When "Divergent" hit theaters to the tune of $56 million in its opening weekend alone, it put a nice fat sock in the mouth holes of every critic who'd bemoaned the "curse" of adapting YA books for the screen. And for one, Pouya Shahbazian was not surprised.
Shahbazian, a producer on "Divergent," has a unique perspective that comes from not just adapting books, but writing them. With his new YA sci-novel, "Scan," about to be released, and with a host of hotly-anticipated YA projects coming to theaters this year, MTV News emailed the multitalented author and producer — who writes under the pen name Walter Jury — to give us some inside scoop on his upcoming novel with co-author Sarah Fine, the growing popularity of YA sci-fi, and the books he's most looking forward to seeing on screen.
Although "SCAN" doesn't have a movie deal yet, it's practically begging to be brought to Hollywood: there are zany gadgets, secret aliens, thrilling action sequences, and an amazing hero in the form of Tate, a Macgyver-esque teenage smartypants who has been unknowingly training his entire life to save the world from intergalactic war.
Shahbazian describes his protagonist as having, "a polished skill set and discipline akin to Jason Bourne, but in a teenager's body." In other words, a brilliant trained assassin whose only weakness is that he's also a walking bag of hormones.
When the book hits shelves, it'll be the latest entry into a blooming field of YA sci-fi titles: coming alongside "Grasshopper Jungle" (in which a man-made virus transforms afflicted humans into giant, horny preying mantises), and "The 5th Wave," which follows the aftermath of an alien invasion that wipes out 99% of Earth's population. In "SCAN," there's an added twist to its extraterrestrial conflict — a population of aliens living on earth who don't actually know that they're aliens.
Is the sudden shift toward sci-fi a natural evolution for audiences who are weary of supernatural romance and fatigued by dystopian dramas? Partly, says Shahbazian, who notes that, "dystopia definitely had its moment, and that led to many incarnations of the genre being explored."
But when it comes to what gets hot — and what goes to Hollywood — he points out that one thing ties all these books together, and it's not a particular plotline.
"Producers and filmmakers and studio executives are doing their best to make a great film that both book fans and non-fans will love," Shahbazian explained. But at the start, "[these movies] are being made because the readership is so passionate that it justifies the large investment."
"That is where it starts in my opinion: great books (and movies) draw big audiences. Whether it's 'The Fault in Our Stars' or 'The 5th Wave,' readers are very discerning, and they are drawn to the best of what is currently out there."
And in the author's opinion as both a literary expert and a Hollywood insider, there's a lot out there that's the best; when we asked what was on his must-see list, he mentioned everything from "If I Stay" to "The Maze Runner" to "The Giver." And we're extra pumped now for "The 5th Wave," which he says he's especially excited for.
"That, I'm very much looking forward to — not only because I love the casting of Chloe Moretz (brilliant!) and one of my friends is producing it (Matthew Plouffe), but I think it will make a great movie."
"Scan," Shahbazian's book with co-author Sarah Fine, will be in stores May 1.