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10 young adult book adaptations that didn't have 'Divergent's' success

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According to Box Office Mojo, science fiction actioner “Divergent” (buy Cleveland area tickets here) is on track to make over $50 million in its first weekend in release. That puts the film, which follows “The Spectacular Now’s” Shailene Woodley as she becomes wrapped up in a massive conspiracy in a dystopic future society, on par with the first “Twilight” film, which opened to $68 million in 2008. With the next book in Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy already slated for feature adaptation, the franchise looks to become the new Hunger Games.”

But where “Divergent” has succeeded, many other multimedia properties have failed to capture the imaginations of young adult audiences and have died quick deaths at the box office. Here’s look back at nine young adult novel adaptations that didn’t become the next big thing.

Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Screen Gems

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (2013)

Directed by Harald Zwart

After her mother (Lena Headey) is kidnapped, Clary Fray (Lily Collins) finds out that she is part of a long line of half-angel demon hunters and to get her mother back, Clary will have to embrace her supernatural legacy. Adapted from the first book in Cassandra Clare’s New York Times Bestselling Mortal Instruments series, “City of Bones” grossed $90 million against a $60 million budget, which put the kibosh on the prematurely announced production of the second book in the series. One take away from the film’s box office failure is that its bad luck to plan a sequel for an untested property. 

I Am Number Four
I Am Number Four Walt Disney Pictures

I Am Number Four

 “I Am Number Four” (2011)

Directed by D.J. Caruso

Extraterrestrial refugee John Smith (Alex Pettyfar) finds his idyllic Midwestern existence disrupted when a relentless bounty hunter (Kevin Durand) comes looking for him. Slated for feature adaptation before it was even published, “I Am Number Four” caused something of a stir when it was revealed that it was pseudonymously co-written by disgraced fabulist James Frey.  Though the film earned $149 million worldwide, it was a critically ravaged bore and plans for a sequel were quietly scrapped. 

Beastly CBS Films


“Beastly” (2011)

Directed by Daniel Barnz

Vain and arrogant teenager Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfar) gets his comeuppance when a witch’s spell turns him into a scarred monster and tells him he must find true love to regain his true appearance. Proving definitively that Pettyfar is not the next Robert Pattinson, “Beastly,” adapted from Alex Flinn’s 2007 update on Beauty and the Beast, earned a trifling $27 million in the U.S. Clearly, a turgid YA twists on a public domain stories live or die by the casting. 

The Host
The Host Universal Studios

The Host

“The Host” 2013

Directed by Andrew Niccol

Adapted from Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer’s first non-Twilight novel, “The Host” is set in a world where parasitic aliens have possessed most of humanity and one young woman (Saoirse Ronan) finds that she can fight off possession and sets out to join the human resistance movement. Despite a sizable marketing effort from Universal, lightening did not strike twice for Meyers as “The Host,” only earned $40 million against a $40 million budget.  

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Universal Studios

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (2009)

Directed by Paul Weitz

Hoping to find some of the success his brother Chris Weitz found when he directed “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” Paul Weitz helmed this tonally inconsistent adaptation of Darren Shan’s Vampire Blood trilogy. Unfortunately the film, which follows Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) as he is drawn into the world of vampirism by Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly), tanked at the box office earning only $13 million in the U.S. against a $40 million budget. 

The Seeker: Dark is Rising
The Seeker: Dark is Rising 20th Century Fox

The Seeker: Dark is Rising

“The Seeker: The Dark is Rising” (2007)

Directed by David L. Cunningham

Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) finds out that he is the last in a long line of mystical warriors dedicated to battling evil. Although the first novel adaptation in Susan Cooper’s five book series has a dynamite supporting casting include Frances Conroy, Ian McShane and Christopher Eccleston, “The Seeker” is an awful movie that was rightly pilloried by critics that is only notable for being the second lowest grossing widely released film in history. 

The Percy Jackson Films
The Percy Jackson Films 20th Century Fox

The Percy Jackson Films

The Percy Jackson franchise (2010 - 2013)
Directed by Various
Modern-day teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) has his world flipped, turned upside down after he discovers that he is the son of Greek god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Though 2010’s “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” made $226 million, critics called the film a rip of the “Harry Potter” franchise because it is and its 2013 sequel “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” made less money than its predecessor and was even more poorly received than its predecessor. Because broke even is enough to get a sequel green lit, the third novel of Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series will be coming to theaters in 2015.

Vampire Academy
Vampire Academy The Weinstein Company

Vampire Academy

“Vampire Academy” 2014

Directed by Daniel Waters

The cinematic collaboration of “Heathers” screenwriter Daniel Waters and his brother “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters should have been cause for excitement. Instead, the resultant film, the adaptation of the first book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, was a disappointing misfire that received a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed a mere $8 million. As such, plans for a “Vampire Academy” sequel have been shelved.

City of Ember
City of Ember 20th Century Fox

City of Ember

“City of Ember” (2008)

Directed by Gil Kenan

Set in a post-apocalyptic future were humanity has taken to living underground after an extinction level event, “City of Ember” follows two teens as the work preserve their decaying metropolis in the face of widespread industrial breakdowns. Though Gil Kenan’s adaptation of the first book in Jeanne DuPrau’s Ember series had a lush visual aesthetic, it was dramatically inert and flopped at the box office. 

Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Creatures Warner Bros. Pictures

Beautiful Creatures

“Beautiful Creatures” (2013)

Directed by Richard LaGravenese

On the eve of her 16th birthday, spell caster Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) must decide whether or not to dedicate her life to the forces of light or darkness. Though Warner Brothers’ used the same mall tour strategy Summit Entertainment employed to promote the “Twilight” franchise, twihards did not flock to see “Beautiful Creatures” and the $60 million film earned a measly $19 million in the U.S.