Teen heroes to the rescue

Teen heroes to the rescue
The movie rights to Veronica Roth’s 2012 novel Divergent were acquired months before it was published.

Teen heroes saving the world on screen are also revitalising the book industry.

Young adult novels are selling hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide, with the success of The Hunger Games films over the past two years propelling other dark adventure stories to the top of the bestseller lists.

With an eye on this ready-made audience, film studios are snapping up novels with even a whiff of the Suzanne Collins blend of romance and bleak futuristic action, long before the books are even printed.

By Friday next week, theatres worldwide will screen the film adaptation of Veronica Roth's 2012 novel Divergent. The movie rights were acquired by Summit Entertainment months before HarperCollins published the story about a society divided into castes and the dangers of not fitting in.

Summit Entertainment is also behind other young adult adaptations, such as Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game last November and the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer.

Universal Studios this year optioned Panic by Lauren Oliver and Red Rising by Pierce Brown (see 120 rejections before bestseller), both books about teens playing dangerous games for a huge prize. The similarities to The Hunger Games are obvious, even though Oliver's novel is set in the present.

Dystopian romance is the hot new genre, attracting film studio attention which in turn revs up sales and interest in such books again. Major publisher HarperCollins says its teen title count has grown by 50 per cent in the last six years and a spokesman for Penguin UK says she receives "more dystopian submissions than ever".

The glut of similar themes might have editors and reviewers cringing but readers seem to be buying in.

"We feel that a rising tide lifts all boats," says Ms Arianne Lewin, executive editor at Penguin US, via e-mail.

A spokesman for HarperCollins in the region says that in Singapore alone, Roth's Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, sold 55,000 copies last year, while an earlier trilogy by Oliver - Delirium, Pandemonium and Requiem, about a world where love is a disease - sold close to 20,000 at least.

Young adult novels have always flown off the shelves but book-turned-movie franchises such as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and Twilight reached out to adults as well. Some had followed the books as teens and watched the movies in their 20s. Others were drawn by the media blitz around the books and movies.

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