Hollywood! Adapt This: Victoria Schwab’s YA Novels THE ARCHIVED and THE UNBOUND

     February 23, 2014


As occasionally happens on “Hollywood! Adapt This!”, real life beat me to the punch on one of my planned suggestions.  About two months ago, we reported that  movie rights to V.E. Schwab’s adult novel, Vicious, had been acquired by Ridley Scott’s production company.  Great news for Schwab, and for moviegoers who will hopefully get to see the superhero story adapted for the big screen one day, but the rights pick-up was announced before I could feature Vicious.  Not to worry!  Schwab has another series that’s more than worthy of adaptation, which we’ll talk about after the jump.  Hollywood!  Adapt this: The Archived and The Unbound.

victoria-schwab-the-archivedWhat It’s About:

Schwab’s first novel in the series, The Archived, introduces us to 16-year-old Mackenzie Bishop.  As you might expect, Mackenzie is anything but ordinary; in fact, she’s a Keeper.  The world of The Archived is exactly like our own on the surface, but after someone dies, their body – known as a History – is shelved in the otherworldly realm of the Archive.  While most of the dead stay at rest, occasionally a History will wake up and attempt to find their way out of the endless maze.  When this happens, Keepers like Mackenzie must return them to their shelf before they can escape back into the living world.

This other world comes fully realized with an established hierarchy that keeps everything running smoothly, even though Mackenzie, who occupies a lower rung, manages to shake things up now and then.  She’s not all about rebelling against authority and, unlike other YA series, her existence isn’t defined by a romantic relationship.  There are elements of both tropes in the story, of course, but Mackenzie’s character is deeper and richer than that.  Her true conflict stems from dealing with the loss of her younger brother Ben, and the burden that her late grandfather – and former Keeper – has laid upon her shoulders.  These internal complications come to the forefront when her job forces her to lie to those closest to her, like her well-meaning parents and her new neighbors.  Things really start to heat up when she discovers that someone in the Archive is deliberately altering Histories and threatening the stability of the entire system.

How Could / Why Should It Be Adapted?

While The Archived sets the stage, The Unbound threatens to blow the whole thing up.  The great thing about the way the first two novels in the presumed series have gone so far, is that the first book allows you to get familiar with the character, her world, and the way her mind works.  We get a peek into the cracks forming in the Archive, but it’s not until The Unbound that we begin to see just how fragile the system really is.  So rather than a distant threat requiring an intervention from an unlikely hero, Schwab changes it up by focusing on the devil we know, with a hero borne out of the flawed system itself.

Even though its original story is obviously a strength, The Archived is just a lot of fun, with plenty of humor, romance, intrigue, and action for even the most jaded of theater-goers.  The never-before-seen realm of the Archive itself provides a blank template for a talented director and visual effects team to make their own, while the mechanics of the world – doors that open out of thin air, the dangers of a History who begins to slip – bring a fresh approach to the genre.

victoria-schwab-the-unboundThe Final Word: 

It remains to be seen whether Schwab will continue with The Archived series (fingers crossed), but the first two installments provide a solid foundation for moving forward without the complications of cliffhangers.  Schwab’s work (style-wise) is more in line with the character-centric Twilight series than the action-centered The Hunger Games franchise, but manages to combine the strengths of both while leaving out their weaknesses.  And hey, things worked out rather well for both types of stories on the big screen so far.  The movie world will get its next litmus test for the YA-adaptation box office next month when Neil Burger’s Divergent debuts.  Though I’m surprised that The Archived hasn’t been optioned yet, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see it picked up before too long.

Even if they never make it to the big screen, be sure to seek out Schwab’s The Archived and The Unbound, along with all of her previously released work.  (You really can’t go wrong, here.)  And be sure to tune in next time when we tackle another property ripe for adaptation!

In case you missed them, here’s a look at some of this week’s adaptation news:


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