Margaret at the Movies: Top 10 Films From Books by Edwards Award Winners

These films take inspiration from their source material without necessarily replicating the books to the last detail.

The best book-to-film adaptations stand on their own. Films should be inspired by their source material, not merely replicate the book to the last detail. Sure, as readers and fans, we may find every single scene in our favorite novels to be essential. That, however, doesn’t always make for a captivating viewer experience. I want a new interpretation of a story when I see the film. I want the movie to honor the book—while taking creative liberties to fashion something distinctly cinematic.

I kept all that in mind while making choices for the 10 best movies based on novels by Margaret A. Edwards Award winners.

10 | How To Deal Based on two novels by Sarah Dessen (2017 winner) Of all of Dessen’s best-selling novels, Hollywood has made only one movie based on them—How To Deal. It mainly operated as a dramatic vehicle to help Mandy Moore’s burgeoning acting career. Moore plays Halley, a teenager who is having a hard time believing true love exists because of the dysfunctional relationships that surround her. The 2003 film combines elements from Dessen’s That Summer and Someone Like You, packing the narrative with a few too many doses of drama. However, it isn’t without its charms, including well-rounded performances from Moore and Allison Janney. Despite not being a total hit, there’s enough of that Sarah Dessen spark to make it enjoyable.

9 | The Giver Based on the novel by Lois Lowry (2007 winner) This 1994 Newbery winner has been a reading list staple since its publication, but it took 21 years for a movie based on it to hit the big screen. The film had been a passion project for actor Jeff Bridges since the late 1990s, despite various issues that stalled production. It was finally produced in 2014, starring Bridges as the title character, along with Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, and Taylor Swift. The movie makes an admirable effort to capture the book’s thought-provoking material and brings the dystopian setting to life with stunning visuals. While it may not do the book complete justice—that’s hard to achieve—it sets a good foundation if Hollywood ever considers a remake.

8 | Tiger Eyes Based on the novel by Judy Blume (1996 winner) It’s hard to imagine that there has been only one movie based on Blume’s novels, given their everlasting popularity. Even then, it took the author collaborating with her son, director Lawrence Blume, to adapt her 1981 novel, Tiger Eyes. Tender and quietly moving, Tiger Eyes gently handles the story of Davey (Willa Holland), a teen girl who moves to a small town in New Mexico after the sudden death of her father. Dealing with a grieving mother and her own confusing feelings, Davey meets Wolf (Tatanka Means), a Native American boy, who helps her through her grief. Given the mother-son duo’s close connection to the source material, it’s not surprising that the 2013 film is very true to the novel.

7 Every Day Based on the novel by David Levithan (2016 winner) Levithan’s Every Day, a story in which its protagonist, A, awakens in a new body each morning, is an ambitious novel to adapt. In the book, readers are always in A’s head, but the 2018 movie switches gears by putting Rhiannon, A’s love interest, more at the center of its story. Together, they work to solve the mystery of A’s existence, while also falling in love. The movie doesn’t dig as deep into its issues as the novel does, but Every Day still manages to tell this unique story through a moving exploration of the fluidity of human emotion and physicality.

6 I Know What You Did Last Summer Based on the novel by Lois Duncan (1992 winner) Kevin Williamson, known for his work on Scream and Dawson’s Creek, changed several elements of Duncan’s 1973 suspense thriller to turn it into an entertaining slasher horror film. What resulted was a huge commercial success starring ’90s heartthrobs Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Jennifer Love Hewitt as four teenagers stalked by a killer for covering up a hit-and-run they committed the previous summer. The 1998 film made quite a pop-cultural impact, spawning parodies and sequels.

5 The Outsiders Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton (1988 winner) With acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola at the helm, Hinton’s tale of Ponyboy and rivaling gangs set in a poor part of an Oklahoma town is something special. The 1983 film was one of the first mainstream movies that showcased an honest look at the life of low-income teens from neglectful or abusive homes. The Outsiders captured the true spirit of the novel’s characters, in large part thanks to its talented cast, featuring many future Hollywood stars.

4 The Book Thief Based on the novel by Markus Zusak (2014 winner) The Book Thief might not have made a big splash when it first landed in theaters, but it’s one of the few adaptations that cinematically weaves its source material together very well. The 2013 film has many spots of brilliance, capturing key moments in Zusak’s World War II novel. Sophie Nélisse plays Liesel, a young girl who stays to live with a foster family in Nazi-occupied Germany. She gives a heartwarming and spirited turn opposite Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. The film does play it safe in some respects in relation to its material, but the combination of its performances and a magical score from John Williams contributes to the film’s appeal.

3 | A Wrinkle in Time Based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle (1998 winner) Not every film needs to follow its original source to the detail. In fact, many adaptations have proven to be more successful for the liberties they take, and one example is the latest (2018) film version of A Wrinkle in Time. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the movie boasts a diverse cast and makes small but substantial adjustments to L’Engle’s classic 1962 novel to add to its cinematic appeal. Following Meg Murry (the precocious Storm Reid) as she ventures through the universe to save her father (Chris Pine), the film is just as ambitious as Meg’s quest and, in the end, proves itself with its imaginative visuals and bighearted performances from a cast that includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling.

2 | Speak Based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009 winner) Anderson opened many readers’ eyes to the trauma of rape survivors with Speak. The 2004 movie does the same thanks to Kristen Stewart’s convincing and darkly comic performance. Stewart plays Melinda, a high school freshman who loses her ability to speak after a traumatic incident at a party. The movie has the rather difficult task of showcasing Melinda’s perspective despite her inability to speak. Nonetheless, through voiceovers, the audience hears Melinda’s quirky inner dialogue, one readers of the book would find familiar and appreciate. The movie finely expresses the same message as the novel but also does enough to stand on its own.

1 | Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Based on the novel co-written by David Levithan (2016 winner) Taking on Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s first collaborative effort, this 2008 film employs an incredibly charming cast, an irresistible New York City setting, and a stellar soundtrack. Kat Denning and Michael Cera play two strangers who meet while searching for clues to where their favorite band will be playing a secret show. The two and their friends romp all over the city during the course of one night, and high jinks and hilarity ensue. All the while, Nick and Norah grow closer and bond over music and life, adding a noted amount of tenderness to an otherwise comedic film. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist makes for a spirited movie that effortlessly plays up each of its elements, resulting in a work that speaks directly to teens and their experiences with love, friendship, and life.

Gabrielle Bondi is the editor in chief of

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing