By Lizzy Hosty
The classics are taught in English classes and read over and over because of the timeless stories and lessons contained within. Classic stories have also been revamped, retold, remixed, and re-released for hundreds of years, in an effort to inject new life into the beloved stories from generations ago. To celebrate the recent release of The Queen Will Betray You, the second novel in Sarah Henning’s The Kingdoms of Sand & Sky series that’s inspired by The Princess Bride, we’ve put together this list of YA novels that draw inspiration from treasured classics, and put a fresh new spin on them.
The first book in The Kingdoms of Sand & Sky series, The Princess Will Save You is a feminist retelling of The Princess Bride by William Goldman that follows Princess Amarande after she is given an ultimatum: marry the leader of another kingdom, or lose her crown. When the love of her life, the stableboy Luca, is kidnapped to put pressure on her, Amarande decides to take control back on her life and save herself and Luca. The sequel, The Queen Will Betray You, follows Luca and Amarande in the wake of political instability, when everyone has their eyes on control of the kingdom. The only thing that will save them is true love.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (inspired by The Secret Garden)
In the wake of her aunt’s death, Briseis and her family move into the run-down estate in rural New York that her aunt willed them. Leaving Brooklyn behind, maybe now Briseis can finally get her gift under control; the ability to grow plants instantly with a single touch. Along the way, Briseis realizes the house holds sinister secrets, including a centuries-old curse, the deadliest plant on earth, and strangers continue to show up on her doorstep asking for elixirs… including a group intent on obtaining a dangerous elixir. This Poison Heart has its roots in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett but has blossomed into a unique story with a Black protagonist and queer themes.
That Way Madness Lies, Edited by Dahlia Adler (inspired by the works of William Shakespeare)
Shakespeare’s works have been retold and remixed countless times, and this anthology contains even more retellings from some of the best YA authors. Stories retold include The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, A Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Sonnet 147, King Lear, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (inspired by Peter Pan)
Based on Peter Pan, it’s been 5 years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing into the woods; but now, more children of the town have started to disappear. Trying to run away from her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy in the street, named Peter, and who Wendy thought only existed within stories. Peter needs Wendy’s help to find the children, but in order to help, Wendy will have to confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
Fresh by Margot Wood (inspired by Emma)
Elliot McHugh is entering her first year of college with specific goals in mind. Just maybe not academic ones, like what her major will be. She’s going to experience all that college has to offer, including going to off-campus parties, making new friends, having the best sex imaginable, and maybe even falling in love. Suddenly, life catches up with her and she’s staring down her finals, her roommate’s boyfriend is a jerk, and the sex she’s having isn’t all that great. In this modern retelling of Emma by Jane Austen, Elliot might finally discover what kind of person she is meant to be.
These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends remixes the classic Shakespearan play Romeo and Juliet, and sets it in 1920s Shanghai. In These Violent Delights, Juliette Cai of the Scarlet Gang and Roma Montagov of the White Flowers must set aside their families’ blood feud long enough to stop the monster dwelling within the Huangpu River. In Our Violent Ends, revolution is coming to a boiling point with the Nationalists marching in and whispers of civil war growing each day. Additionally, Roma is grappling with wanting to kill and love Juliette, but they’ll have to set aside their hearts long enough in order to combat the new monstrous danger.
Ruinsong by Julia Ember (inspired by The Phantom of the Opera)
A retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux with a queer female protagonist, Ruinsong follows a powerful mage named Cadence who has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at the command of her queen. The ruthless queen used her powerful voice against her, but now she’ll use it to set herself free and free their country from oppression, along with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion. Because if she doesn’t she might just become a monster herself.
Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (inspired by Jane Eyre)
Andromeda is a debtra (an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye), but before she could fully gain her license, her mentor threw her out. Now she has to find a wealthy Patron who will vouch for her abilities – and the only one offering is rude, demanding, and eccentric Magnus Rochester. Andromeda soon learns that almost a dozen debtra have worked there before her – all quitting when they realized the task would end in almost certain death with the amount of horrifying manifestations at every turn. But Andromeda can’t leave Magnus alone to live out his curse once she realizes she’s fallen for him.