book vs movie

YA movie adaptations – Better than source?

Hey everyone! In anticipation of the Netflix drop of Shadow and Bone tomorrow, I am reminiscing on some relatively better adaptations of YA movies or TV shows. I do say relatively, because of course it really depends on the person and how much they loved/know of the source material it was based on. So if we disagree, know that I see and hear your opinions too.

Okay, now where shall we begin?

I am not ordering this by any means since I can hardly compare a well-done dystopian to a good contemporary on important issues. But these are the ones I think of when I acknowledge that sometimes, these adaptations are as great on its own or (sacrilegiously) better than the source.

Vampire Academy

Synopsis: Rose, a half-human, half-vampire, must do whatever it takes to protect her best friend Lissa, the princess of the Moroi, from enemies both inside and outside the walls of St. Vladimir’s Academy.

I loved this??! Is that weird? But Zoey Deutch just impersonates the character of Rose Hathaway to everything I ever imagined when I read that book. She’s spunky, smart-mouthed, a spitball of energy. I think she carried this movie ‘cause otherwise it may have just been more predictably lacklustre without her. It’s just another vampire movie/story, as people would say, but there is only ever one Rose Hathaway.

Love, Simon

Synopsis: Simon Spier keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his family. However, when a blackmailer threatens to reveal it, he goes on a roller-coaster journey to come to terms with his identity.

I watched this in theatres with my friend, who is trans, when it first came out (he had already watched this twice and was willing to watch it again with me for a third time). And I wasn’t certain at first if Nick Robinson, an actor who seemed rather straight from his previous roles, could carry Simon’s character well. But I was blown away by the movie overall and the feels that came by the end of it.

The Hate U Give

Synopsis: Starr Carter, an African-American teenager, faces pressure from various communities and tries to stand up for what is right after she witnesses the shooting of her best friend by the police.

A particularly anticipated movie after the crazy success of the book, I’m sure many people had super high expectations for it. Personally, I don’t criticize adaptations too heavily because I come in with low expectations that probably wouldn’t live up to the source material (it wouldn’t have been optioned for a film if it hadn’t been good in some way). But I thought this movie did a great job at carrying the message it needed to carry, and I’m stoked it was able to reach people who don’t normally have the time to read a book.

Before I Fall

Synopsis: Samantha Kingston seems to have it all: popularity, a loving boyfriend and a seemingly perfect future. Everything changes in the blink of an eye when she dies in a car crash but then magically wakes up to find herself reliving the same day over and over again.

Okay, yes, this is another movie starring Zoey Deutch. I love her, okay? I think that is already evident. But while the book was nice enough in my mind, especially showcasing the consequences of a mean girl who has to relive her last day over and over again, the movie I think does an even better job of it. All the emotions that are present in the book are just amplified in the movie as we get to see the scenes where Sam hurts people through her choices and learning how her insecurities should not equate to putting down others.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Synopsis: A young boy named Jake discovers a house full of children with supernatural powers run by Miss Peregrine. Soon, he must help protect their home from terrifying enemies called Hollowgasts.

I watched this one in theatres as well. I am going to honest and say I didn’t pick up Ransom Rigg’s books much because a) those photographs inside are just kinda creepy and b) how many of them are continuing to come out? But as far as adaptations go, I think this one held the nice balance of fun and intriguing as we learn more about this hidden world in the real world we know. Even if people hadn’t read the book before watching (guilty), I’m sure many kids and families enjoyed it as a standalone and I think that’s always an excellent marker for adaptations. It should hopefully excite fans, but also draw in new fans too.

I Am Number Four

Synopsis: John Smith, an otherwise ordinary teenager, has astonishing powers. He has to move from one town to another along with his guardian in order to avoid the beings from another planet who want to kill him and others like him.

Oh boy, this was a longgggg time ago when I watched it but my goodness, Alex Pettyfer was hot, okay? I find a lot of action, fantasy/dystopian YA adaptations don’t do so great. First, there are so many elements to the world building that either don’t get picked up by the adaptation (especially in movies which are time-limited) and second, the important scenes in the books are written over or skipped completely for “new direction” by the producers/writers. However, I think this was a really enjoyable action movie that taught enough of the world building (obviously not all of it) while making it exciting in movie format.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Synopsis: A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life.

This one’s a no brainer but I think many fans were pleasantly pleased with the production of this Netflix film. The chemistry between leads was there while the culture of the Song-Covey family was still highlighted and explored. I think this was an example for others what a good adaptation that gives respect to its source material looks like, and they continued to do so with the following movies in the series.


What do you all think? I know, we may not agree on all of them, but let me know what adaptations you think were done well (or even better than the source)! I’d love to check them out.

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