10 Failed YA Adaptations That Deserve Another Shot

10 Failed YA Adaptations That Deserve Another Shot

The YA craze that began with big screen adaptations of Twilight and The Hunger Games never really ended, but it never again reached the same heights. In the modern media landscape, that may not be possible anymore. There’s clearly still an audience for it with the recent success of Heartstopper and Shadow and Bone, plans for a Disney+ Percy Jackson series, and the upcoming Teen Wolf movie.

None of the YA adaptations of yore were perfect, but there were some that performed so poorly entire franchises were halted in their tracks. However, perhaps, fans can really hold out for these books to be given new life.


10 Eragon

A promotional image from the 2006 movie Eragon.

The Inheritance Cycle was ubiquitous for anyone growing up in the mid-2000s. The epic fantasy is composed of dragons and dragon riders, battles between good and evil, and one boy’s journey into adulthood. In 2006 around the peak of its popularity a film adaptation of the first book was released.

Related: 10 YA Novels Released In 2021 That Deserve Movie/TV Adaptations

Pairing budget and time constraints with rich worlds and epic sagas don’t usually work, and this case was no different. The dense world of the books is not ideally matched for a film series, and in the age of streaming adaptations, there’s hope for a more expansive dive into the books.

9 Vampire Academy

Mia and Aaron in the courtyard

Starring Zoey Deutch as guardian-in-training and semi-supernatural Rose, the movie was a fun take on teen angst and vampires. It failed critics and fans of the book series alike, whether it was clumsy exposition about a complicated world, mishandling of beloved characters, or something else that did it.

Despite some questionable elements, the well-drawn character journeys and exciting plot deserve a fitting adaptation. There’s plenty of room to make good on missed opportunities from the Vampire Academy books. A new series adaptation is coming to Peacock in September of 2022, and hopefully, it will fare better than the film did.

8 Beautiful Creatures

Combining hints of southern gothic, a variation on witchcraft, and teen romance, the first novel in the Caster Chronicles introduces Ethan, a humble and ordinary boy, and Lena, a caster torn between the dark and the light.

The film adaptation, like many YA titles, featured a strong cast of new faces and well-known A-listers. Still, fans were displeased with the drastic changes from the source material. Coupled with the failure to correct some of the racist undertones of characters like Amma, maybe it’s good this film failed to spawn sequels. In the right hands though, this haunting tale of tumultuous love and inner turmoil could make for a spellbinding series.

7 City Of Ember

A truly visually stunning film design and the all-star cast were not enough to save what was a fun mystery that could have been more. The only real mark against this film was its lack of box-office success. It recently saw some new admiration across the internet, when it was added to Netflix in the UK earlier this year.

The story follows two kids in a centuries-old underground refuge where the power source begins to collapse. With the recent buzz, now could be the perfect time to finish the series, albeit likely with a new cast since the stars Saorise Ronan and Harry Treadway have outgrown their roles.

6 Chaos Walking

Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland in Chaos Walking.

Another victim of the difficult film-making process, Chaos Walking had everything going for it and still floundered. The author had a hand in the script, the cast is stellar, and there is a devoted fanbase for the books. Still, trying to bring the dystopic future to life proved too challenging.

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There is the particular challenge of finding a good way to bring particular sci-fi elements to the screen. Though the existing film is inventive, more tweaking could make for a clearer iteration of this unique series.

5 Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl

One of the kingpins of childhood literature, Artemis Fowl is an action-packed adventure series featuring all sorts of fairy creatures. A film adaptation was released to largely negative reviews in 2020, on Disney+ where other hidden gems may have overshadowed it.

An essential element of the novels is the surprisingly nuanced handling of universal themes of good and evil, greed, war, and power. Not to mention the titular protagonist is more of an antagonist in the books. With such a recent and expensive flop, it’s unlikely anyone will relaunch this series anytime soon, but with more commitment to the complexities of the source material, a thrilling adaptation is possible.

4 Divergent

Tris and Tobias from Divergent in the midst of a training session

A case could be made for saying the book series set the notoriously unfinished Divergent movie series up for failure. Many fans of the books were unhappy with the third and final novel, Allegiant. Despite some dubious science, and a somewhat tragic conclusion, Tris’s arc was deeply inspirational to many a young reader.

The first film in the series was far from perfect, but the ending left audiences excited to see what came next. Ultimately the film series went unfinished, after the first part of a planned 2-movie finale failed at the box office. It would be hard to top the all-star cast, but given the chance to make some story edits while maintaining the core themes of unity and compassion, the series could make a powerful comeback.

3 The Mortal Instruments

Maybe the third time could be the charm. After an unsuccessful attempt at a film franchise, the wildly popular Mortal Instruments books were brought to the small screen by FreeForm for 3 seasons in Shadowhunters.

Related: Each Main Shadowhunters Characters First And Last Line In The Series

Despite controversies surrounding the author, and the need for some plot adjustments, the popularity of these books and the spinoff series’ continues to thrive to this day. There are plenty of fans out there who’d love to see the shadowhunters get another chance. With ample material, including several spin-off series, it’s a world ripe with potential.

2 Inkheart


The world of Inkheart, where story-book characters come right out of the pages into real life is primed for a cinematic adaptation. Along with the talent of Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, and more Inkheart should have been a wholesome fuzzy family success.

Common critiques were that the film struggled with pacing and lost some of the magic the books had. Still, it was far from a disaster. Maybe with the internet’s renewed adoration of all things Brendon Fraser (who deserves a comeback role), this series could find a second wind too.

1 Cirque Du Freak

The Cirque Du Freak novels are relatively short when compared with other YA titles, but trying to cram the plotlines of a few books, no matter how small, into one film is bound to make for a crowded film. On top of that, the tone of this adaptation struggles to find purchase- no surprise when the original screenwriter went for a dark tale, and then a comedy writer was brought in to pull it back.

The quick-moving plots and sheer volume of books in the series would align themselves much better with a TV series. Fans have been trying for years to petition a studio like Netflix to give it another try, and maybe someday audiences will see it come to fruition.

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About The Author

Frances Hebert
(18 Articles Published)

Frances (or Frankie) is a graduate student at NYU Tisch, studying dramatic writing. Her screenplays have been featured at the AAU spring shows, and she was a top 50 contender in the Launch Pad competition. She’s passionate about horror, 80s adventure movies, and all things animated.

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