Comic-Con 2012: Searching for the Next ‘Twilight’ and ‘Hunger Games’ at the YA Fiction Panel

By  · Published on July 17th, 2012

First of all, everyone at the “What’s Hot in Young Adult Fiction” panel knew each other. And if they were not busy pre-panel exchanging hugs and stories, they had their nose buried in a book (only a few of them were the books by the authors we were about to meet in the panels, having been torn through by these voracious readers already).

There’s little question that the popularity of The Twilight Saga film franchise kickstarted a major surge in interest when it comes to both other YA series and in adapting those new series to the screen, but if this particular lit genre owes anything to Hollywood, it’s just that the rise of the YA movie has given way to other YA books to be published (and happy that is, as these readers are hungrier than ever for more stories to read and to love). As author James Dashner commented during the panel, held on the last day of this year’s Comic-Con, “there was no YA section when I was a YA.”

But now that’s changed, and in a big way – of the eight authors who served as panelists (along with moderator Nathan Bransford, also an author), seven of them have written YA books that are certified bestsellers, and most of them have already sold the film rights to their biggest YA hits. But just which of the many books represented on the panel stage by their respective authors is going to be the next Twilight or Hunger Games?

It’s easy enough to guess who might be the room’s favorite author just by audience reaction during introductions alone. The biggest cheers rose up for Scott Westerfeld, author of the “Uglies” series (and over twenty other books), with Melina Marchetta, Dashner, and Kami Garcia receiving close-second hoots and hollers. Of all the books, Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series seems most poised for box office booming – originally conceived of as a trilogy, the future-set dystopian series now includes four novels, a companion guide, and a Manga version. Westerfeld’s original trilogy (including “Uglies,” “Pretties,” and “Specials”) was picked up for adaptation back in 2011, and will be produced by Davis Entertainment and Lola Visual Effects. With the recent success of The Hunger Games, something like Uglies should be the next big thing for anyone looking for that sort of thing.

Although, oddly enough, even the authors on the panel criticized against going with trends. When asked what the worst writing advice they ever received was (Bransford framed the question as a spin on the more standard “what was the best writing advice you ever received?”), Leigh Bardugo (“Shadow and Bone”) recounted a recent time when someone (who she refused to name) told her to follow trends. Bardugo wisely observed that “following” a trend both puts you behind the trend and removes your passion for the subject matter. Luckily for Westerfeld, his first “Uglies” book was published back in 2005, giving the series more than enough time to reach a dedicated, invested fanbase. They want the films, Hollywood just need to give them the productions.

But what might the fans get next? A film adaptation of the first of Garcia’s “Beautiful Creatures” novels (co-written with Margaret Stohl), simply called Beautiful Creatures, is currently in production with Warner Bros., starring Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson, and Jeremy Irons. A more moody, Gothic entry in YA fiction, Beautiful Creatures should be more Twilight than The Hunger Games, just in time for an audience hungry for new blood.

Also on deck?

The first of Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series was set up as a film project at 20th Century Fox back in January of 2011. At the time, Catherine Hardwicke was set as director with Noah Oppenheim slated to adapt the book. Hardwicke is no longer attached, but the film is believed to be made in time to be released sometime between November 2012 and May 2013. Fox also owns the rights to Tahereh Mafi’s “Shatter Me” series and Myra McEntire’s “Hourglass” trilogy.

YA fans (and, heck, just fans of a good story or eight), which of these authors are your favorite? Which books do you want to see adapted for the big screen next?

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