Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton: Let’s start off the list with a band. Dayton’s upcoming trilogy, described as sci-fi meets fantasy with assassins and a detour to Scotland (hi, everyone), has already been optioned by Columbia Pictures, who praised the cinematic potential of the project highly. The film already has a writer attached to the project – Callie Kloves, daughter of Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves. She’s not the only one with big name clout behind her. Dayton herself is the wife of billionaire entrepreneur Sky Dayton (they’re also Scientologists – just saying) and her agent is the one and only Jodi Reamer. This isn’t her debut (her science-fiction novel Resurrection was published on Amazon) but this is definitely the one that will catapult her into the spotlight if the stars align just so. With that team behind her, it’s tough to see anything go wrong.
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: Imagine a world where society is divided by colour of blood. Then imagine how you create an entire book about that concept. The synopsis for this debut has similar fantasy shades of The Selection, one of the few post-Hunger Games and Divergent dystopian YA novels that stuck around the best-seller charts. Where Kiera Cass’s series greatly benefited from the buzz created by the never-picked-up CW pilot, 22 year old Aveyard’s novel has also been optioned, this time by Universal, with a pitch of Divergent meets Game of Thrones. That’s one serious pedestal to put someone’s work on.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: You’re going to see a lot of books on this list described in terms of well-known thing meets other well-known thing. The more outlandish, the better. This first time team-up between Kaufman and Kristoff comes with the mash-up selling point of being “Battlestar Galactica meets Ten Things I Hate About You”. We’ll let you come to your own conclusions about that. The first novel in a planned trilogy centres on a young hacker and a fighter pilot who team up to uncover the conspiracy surrounding a killer plague ravaging their fleet. They’re also ex-boyfriend and girlfriend, to add a twist to the tale.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: A former editor for the Washington Post’s foreign affairs desk, Tahir’s first foray into fiction came in the form of a short story she wrote about an arranged marriage that saw her receive numerous offers from the worlds of publishing and TV. After a number of years in journalism, her debut novel has already been optioned by Paramount as part of a seven figure deal, with one of the producers of Breaking Bad behind the deal. The novel has been described as a fantasy with “echoes of Ancient Rome” that follows two teens who struggle to survive under a military regime.
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight: The Outliers doesn’t even have a Goodreads blurb yet but the buzz is already deafening, after the author of Reconstructing Amelia’s latest, the first in a trilogy, was optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company for adaptation. Witherspoon’s company are also behind the upcoming Wild and Gone Girl, so the potential is already staggering, and that’s before you even get to the plot, a speculative YA with shades of contemporary that tells the story of a young woman who finds her missing best friend with a group of ‘outliers’ who claim to be able to harness their psychic powers to turn into weapons. While that doesn’t sound wildly original or attention-grabbing, the deal’s description of the novel as “featuring a heroine with the wit and wisdom of John Green’s Hazel Grace, the ambition of Veronica Roth’s Divergent and the emotional resonance of classic YA literature” certainly is. Given that the deal was a seven figure one, clearly someone sees something special in this story. It’s notable that so many on this short list have already been cherry picked for adaptations, even though the number of YA flops outnumbers the hits. Clearly it’s a trend that isn’t going away so here’s hoping they each gain a creative team that will do them justice.
Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett: Comparisons to Romeo & Juliet are commonplace in YA pitches. Regardless of what way you read that play, be it as a true romance or otherwise, it’s an instantly recognisable series of tropes that are popular with a myriad of readers. However, it’s not often you see the Bard’s tale of star-crossed lovers paired up with Children of the Corn. Part of a two book deal, which makes a change in a sea of trilogies, Blood and Salt centres on sixteen year old Ash who becomes embroiled in a centuries old battle for immortality.
After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Rob DeFranco and Peter Facinelli: Yeah, Carlisle from Twilight was struck with the creative bug, it seems, and is now co-writing a YA novel with author Lyga and film producer DeFranco about a boy named Rose in a dystopian future. Call me cynical but the words ‘cash grab’ keep flashing in my mind. Facinelli wouldn’t be the first person in film to dip their toes into the world of children’s and teen literature (Chris Columbus and David Walliams come to mind, with varying degrees of success), but the immediate presence of a producer sends warning signals flying around my brain. The plot is being kept under wraps for now, although the fact that it’s yet another YA novel with dystopian themes receiving so much attention for 2015 suggests the craze hasn’t quite died out yet. Maybe there’s some life in it now that the Insurgent movie is going forward.
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston: Eight publishers battled for the rights to Johnston’s two book deal, a fantasy set in the Middle East centred on the bond between sisters. Honestly, I’m apprehensive about this one because I’ve read too many YA novels by white authors who seem determined to score a full house in a game of Cultural Appropriation Bingo. Not much has been revealed about the plot or characters yet (only time will tell if the sisters of the story are women of colour or not) so we’ll have to wait for further news on this one.