Top 7 Best Television Adaptations of Young Adult Novels
Because you’re never too old for YA novels.
Young adult novels and series have a devoted fan following that almost no other genre can compete with. And when one becomes a cult hit among the latest generation of YA readers, it’s virtually guaranteed to be a hit at the box office. The success of film adaptations like Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games has in turn led to an explosion of YA television (and streaming) series, and of what’s available, these are our picks for the seven best television adaptations of YA books and novels.
Shadow and Bone
The Netflix original series Shadow and Bone — based on the fantasy adventure trilogy of the same name written by Leigh Bardugo — tells the story of Alina, a teenage orphan in Ravka who discovers she has an extraordinary magical power that makes her a target of Ravka’s enemies.
Netflix made an interesting choice when it came time to produce this eight-episode adaptation. Shocking fans of the book trilogy, they added characters from another of Bardugo’s books titled Six of Crows, creating another layer of complexity for the plot to offer.
The result is a thrillingly dark epic that YA fantasy fans will love. You can binge all of Season 1 on Netflix now, just in time for the release of Season 2 on March 16.
I Am Not Okay With This
I Am Not Okay With This is a darkly comedic coming-of-age story about Sydney, a teenager navigating all the usual adolescent stuff: Queerness, high school social dynamics, family drama, and surprise superpowers.
This award-winning Netflix original series is based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, author of The End of the F***ing World, which was also adapted into a British dark comedy series in 2017. Unfortunately, despite generally favorable reviews, the show was canceled after just one season. But that means you can stream the whole series over a single weekend. Catch all seven episodes on Netflix now.
Graduating seniors in the small town of Carp play a game called “Panic,” a test of courage and will that offers competitors a chance at a huge cash prize; which, as it so happens, is enough to get out of town. Heather and Dodge, two of the game’s contestants, each have their reasons for wanting to win, but there can only be one victor.
The book plays out like The Hunger Games, set in a world much closer to our own than it first appears over its ten episode run. Amazon announced that there would be no second season, but that’s okay; the novel’s full plot plays out over the course of Season 1, right to its shocking conclusion.
Watch Panic on Amazon Prime Video now.
Tiny Pretty Things
Tiny Pretty Things, the Netflix original series based on the novel by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, captures all the intrigue you would expect from a high school murder mystery.
When a dancer at an elite Chicago performing arts school mysteriously falls to her death, Neveah gets the chance of a lifetime. But she has no idea that the world she’s about to find herself in is full of suspicion, jealousy, and possibly even murder.
Despite rumors that Netflix would renew it, the series was quietly canceled after just one season. But you can still enjoy every minute of this thrilling teenage drama on Netflix right now.
Kass Morgan’s The 100 is a sci-fi series that blends Battlestar Galactica with Lord of the Flies, and it’s just as potent of a mix as it sounds.
Nearly a hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse rendered the Earth uninhabitable, the third generation of space refugees is running out of precious resources. Their only option is to return to Earth, so they send 100 juvenile prisoners to the ground to see whether it’s survivable.
They then discover that what they thought was an uninhabited rock is actually teeming with the descendants of the survivors who didn’t make it off the planet. Further complicating matters is the fact that they’re not interested in sharing their home with the invaders from the sky.
The series spans four novels, which were extended into a seven-season epic. It’s far too long to binge, but you’ll want to anyway. Every plot twist is as high-stakes as the last, and the shocking conclusion is appropriately satisfying (if not exactly happy).
Catch all seven seasons of The 100 on Netflix now.
Looking For Alaska
Looking for Alaska is based on the coming-of-age novel by John Green, author of other YA hit adaptations like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns.
In the Hulu original series based on the book, Miles “Pudge” Halter goes to Culver Creek Preparatory High School to seek “the Great Perhaps.” There, he meets “The Colonel,” Takumi, and Alaska, a wildly ungovernable yet emotionally volatile girl. But when Alaska dies suddenly, Pudge and the rest of their friend group are left reeling, trying to make sense of the tragedy.
What follows is a story about grief, healing, and searching for meaning in darkness. The eight-episode miniseries is available for streaming now on Hulu, and well worth a look if you’re a fan of the genre.
Always a Witch
Always a Witch tells the story of Carmen, a 17th-century Afro-Colombian witch who escapes burning at the stake by time-traveling to 21st-century Colombia to save the life of her lover, Cristobal. But first, she’ll have to figure out how to stay under the radar while navigating university life and fulfilling a magical quest to defeat an ancient enemy.
The show is loosely based on Yo Bruja, a Spanish-language novel by Isidora Chacon, but the plot is so vastly different that some fans of the book were very disappointed. There’s also a decent bit of controversy around the fact that Carmen is enslaved and Cristobal is the enslaver’s son – legitimizing sexually abusive dynamics as “romance.”
Still, Always a Witch is one of the rare mainstream shows about Black and Latinx witchcraft blending historical narratives with modern sitcom-like scenarios that will suck you in.
You can catch both seasons of Always a Witch on Netflix now.
What’s your favorite YA book-to-TV adaptation? Let us know in the comments! And before you go, be sure to check out our other streaming-related articles and coverage down below.
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