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Looking for a solid way to spend an afternoon or a long, hot weekend? Why not stream a YA novel on the small screen? Here’s a round-up of titles you can stream on Netflix right now. Descriptions are for the books associated with the adaptation, and trailers below are for the adaptations, where appropriate. This list avoids the heavy hitters and gives a deeper cut into the world of YA adaptations.
Please note: this round up of streaming adaptations is entirely filled with books by white authors. 2018 seems to finally be showing the waves of change when it comes to books being adapted by authors of color—thank you To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Hate U Give, to name two—but the lack is real, it’s there, and it’s ready to be shifted.
Life At These Speeds by Jeremy Jackson (the film adaptation was renamed 1 Mile To You)
In eighth grade Kevin Schuler is a popular kid with a decent, if not stellar, record on the track. Yet after fate takes him off a bus that crashes and kills his fellow students, including his girlfriend, Kevin inexplicably becomes a track phenomenon. Separated from his memory and distanced from his own life, he effortlessly smashes records and gains national attention, until he finds that he can no more remain apart from himself than he can from the ground beneath his feet.
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis’s engrossing children’s novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family’s one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it’s up to her to become the “breadwinner” and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, this topical novel for middle readers explores the harsh realities of life for girls and women in modern-day Afghanistan. A political activist whose first book for children, Looking for X, dealt with poverty in Toronto, Ellis based The Breadwinner on the true-life stories of women in Afghan refugee camps.
Breathe by Anne-Sophie Brasme, translated by Roy Mulholland
Breathe is the haunting confession of nineteen-year-old Charlene Boher. From her prison cell, Charlene recounts her lonely adolescence. Growing up shy and unpopular, Charlene never had many friends. That is, until she meet Sarah, a beautiful and charismatic American-French girl who moved back to Paris for high school. Much to Charlene’s shock and delight, the two girls quickly develop an intense friendship. With Sarah by her side, Charlene finally begins to feel accepted and even loved.
However, after a brief idyllic period, the girls’ relationship becomes rocky and friendship veers towards obsession. As Sarah drops Charlene for older, more glamorous friends, Charlene’s devotion spirals into hatred. Unfolding slowly and eerily towards a shocking conclusion, Anne-Sophie Brasme’s Breathe is an intense, convincing portrait of a possessive and ambiguous friendship
Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby’s To-Do List:
1. List 10 things you love (and do them!)
2. Join a club (and talk to people!)
3. Go on a date (with someone you actually like!)
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist doesn’t count!)
5. Celebrate New Year’s (with other people!)
Seriously? Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She’s sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn’t! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try.
Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie willing to dumb things down just to fit in?
The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles
Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular—and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile—and a total player. And also Elle’s best friend’s older brother…
When Elle decides to run a kissing booth for the school’s Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer—this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak.
But will Elle get her happily ever after?
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Naomi loves Ely.
And she’s kinda in love with him.
Ely loves Naomi.
But he prefers to be in love with boys.
Naomi and Ely have been inseparable since childhood—partially because they’ve grown up across the hall from each other in the same Manhattan apartment building, and also because they’re best friends. Soul mates. Or are they? Just to be safe, they’ve created a NO KISS LIST—their list of people who are absolutely off-kissing-limits for both of them. The NO KISS LIST protects their friendship and ensures that nothing will rock the foundation of Naomi and Ely: the institution.
Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend. And a fateful piece of chewing gum in the wrong place at the wrong time changes everything.
Soon a rift of universal proportions threatens to destroy their friendship, and it remains to be seen whether Naomi and Ely can find their way toward new soul-mate prospects…and back to one another.
Slam by Nick Hornby
For 16-year-old Sam, life is about to get extremely complicated. He and his girlfriend—make that ex-girlfriend— Alicia have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble. Sam is suddenly forced to grow up and struggle with the familiar fears and inclinations that haunt us all.
Nick Hornby’s poignant and witty novel shows a rare and impressive understanding of human relationships and what it really means to be a man.
Note: the trailer below is in Italian with no subtitles—the film is in English on Netflix.
Want more YA adaptations you can seek out? Check out previous editions, noting, of course, some may no longer be available to stream because of the in-and-out system of Netflix: the 2017 round-up of YA adaptations to stream and the 2015 round-up of YA adaptations to stream.
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