Every year, dozens of books are adapted for the big screen, but did you know many of these books had adaptation deals are made before the novels are even published? From gripping thrillers to romantic teen fiction, each of the books below had adaptation deals before hitting the shelves. Publishers’ descriptions included.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life — as she sees it — is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
The adaptation: DreamWorks acquired The Girl on the Train nine months before the novel took the world by storm. The film, starring Emily Blunt, was released in October 2016 and grossed $24.5 million at the box office its opening weekend.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
This first book in Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent is the novel the inspired the major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet. This dystopian series set in a futuristic Chicago has captured the hearts of millions of teen and adult readers.
Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series, Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, are the gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love. Fans of the Divergent movie will find the book packed with just as much emotional depth and exhilarating action as the film, all told in beautiful, rich language.
One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions — Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.
The fireman is coming. Stay cool.
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies — before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live — at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too… if she can live long enough to deliver the child.
Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads — armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: A mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted… and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.
In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life — and that of her unborn child — goes up in smoke.
The adaptation: Fox acquired Joe Hill’s 2016 novel before its publication. Transporter and Now You See Me helmer Louis Leterrier is attached to direct.
Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
“Everyone wanted to believe that endless love was possible. She’d believed in it once, too, back when she was 18.”
In the spring of 1984, high school students Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fell deeply, irrevocably in love. Though they were from opposite sides of the tracks, their love for one another seemed to defy the realities of life in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina. But as the summer of their senior year came to a close, unforeseen events would tear the young couple apart, setting them on radically divergent paths.
Now, 25 years later, Amanda and Dawson are summoned back to Oriental for the funeral of Tuck Hostetler, the mentor who once gave shelter to their high school romance. Neither has lived the life they imagined… and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever changed their lives. As Amanda and Dawson carry out the instructions Tuck left behind for them, they realize that everything they thought they knew — about Tuck, about themselves, and about the dreams they held dear — was not as it seemed. Forced to confront painful memories, the two former lovers will discover undeniable truths about the choices they have made. And in the course of a single, searing weekend, they will ask of the living, and the dead: Can love truly rewrite the past?
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of 17-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood — those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard — a growing Red rebellion — even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
The adaptation: Universal optioned Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel ahead of its publication in 2015. Breaking Bad writer Gennifer Hutchinson will adapt the book, and The Hunger Games actress Elizabeth Banks is signed on to direct.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But Ani has a secret.
There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.
The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for — or, will it at long last, set Ani free?
The adaptation: Lionsgate acquired the rights to Luckiest Girl Alive ahead of its 2015 publication. Veteran book-to-screen adapters Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea are producing the film through their company, Pacific Standard.
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who — from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister — dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú — a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere — and risk it all — in the name of love.
The adaptation: Miramax acquired the rights to The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao nearly a decade ago, however, the film has still not been produced.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier — and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined — and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
The adaptation: Paramount secured rights to this teen fantasy novel ahead of its 2015 publication. Producers Haroon Saleem and Mark Johnson are set to adapt the novel for the big screen. Cast and release date information is still to come.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Risk everything… for love.
What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face… or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door… and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in 17 years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black — black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
Everything, Everything will make you laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. It’s an innovative, inspiring, and heartbreakingly romantic debut novel that unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.
The adaptation: MGM and Age of Adaline screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe optioned the rights to Everything, Everything before its publication in 2015. The film, starring Amandla Stenberg, hits theaters May 19.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines — puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win — and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
The adaptation: Prior to its publication, Warner Bros and De Line Pictures acquired the rights to Cline’s novel. It was announced in 2015 that Steven Spielberg would direct a film adaptation of Ready Player One with Warner Bros and Village Roadshow. The film is scheduled for a 2018 release.
Missing You by Harlan Coben
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben, a heart-pounding thriller about the ties we have to our past.. .and the lies that bind us together.
It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart — and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.
Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.
As the body count mounts and Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved — her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.
The adaptation: Warner Bros and RatPac Entertainment announced they acquired the preemptive screen rights to Missing You the day before its publication. Brett Ratner is set to produce.
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she’s pregnant.
This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s (One Last Thing Before I Go) most accomplished work to date, and a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind-whether we like it or not.
The adaptation: Warner Bros. bought the rights to This is Where I Leave You for director Greg Berlanti ahead of the novel’s publication. However, the big screen adaptation, starring Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, was ultimately directed by Shawn Levy. It hit theaters in 2014 and made $41.3 million at the box office.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
In the tradition of John le Carré, the bestselling, impossible-to-put-down, espionage thriller that is “a primer in 21st-century spying” (The New York Times Book Review), written with the insider detail that only a veteran CIA operative could know — and shortlisted for an Edgar Award.
State intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s most valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fateful double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the US military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.
Taking place in today’s Russia, still ruled with an iron fist by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Red Sparrow displays author Jason Matthews’s insider knowledge of espionage, counter-espionage, surveillance tradecraft, recruiting spies, interrogation, and intelligence gathering. As The Washington Post hails, this is a “sublime and sophisticated debut…a first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its gripping depiction of a secretive world.”
The adaptation: Following an intense bidding war, 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights for Red Sparrow in a seven-figure deal. The international spy thriller, directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton, hits theaters this November.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
On a foggy summer night, 11 people — 10 privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter — depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs — the painter — and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members — including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot — the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.
Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.
The adaptation: Sony Pictures acquired the rights to Before the Fall ahead of its publication last year. The book’s author — Fargo writer Noah Hawley — will adapt the novel for the screen.
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
An electrifying novel about marriage and deceit from bestselling author Delia Ephron that follows two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from one another are exposed and relationships are unraveled.
New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine — Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.
With her inimitable psychological astuteness and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.
The adaptation: Author Delia Ephron is set to adapt her recent novel for Working Title, who acquired the rights ahead of publication. Alfonso Gomes-Rejon, helmer of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, is signed on to direct.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage — about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.
Evelyn has been married to her husband for 40 years — 40 years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love — the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding — beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings — and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.
As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.
A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way — for better or for worse — these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.
The adaptation: Fox 2000 acquired the film rights to The Engagements ahead of its 2013 publication, partnering with Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s Pacific Standard to produce. The film is still in development.
The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis
Three bodies in a beautiful and luxurious bedroom.
Billy Harney was born to be a cop. The son of Chicago’s chief of detectives, whose twin sister is also on the force, Billy plays it by the book. Alongside Detective Kate Fenton, Billy’s tempestuous, adrenaline-junkie partner, there’s nothing he wouldn’t sacrifice for his job. Enter Amy Lentini, a hard-charging assistant state’s attorney hell-bent on making a name for herself — who suspects Billy isn’t the cop he claims to be. They’re about to be linked by more than their careers.
One missing black book.
A horrifying murder leads investigators to an unexpected address-an exclusive brothel that caters to Chicago’s most powerful citizens. There’s plenty of incriminating evidence on the scene — but what matters most is what’s missing: the madam’s black book. Now shock waves are rippling through the city’s elite, and everyone’s desperate to find it.
Chicago has never been more dangerous.
As everyone who’s anyone in Chicago scrambles to get their hands on the elusive black book, no one’s motives can be trusted. An ingenious, inventive thriller about power, corruption, and the power of secrets to scandalize a city — and possibly destroy a family —The Black Book is James Patterson at his page-turning best.
The adaptation: Glenn Gordon Caron has teamed up with James Patterson and CBS to adapt Black Book for TV. The thriller hits shelves on March 27.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with Into the Water, her addictive new novel of psychological suspense.
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely 15-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from — a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface — you never know what lies beneath.
The adaptation: Yet another Paula Hawkins book on this list! Her newest thriller does not go on sale until May 2, but DreamWorks has already acquired its rights. Marc Platt, who worked on The Girl on the Train adaptation, is set to produce with Jared LeBoff.
Which of these books have you read? Tell us in the comments!
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