YA Books We Wish Were TV Shows

Posted by Lauren Thoman

[TV still from The 100, The CW]

While it’s (almost) always fun to see a favorite book turned into a movie, sometimes television is the medium more capable of bringing the true depth and scope of a beloved book for the screen. Some of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows right now, such as Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The 100, are adaptations of popular novels, and that’s just scratching the surface. In this era of Peak TV, here are a few more that we think would translate well to the small screen.


The Archived by Victoria Schwab

In The Archived, the dead rest on its shelves like books, and the Keepers are the ones tasked with making sure they stay there. This series follows a sixteen-year-old Keeper, Mackenzie Bishop, as she uses hidden doors only she can see to weave in and out of our world and through the maze-like halls of the Narrows to return restless ghosts – called Histories – to the Archive. The mysterious library of the dead hovering just outside the reach of our own would provide fascinating visuals, and the chemistry between Mackenzie and her fellow Keeper, Wesley (who she refers to as “Guyliner”) would keep viewers always yearning for more. Plus with an infinite number of Histories to draw from for plot, the possibilities for an Archived show are literally endless.


An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

Set in a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome, An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia, a teenage girl who, in order to rescue her brother, must risk her life by selling herself into slavery in order to spy for the resistance; and Elias, the top soldier in the Empire’s most elite school. The large cast, intricately woven storylines, and sprawling scope of this story would make it a perfect fit for TV, with all the lavish worldbuilding and heart-pounding intrigue of a show like Game of Thrones.  


The Girl from Everywhere series by Heidi Heilig

Time travel shows are huge right now, and The Girl from Everywhere blends modern adventure and wit with lush historical settings into one seamless swashbuckling package. The story centers around Nix, a teenage girl who has spent her life sailing with her father on a ship that traverses not only oceans, but time. This would be an ambitious show, having to move between our world, real historical locations, and fantasy worlds, but would be visually stunning as well as incredibly fun to watch, with a diverse, multicultural cast that could only be an asset in today’s television landscape.


The His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers

This historical series with a touch of fantasy follows seventeen-year-old Isme who escapes from a loveless and brutal arranged marriage to join the convent of St. Mortain, God of Death, where she is trained in the deadly arts and blessed by Mortain himself with dangerous gifts. This tale of assassin teen nuns in a medieval French setting would make excellent television fodder, full of deadly plots, lurking betrayal, and forbidden romance.


The Hourglass series by Myra McEntire

The diverse teen cast of the Hourglass series all have one thing in common: they can manipulate time. But each of their gifts work in slightly different ways. One can travel to the past, another to the future. One can speed time up or slow it down. Another can control the tides. Together, they make up the Hourglass, a shadowy organization of superpowered individuals similar to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where they right past – and future – wrongs, and take down evil plots to destroy the world, all while navigating crushes and friendship and normal teen angst. This series is a super-fun sci-fi romp that is part X-Men, part Doctor Who, and would be a delightful addition to any television lineup.


Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Kids of Appetite follows a teenage boy named Vic, who joins up with a non-violent gang of street kids and persuades them to help him on his quest to decode his deceased father’s final wishes, leading them on an adventure that takes them all over and around Hackensack, New Jersey, and that culminates in the mysterious murder of co-narrator Madeline’s uncle. While Kids of Appetite is a standalone novel, there is plenty here for a riveting limited series, and the way it is structured – with Vic and Mad relaying the events leading up to the murder to a pair of Hackensack police officers as a series of vignettes – would lend itself beautifully to the episodic format of television. Plus, in Vic, viewers would be able to see a disabled protagonist (Vic has a rare neurological condition called Moebius syndrome) – as the hero in a story that eschews common disability tropes. And while there is only one book’s worth of source material, the ending is left open enough that should television want to follow the Kids of Appetite on more than one season’s worth of adventures, they easily could.


More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In this contemporary story with some light sci-fi elements, similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, More Happy Than Not follows sixteen-year-old Aaron as he copes with the aftermath of his father’s suicide, leading him to form new relationships and question old ones, and ultimately finds himself confronting his own identity and sexuality. Complicating Aaron’s choices is a new procedure available from the Leteo Institute, which allows people to surgically remove unwanted memories. As with Kids of Appetite, this is a standalone novel, but the subtle worldbuilding and deeply character-driven narrative provide ample material for at least a limited series.


My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Loosely based on the true tale of Lady Jane Grey, the 16th century teenager who was Queen of England for nine days before being beheaded, My Lady Jane takes historical facts and twists them together with a bit of fantasy for an utterly delightful reimagining of what was, in actuality, a rather dire time. This version of Jane’s life presumes one rather large divergence from reality: certain members of the kingdom are Eðians, which means they are able to shape-shift into animals. This tiny bit of magic, combined with a hefty amount of creative liberty, results in a thoroughly enchanting historical reimagining, complete with fast friendships, daring escapes, amusing misunderstandings, and sweet romance. With all of English history to draw from, and the touch of Eðian magic to provide elements of both fantasy and comedy, the television version of My Lady Jane could go on indefinitely. 

Lauren Thoman

Lauren Thoman

Lauren is a writer of YA speculative fiction and a dedicated eater of queso. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, two daughters, and a half-blind dog. When she’s not busy with her family, binge-watching TV shows, or writing books about dragons or superheroes, she can probably be found on Twitter, or in close proximity to coffee, tacos, or a bookstore.