Howie Sanders at UTA is about to start shopping film rights to Michael Buckley's high-concept YA series, N.E.R.D.S. The acronym--it stands for National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society--refers to five awkward kids who run an underground spy ring out of their middle school. Alison Fargis at Stone Song Press sold lit rights to the series, which will encompass five books, to Susan Van Metre at Amulet in April for mid-to-high six figures. Buckley, who wrote the Sisters Grimm series, has peppered the work with whimsical touches--the kids access their secret lair through a portal in their lockers--that Sanders thinks will translate well to screen; Van Meter called the books "part James Bond, part Goonies."
Another manuscript that's just begun making the rounds in Hollywood is the first title in James Dashner's YA fantasy series, The Maze Runner. The Gotham Group is shopping the film rights to the book, about a teenager who wakes up in an alternate universe filled with other boys called The Glade--it's a large open space surrounded by a stone wall that ominously drops each morning and erects each night. With boys arriving every 30 days, the community is jolted when a girl is suddenly thrown into the mix. Reps from the Gotham Group said they's pitching the book as Lost meets Pan's Labyrinth; Delacorte, which acquired Runner in summer 2008 from Michael Bourrett at Dytsel & Goodrich, bought two more books in the series this month.