies? Ugh… just… why? They started off strong with the Divergent movie, only changing a few things that I could happily forgive for the sake of the story. Then the second movie went totally off the rails, barely following some of the major and most exciting moments in the novel. The third movie was just as bad, and then they just didn't even finish them?
If you're going to turn a book into a movie, you can't just write an entirely new and completely unfinished story. It was frustrating to watch, and this entire series would be much lower on the list if I hadn't liked the first movie so much.
(Divergent via Summit Entertainment)
6. Before I Fall
I read Before I Fall a loooonnggg time before the movie came out and immediately fell in love with it, so when I heard it was coming to the big screen, I was immediately excited. And truthfully? I was totally satisfied. The movie followed the storyline of the novel pretty closely and only changed elements that wouldn't be conducive to a two-hour(ish) time slot. It used a good sense of the characters to build something that was interesting to watch, without detracting from the message of the book. It was fairly simplistic and straightforward, but I appreciated it.
(Before I Fall via Awesomeness Films)
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an absolutely stunning piece of work, both in written form and movie form. The book is written in simplistic language to reflect Charlie's youthful state-of-mind and diary-like entries, which makes you feel truly connected to his character. Plus, no line will ever hit home the way "we accept the love we think we deserve" will, and I don't care how basic that makes me.
The movie does an equally perfect job of showing the struggle of an abused high-schooler coming to understand himself and work through some very difficult issues. I have absolutely no complaint about either book or movie, which explains the No. 5 ranking.
(The Perks of Being a Wallflower via Summit Entertainment)
4. The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars novel absolutely destroyed me. I'm not a big cryer, but that didn't stop me from bawling my eyes out when I reached the end of this book. While nothing could ever live up to the incredible writing that filled every page of this novel, the movie did a pretty good job. It followed the novel very closely, even managing to include most of my favorite lines.
Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley did an excellent job portraying Augustus and Hazel, which was shocking, considering I was fully convinced that no one would be able to capture those characters. I still highly recommend reading the novel, but the movie was an equally heartbreaking and beautiful portrayal of the story.
(The Fault in Our Stars via Fox 2000 Pictures)
3. Bridge to Terabithia
Speaking of stories that make me cry, I was shockingly stoic while reading the Bridge to Terabithia novel. The movie, however, was an entirely different story. I have never cried so hard at anything, and to this day I will only pop it into the DVD player if I'm truly craving an emotional release.
While the novel is beautifully written and engaging, this is one of few times when I thought the movie was better than the book. Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb bring an incredible talent to their characters, using facial expressions and moments of silence to their utmost advantage. You just can't get that while reading a novel, making the movie a perfect portrayal of this heartbreaking story.
(Bridge to Terabithia via Walden Media)
2. The Hunger Games Series
The Hunger Games series is quite the anomaly. On one hand, it's a completely gruesome and horrific idea for a story… but on the other hand, that's exactly what makes it so compelling. This series made it so high on the list because of it's strict attention to each and every detail in the novel. Seriously, they followed the books to the letter, almost going too far towards the end. However, each casting decision perfectly reflected the characters of the novel, and the strict attention to detail meant that we got to see an entirely new world unfolding before our eyes. It was a thrilling adaptation that only reinforced my love for this series, which is the best you can hope for when some of your favorite books get turned into movies.
(The Hunger Games via Lionsgate)
1. The Harry Potter Series
Honestly, is there any better choice for the No. 1 position? Harry Potter is completely iconic in every way. While I wouldn't say the books are better than the movies, they are completely exciting in a very different way. It's one thing to read about an entirely unheard of magical world and it's another to see it appear in front of your eyes. Nothing will ever be able to replace the wizarding world of Harry Potter, allowing these movies to claim their rightful place as the No.1 adaptation.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone via Warner Bros.)
If you're a big fan of reading before you watch like I am, click HERE for 13 books to read before they're turned into movies.