You might not guess it by looking at “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” but YA adaptations are in a bad way. That’s because nearly every attempt to capitalize off of the popularity of the book genre — “Beautiful Creatures,” “The Host” and “The Mortal Instruments” being the prime examples — have failed spectacularly.
That’s where “Divergent” comes in. Based on the enormous size of the marketing push, Lionsgate, the studio behind “The Hunger Games,” is dead-set on making this one stick. But are we just looking at the next property to fall to the YA curse?
We won’t know for sure until this weekend’s box-office results come in on Sunday, but there are a couple of factors that hint that “Divergent” could be the film to break the cold streak.
It’s common sense that when comparing two books series, the more popular of the two would make the bigger movie. If there’s any quantifiable way to explain why “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” it might be the fact that the books were significantly more popular than either “Beautiful Creatures” or “The Mortal Instrument.”
While book sales figures are notoriously difficult to find without subscriptions to the right services, it’s worth noting that “Divergent” has been atop the New York Times Children’s Series chart since early November. “Beautiful Creatures” and “The Mortal Instruments” topped the chart much closer to their respective release dates and hung on for between one and three months, before handing the spot back over to “The Hunger Games.”
Veronica Roth’s book certainly has enough eyes on it to guarantee a success in the eyes of analysts, but the real question is whether it can take off to become something much more culturally impactful.
Then, there’s Shailene Woodley, the actress that seems destined for the kind of attention Jennifer Lawrence was getting last year. Like the “Hunger Games” star, Woodley has made a name for herself by gaining serious indie cred before moving on to the franchise material.
The conditions are right — in a way that wasn’t true for Lily Collins or Alice Englert — for Woodley to jettison into the A-list. Both “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” got a boost from their star power, and “Divergent could get the same.
Ultimately, it’s up to whether non-YA readers want to see Shailene Woodley bring down a society divided into personality traits. We’ll find out this weekend when “Divergent” opens in theaters.