8 YA Fantasy Book-to-Television Adaptations
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
This week, we're sharing another of our book-to-screen adaptation episodes—this one focused on a tv series, John Green's Looking for Alaska—so I thought it might be a good time to share some other television adaptations I've enjoyed. I am SUCH a fan of the fantasy genre, so it should be no surprise that fantasy and paranormal adaptations are totally in my wheelhouse.
First, I want to highlight a show that I'm SO excited to watch, Shadow and Bone (it starts April 23 on Netflix), which is based on Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone trilogy and her Six of Crows duology. The trilogy is a great fantasy series, and the duology brings in an amazing series of heists. I love it so much and am hopeful that the adaptation will capture the magic of these YA books!
Comic Book Adaptations
Runaways and Cloak & Dagger (Hulu) - So, first, I have to admit that I haven't read all of the source material for these adaptations of Marvel stories, but the adaptations themselves are fabulous.
Runaways (3 seasons) is one of my absolute favorites, focused on a group of kids who discover that their parents are super-villains. They decide to work together to upend their parents' evil plots. The series is based on the books by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa. For even more Runaways fun, you can check out Rainbow Rowell's update of the original, illustrated by Kris Anka, which takes place years later.
Cloak and Dagger (2 seasons) is about two teens from different backgrounds who discover that they have superpowers and (eventually) begin to work together to combat evil from outside the system. The adaptation is powerful, incorporating commentary on police violence and racism into the storyline. You can check out a collection of the original comics here.
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix) - I recently devoured season 2 of The Umbrella Academy, and it was even better than the first season! This is a tough series to describe succinctly, but basically, an eccentric and wealthy man adopts seven children, born on the same day around the world in 1989. Each child has superpowers, and the man (Sir Reginald Hargreaves) trains them to be part of a crime-fighting team known as the Umbrella Academy. Now, as adults who have pursued separate lives, the kids come back together after their father's death. I love each of these wildly imperfect and quirky characters so much, and watching them work through their relationships is complicated and so, so good. You can find the original comic books by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Ba collected here.
Locke and Key (Netflix) - The Locke and Key comic book series is the work of Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. It is as dark and twisty and amazing as you'd imagine. (All the trigger warnings, though.) You can pick up the first volume here, or if you want to dive in to the whole thing, you can find that here. The show (2 seasons so far) isn't quite as gritty—it's still quite dark, but I think that it's more accessible to a younger audience.
Novel Series Adaptations
The Vampire Diaries (Netflix) - So I had started watching the adaptation before realizing that I'd read the books by L. J. Smith back in the 90s—they were originally published when I was in high school. (I kept thinking that the names seemed awfully familiar, and then I realized why! I raided my old bookshelves at my parents' house and discovered—and re-read—the originals.) The adaptation does change a lot, but the core is the same: Elena Gilbert is a normal girl who meets vampire brothers Stefan and Damon and gets caught up in a swoony love triangle . . . but she also uncovers a complex, paranormal world underlying her seemingly normal small town. I'll be honest: I didn't make it through all eight seasons of the adaptation, but I can solidly recommend seasons 1-4.
His Dark Materials (HBO Max) - So far, two of three seasons of this prestige adaptation of Philip Pullman's trilogy have been released. I'm really enjoying the show (which stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, an Unabridged Podcast fave, in a secondary role!), but I do think there's a bit of an audience mismatch between the original books, which are aimed at children, and the adaptation, which seems to be more focused on an older audience. I don't think it would be inappropriate for children to watch, but the pacing has been slow enough that it might be tough. I definitely think it's a better adaptation than the 2007 film The Golden Compass, but it hasn't quite reached the appeal of the books for me. Still, it's gorgeous and makes great use of sophisticated special effects, particularly with the Daemons and the armored bears.
The 100 (Netflix) - We are planning an upcoming episode about this adaptation, so I'll keep it brief, but I LOVE this show, which recently finished with its seventh season (yes, there were exactly 100 episodes). It's based on Kass Morgan's YA series—I read the first book, which was fine—and features some of the best world building, strongest character arcs, and most intriguing, surprising reinventions of any series in recent memory.
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