Neil Gaiman and Josh Lieb Get Hollywood All Excited About YA Books Again

From left, Gaiman; Lieb. Photo: Photos: Getty Images (Gaiman); (Lieb)

Two very different young-adult novels from two very different high-profile authors are currently making the rounds among Hollywood studios, we hear, and both are drawing the kind of interest that could mean a big movie deal down the line. Neil Gaiman's cinematic track record hasn't been too brag-worthy of late. Paramount's adaptation of his novel Stardust tanked, and Beowulf, which he co-wrote with Roger Avary, barely grossed back half of its budget domestically. The cult superstar's fortunes may be looking up, however. There are rumblings his second children's novel — The Graveyard Book, with illustrations by usual suspect Dave McKean — may be big-screen bound. Described by one executive who read it as a Jungle Book with ghosts and werewolves in lieu of jaguars and bears, the novel — out in September — went out last week on a wide film submission from CAA's Jon Levin.

In contrast to the hauntings of The Graveyard Book is the out-and-out comedy of Daily Show executive producer Josh Lieb's proposal for a YA novel, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President. The book — which, we heard, was sold to Razorbill by agent Richard Abate — is the very funny story of Oliver Watson, a chubby Omaha seventh-grader whom everyone believes to be somewhat dull-witted but who is actually an evil super-genius and the third-richest person in the world. The book's voice is a pitch-perfect mix of smart-ass kid and cartoon villain, and the story follows Oliver as he runs for student-council president in an attempt to impress his hated father. Agent Brian Lipson at Endeavor sent the 30-page proposal out on an official submission when it leaked all around town; we hear that a number of producers are interested, including Lorne Michaels. —Michelle Kung and Dan Kois