It’s not every day that a realistic, standalone YA novel develops a voracious cult following. With more than seven million copies in print since its 2012 publication and an enormous popularity among young (and not-so-young) readers, The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton) has attained such a status. The highly anticipated movie adaptation of John Green’s story, about two intellectual and playfully offbeat teenagers who meet in a cancer support group and fall in love, will be released on June 6. The 20th Century Fox/Temple Hill Entertainment film stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster and Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters. Co-stars include Laura Dern as Hazel Grace’s mother and Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten, the author whom Hazel Grace and Augustus idolize and seek out.
Naturally, for the legions who adore the book, expectations are sky-high. Much of the book’s popularity can be traced back to the author himself. Green has a reputation for being readily available to his fans, with his multimedia appearances routinely selling out venues. In January 2013, Green and his brother, with whom he collaborates on the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, held a celebration at Carnegie Hall for the one-year anniversary of TFIOS, which included guest authors and musical performances. The author’s fans even adopted a name for themselves – Nerdfighters – after Green coined the term in a 2007 on-camera riff.
No one knows better than Green how important it is to his fans that the movie remain loyal to the book. The author made several visits to the film’s Pittsburgh set to get to know the stars and to see them embody his characters. Green spoke to Entertainment Weekly about viewing the film trailer for the first time and, sounding a bit like a giddy fan himself, said: “I couldn’t let myself feel anything other than anxiety until the last frame of the trailer where [Shailene] says ‘okay.’ Then I was like, yeaaaaah! I really loved it. It’s everything I wanted the trailer to be.”
Page to Screen Trials
But will the John Green stamp of approval naturally translate to boffo box office? YA adaptations of well-received novels have not always led to smash hits: recent film versions of Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and Vampire Academy all underperformed. This quandary has led to some head-scratching on the part of industry observers attempting to locate the disconnect between a well-loved YA book and its less-admired screen progeny.
Amid speculation about why some YA film adaptations soar and others stumble, along comes a little film called Divergent (also starring Woodley; more on her in a bit). While reviews were mixed, fans were undeterred. In its opening weekend Divergent grossed $56 million, with MTV and other media suggesting that the film had broken the “YA curse.”
TFIOS is a far cry from factions, totalitarian dictatorships, and the undead, and it points to a growing trend: the adaptation of more realistic YA fiction. Other YA books that are in the Hollywood pipeline include Gayle Forman’s If I Stay (Dutton), out in August, and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Griffin), coming in 2015. One recent article speculated, “As the power of the Hunger Games wanes in publishing and on the screen – insofar as there are only two films left, and what else is there to say about this concept? – there is a space in the market for real teen films, and the audience is already proven through the love of these books.”
With the release date for TFIOS fast approaching, the publicity machine is ramping up. Not only is the book’s enormous popularity a driving force, but the movie also has the brightly glowing Shailene Woodley to draw viewers. With recent roles in The Spectacular Now and Divergent, the actress is establishing herself as YA’s go-to girl. And supporting the adage that a star is made, not born, the extensive media attention being paid to Woodley would suggest that Hollywood is campaigning for the young actress to blossom into a versatile A-lister. She recently appeared on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter with the headline “The Making of Shailene.”
In High Demand
Arguably the real star of TFIOS is Green himself. He’s ubiquitous in social media, with more than two million Twitter followers and vlogbrothers subscribers, plus a frequently updated and hugely popular Tumblr. So it’s only fitting that marketing campaigns leading up to the film’s release would reach fans that way, too. Fox has teamed with Tumblr for a fan-powered contest called Demand Our Stars, in which readers will choose which states the film tour will visit based on the number of votes each state receives.
On the print front, Penguin has just released a movie tie-in edition of the book that includes inserts of stills from the movie, as well as a paperback edition, with a combined first print run of three million. Those who want to hear more about the book’s journey from page to screen can head to the Javits Center on May 31, when Green will headline a panel on the topic at BookCon.
And in what may be a perfect storm of promotion, John Green has just been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2014 – and Shailene Woodley wrote the appreciative bio.