The Gone series by Michael Grant has everything that makes a YA novel popular and, in most cases, adaptable for film or television. But it’s not typical young adult literature and it seems people are too scared to touch it.
If you haven’t read the Gone series, read them. They’re young adult, which means they’re simple reads but they’re not short and they’re not your typical YA fare. The story takes placed in Perdido Beach, California where one day everybody over the age of fifteen disappears and the remaining children are left inside a barrier that they name the FAYZ. Then, kids begin developing some abilities-making lights appear of their hands, healing powers, a whip hand, super-speed, really everything you could think of. The first book is a bit predictable (there’s even an evil brother named Caine and a bully named Orc) but it is engaging. Things get worse for the kids in the FAYZ as live goes on and the books get better and better. There are seven of them, published from 2008-2013. The series has all the makings of an adaptable YA story, even a blockbuster one-there are no adults, elements of magic, it feels dystopian, there are battles, romances, and heroic sacrifices all told through characters you enjoy and remember. The books aren’t perfect, although reviews have been good. More importantly, reviews by teen readers have been good and that is the target audiences. It doesn’t matter how ,much adults like the series because adults aren’t the ones who it’s written for.
By all accounts, the series should have been adapted by now or at least in production. Michael Grant announced on twitter in 2013 that Sony Pictures had bought the rights bu there’s been no further updates. The problem isn’t how good the books are, it’s how real they. The situations are science fiction-kids with super powers trapped alone in a town isn’t something you would see on the news. But the way they handle it is shocking real. The first book is pretty good for the kids. Then they run out of food. They are left unsupervised. They have to care for themselves and the babies who are left behind. When these kids start turning to drugs, alcohol, when they start having sex, when they abandon the young ones they’re supposed to take care of, when they turn to cannibalism to survive, it makes sense. But it’s now what happens in most young adult stories. Even Hunger Games, held up as an example of excessive violence in YA literature, isn’t a violent as these books. More kids die in this series than in the Hunger Games even though the latter has twenty-two characters who die in the first book alone. The difference is, most of the characters who die in Gone are people the reader cares about and not nameless faces from District 5. And everything the kids do in Gone and the next six books wouldn’t be shocking in a more adult genre but because it’s YA, it scares people. If any of this happened in a Stephen King novel (who, by the way, has supported these books) it would be nothing. Books this graphic get R ratings or get put on channels like HBO when they get adapted. The target audience of these books can read about someone getting chopped up and their body scattered across a town but is a different thing to show it, although that sounds like every zombie in the Walking Dead.
If Sony pictures really wants to make these TV show (and I hope they do) they have two options. Make the show like the books and risk alienating kids who parents don’t want them to watch it or change it. Make it softer. Cut out the blood, the sex and drugs and make a series that is much less interesting, much blander and much more typical. It won’t be as good and the truth is, Gone, will probably never make it to the screen, not the way it was meant to be.