Divergent galvanized young female moviegoers in its opening weekend, running up a strong $54.6 million at the box office. That wasn’t just great news for the next two movies in the trilogy based on Veronica Roth’s young-adult novels. It’s also given a boost to a host of teen-centric adaptations in the works and reversed last year’s troubling trend that saw any project not called The Hunger Games flop, including Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments, and Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.
Perhaps Divergent‘s A CinemaScore underlined the most important lesson from its success: Do not play fast and loose with what fans deem sacred source material. “If you think you can go into it and throw stuff away — thinking you are improving the storytelling — you are going to fail,” says Wyck Godfrey, who produced original YA juggernaut Twilight and is behind the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. “You piss the fans off immediately — and people outside of the core fans are skeptical of it already.”
That mindset will be tested this summer as Hollywood tries out a new phase of YA projects that are less action-oriented and more intimate. First, Fox’s version of Fault, a love story between two cancer-stricken teens (Divergent costars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort), arrives on June 6. Fan expectations for Fault in particular are fevered; the official trailer has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube. Then on Aug. 22 Warner Bros. will premiere If I Stay, based on Gayle Forman’s novel about a girl’s decision to live or die following a car accident. Stay star Chloë Grace Moretz, who plays the main character Mia, found the intense fandom around the project an asset. “I was really in [Mia’s] head but whenever I had a question, I would refer to Gayle — and the fans in a sense — just to stay true to it,” she says.
Obviously not every project is going to be able to keep all the diehards satisfied. Fans of the dystopian novel The Giver, for example, aren’t happy that the movie version (out Aug. 15) has aged the lead character: The book’s 12-year-old hero is being played by 24-year-old Brenton Thwaites. All the more reason to consider any changes to the book very carefully — a charge If I Stay director R.J. Cutler is taking seriously. “The moment we read that book, there was something that touched something specific in us,” he says. “It was something [screenwriter] Shauna Cross returned to in her writing and I returned to in my filmmaking. It’s why I wanted to make the movie.” Hopefully that will be just what the novel’s fans want to hear.