Giving Fresh Life to Classic Stories: YA Adaptations and Retellings

If you’ve ever taken an English class on the high school level (or even if you haven’t), you probably know about Universal Themes in literature, and you maybe even analyzed a book for them, a book considered a classic. Some books in the western canon have been read by so many, adapted into film, and put on the stage, that their plots and conventions seem like they’ve always existed. Stories like Romeo & Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, Little Women, and more. 

Which is why, I think, it is exciting to read a book that takes those conventions and changes things about them – switches the genders of the characters, transposes the time period or setting, or ages of the characters. Then we get the fun of reading a book that has a basic plot shape that generations of readers have already acclaimed, so it will probably be satisfying, and also the fun of picking out what the author changed and what they decided to keep. It gives us the chance to analyze what makes the story work for us, or gives us a way to just relax and escape into a good book. 

This is a list of recent books written for the teen audience that are adaptations, remixes, and retellings of classic stories. Each takes a unique perspective on the stories to which they pay homage. 

Can’t get enough of this type of book? There are so many being published! Check out these lists of new versions of old stories for the teen reader. 

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My Fine Fellow

A gender-bent retelling of “My Fair Lady,” set in an alternate history England where culinary skills are the measure of success in society, this story follows Helena Higgins, her friend Penelope Pickering, and lower-class Elijah Little, who has a talent for combining flavors. Together they set out to transform Elijah’s fate and create a superstar chef. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

Once & Future

A teenage girl, running through space from an evil corporation, crashes down on Earth, finds the magic sword Excalibur, and learns what it means to fulfill her destiny as the reincarnation of King Arthur. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby

One For All

A girl who has always wanted to belong, but always felt outside of everything because of her chronic illness, finds herself at a training school for Musketeers. It’s a dream come true, until she starts developing feelings for her unwitting source. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

Where the Rhythm Takes You

A story inspired by Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” but set on the island of Tobago, where Reyna is feeling stuck in a rut even though she lives at her family’s plush resort. Her old flame Aiden, now a DJ, returns to the island with newfound fame and new gorgeous friends, and Reyna feels jealous of him, and also still attracted to him. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.