Fresh from the mystical land where teenage girls overcome the odds to save their dystopian family and ultimately pick between two hot boys comes two new YA novels getting the movie adaptation treatment. For there is nothing quite like watching a plucky young heroine duke it out with some kind of menacing, probably supernatural foe in order to save everything she cares about — responsible adults not needed.
“The Red Queen,” based on the novel of the same name by Victoria Aveyard, will be adapted for the screen by Breaking Bad writer Gennifer Hutchinson. In this world, all citizens are segregated based on the color of their blood. A 17-year-old girl (yes) must save her family (sure) by posing as a long-lost princess in order to secretly aid a revolution (sounds about right). Universal has so much faith in this particular novel that they snatched the rights to the book as soon as it was announced, despite the fact that it won’t be published for over a year. It’s, you guessed it, the first part of a trilogy, and has been sold in 16 different languages.
With that kind of hype before publication, Universal is ensuring that there will already be a massive following by the time the film and its casting is announced. Young adults in countries all over the world will already be exposed to (and from what they’re expecting, love) The Red Queen before whoever Jennifer Lawrence of 2015/2016 is can step into the fake-princess’ shoes.
Universal is tapping the YA market again with “Daughter of Smoke & Bone,” the first installment of another wildly popular trilogy franchise by Laini Taylor. Smoke & Bone is the story of another 17-year-old girl whose father sends her on trips around the world collecting human teeth without telling her why. Cool dad, normal dad. Somewhere along the way (maybe on one of her teeth road trips? Also, does she physically take the teeth from people’s heads, repo-style?) she discovers that she’s actually in the middle of an ancient battle between angels and devils — and that her heart belongs to a rebel angel. But the teeth, I want to talk about the teeth and they’re not giving me anything else.
The film, adapted by Stuart Beattie (Collateral) and directed by Michael Gracey (the upcoming Rocketman) only further proves that Universal’s got a game plan when it comes to the YA racket. Undoubtedly fueled by the now proven continued success of The Hunger Games as a franchise instead of a standalone film, the company is gunning for novels that are part of multiple-book package, feature a strong, unique girl in the lead and can draw in their rabid reader audiences once the adaptation finally comes to the big screen. Those hordes of screaming fans at the Catching Fire premiere wearing Mocking Jay pins weren’t all doing so because they saw the first movie and liked it; they were voracious readers of the series and devoted followers of Katniss Everdeen.
Despite the success of franchises like The Hunger Games and of course, dollar bill maker Twilight, good YA novels can’t all be winners at the theater; it’s very possible that both The Red Queen and Daughter of Smoke & Bone could go the way of recent dismal adaptations like I Am Number Four, The Host (proving even something by the same author as Twilight can’t make it successful), Beautiful Creatures or god forbid, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Now Universal has to play the waiting game and see if they’ve got flops or multi-year, worldwide sensations on their hands.