The rom-com is back, baby!
The unexpected and utterly delightful success of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a much-needed point in favour of both the oft-maligned romantic comedy and the young adult adaptation. There’s an undeniable thrill in seeing so many people giddily celebrate this kind of story, one we’ve been told for too long is unprofitable, out of touch with current trends, and impossible to make in 2018 Hollywood. Audiences want to curl up on the couch on a Friday night with a take-away, a bottle of prosecco and delightfully indulgent comfort viewing, and Netflix are finally catching up to that.
The traditional studio system may continue down the road laid down by the success of Crazy Rich Asians - here’s hoping - but with Hollywood in such bad shape and endless media monopolies ensuring less films than ever will be made, Netflix will be free to pick up a lot of that slack. It’s clear what viewers desire and how much profit can be mined from the devoted demographics of both young adult and romance lovers. Come on, Netflix, it’s just good business.
To inspire any visiting Netflix executive who has wandered onto our site - welcome! - I have decided to share six Y.A. and romance novels I believe would be an excellent fit for the streaming service. I could probably do this all day, just listing the adaptations I want, but I’ve chosen to remain conservative in my choices. Make sure to share your own choices in the comments!
The FBI/U.S. Attorney series by Julie James
Julie James was my gateway drug for the romance genre. She writes the kind of quick-witted contemporary romances that I find the most comfort in during dark times. The dialogue is always sharp, the characters memorable, and the romance itself so very easy to invest in. Her main series, about the intertwining worlds of FBI agents and US Attorneys in Chicago, is like a more romance focused version of Suits. It’s practically written to be a binge-watch Netflix series!
Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Okay, stay with me here: It’s a magical realist romantic fantasy about an adolescent boy who meets, as described by the author, a magical gay fish boy. I’ll read basically anything Hannah Moskowitz publishes. She’s one of those writers whose prose is ferociously raw and whose characters defy labels as reductive as ‘likeable’. I could make a case for an adaptation of any of her books, especially with The Hate U Give coming soon as a boost to socially progressive works in the medium, but my heart lies with Teeth. It shouldn’t work but it does: An abrasive and difficult to categorize romantic drama about family turmoil, systemic abuse, sexual identity and bigotry that also happens to centre on a romantic connection between a teenage boy and a human-fish hybrid. There are so many ways an adaptation of this could go wrong but Netflix can afford to take a few risks.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Going Bovine is actually my favourite book by Libba Bray, but it’s Beauty Queens that’s perfectly poised for movie glory. It’s everything Insatiable wishes it was in terms of scathing but empowering satire: A plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crash lands on a mysterious island, and the young women have to find a way to survive. It sounds very Lord of the Flies but Beauty Queens is more focused on the feminine struggles against a world that demands everything of them but is never satisfied. A lot of the book feels busy in ways that a T.V. adaptation could do wonders with, and there’s something to be said for embracing the tough truths through the lens of the bizarre.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
The timing proved serendipitous for Netflix when they decided to go full Hallmark Channel last year with A Christmas Prince, a festive romance so unabashedly cheesy that its success seemed all but inevitable with the right crowd. The arrival of a certain Ms. Markle into British high society seemed to inspire a new passion for a classic royal romance. You can find hundreds of them on Amazon but the best one I’ve read in years - and I’ve read a lot - is Alyssa Cole’s luminous A Princess in Theory. Have you ever received spam emails from an African prince that promise big changes to your life? Cole’s novel imagines if those emails were true, as struggling PhD student Naledi shrugs off outlandish messages claiming she’s betrothed to the heir to the throne of Thesolo. Prince Thabiso, unsure of why his clearly logical messages are being ignored, decides to go undercover to get to know his future bride. It’s a Prince and the Pauper tale combined with Coming to America with a ridiculously cute central romance.
A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai
The fun thing about Netflix is that they don’t have to worry about the MPAA. Nobody is forcing these films to cut out all the fun stuff in order to make the R-rating. Even Fifty Shades of Grey, whose entire existence hinged on the titillating prospect of seeing Bella Swan and Edward Cullen bang, had to strip out every vaguely transgressive and truly sensuous moment. If you’re going to embrace the audience fervour for romance, Netflix, then go all the way. There are numerous novels I could recommend for this purpose, but the major one would be Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street. Rai is especially adept at writing scorching hot sexual tension, and this book is probably my favourite of hers. It follows Akira Mori, an exceedingly rich businesswoman who has always lusted after Jacob Campbell, the man who was her step-brother as a teen for around a year. He’s always felt the same way but has restrained himself from acting on his desires. A Gentleman in the Street is sex positive, progressive, ridiculously hot and any adaptation done right would probably inspire To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before levels of devotion.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
I could probably just pitch this one as ‘It’s Labyrinth crossed with Angela Carter’ and leave it at that. Netflix haven’t really explored high fantasy in their originals (no, Bright doesn’t count), and while those trends have waned in the YA world in the past few years, there are still plenty of books that satisfyingly fill that niche. Wintersong is easily my favourite of that recent bunch. It’s got a Goblin King, what more do you want from me?
Header Image Source: Netflix