How do I love thee, Shakespeare? Let me count the ways. Or not—that’s a post for another day. But one of my favorite things about Shakespeare, besides his amazingly dirty sense of humor, is how many fantastic spinoffs and retellings exist because of the man. (You have Shakespeare to thank for that scene where Heath Ledger sings in 10 Things I Hate About You. Just saying.) So in honor of the man who invented the word “puking,” who died on this day in 1616, here are some of the best Shakespeare retellings in YA.
The Juliet Club, by Suzanne Harper
What better way to heal a broken heart than to spend a summer giving advice to the lovelorn? Such is Kate’s fate when she heads off to Italy to attend a summer seminar studying Romeo and Juliet. Kate’s companions have other ideas, though; they try to pull a “Beatrice and Benedick” to set up the ever-arguing Kate and Giacomor. With a plot pulled from Much Ado About Nothing, excellent secondary characters, and about 2,621 references to all your favorite bits of Shakespeare, you’ll be happy the whole way through. Plus, it would totally make a great movie (hint, hint Hollywood).
Falling for Hamlet, by Michelle Ray
I’ve always felt bad for Ophelia—with such a fascinating and dimensional character as Hamlet as her beau, she comes across a little victimized, helpless, and naive. That’s why I love retellings like Falling for Hamlet, where we get to see all that Ophelia could have been behind the scenes. In this modern-day retelling, Ophelia is the beautiful blonde girlfriend to the verbally abusive, slightly crazy Prince Hamlet. As the plot moves along, Ophelia fakes her own death and winds up explaining her side of the story to the press—and the cops—plus she gets the backbone and the sass I’ve always wished she had.
Still Star-Crossed, by Melinda Taub
Okay, look, Romeo and Juliet has always seemed a little silly to me (I will argue forever that Shakespeare intended it to be a comedy). Lucky for me, this retelling focuses on the “what happens after” for two of my favorite characters: lovable Benvolio and heartless Rosaline. The powers that be declare the only way to end the feud between Capulets and Montagues forever is to have a marriage between them, which means that Romeo’s best friend, still mourning, finds himself engaged to the girl who rejected Romeo not that long ago. Rosaline, stubborn as ever, is having none of it—but she does have a plan.
Confessions of a Triple-Shot Betty, by Jody Gehrman
In another take on Much Ado About Nothing, Gehrman’s espresso-serving leading lady is less focused on love and more focused on something slightly more important: revenge. When the local golden boy takes advantage of both her cousin and her best friend, Geena enlists some help to take him down. But the best part of this retelling is how Gehrman stays true to the original, with all the inappropriate humor and battle of the wits that make Much Ado what it is. Warning: reading this book will make you crave a nice, hot latté.
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This Must Be Love, by Tui T. Sutherland
Confession: I read this book long before I read the play, and then I had to go back and reread it once I fully appreciated the hilarity of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was FUN-tastic both times. Helena is a hopeless romantic, so when she meets the schmoozy Dimitri, she sees nothing wrong, even though her best friend, Hermia, thinks there’s something’s fishy about him. But Hermia has her own problems: she’s suddenly feeling more than platonic about her best friend, Alex, who’s not-so-happy that Dimitri seems to be pursuing Hermia instead of Helena. With a little extraordinary intervention and some karaoke, though, things just might turn out okay.
Tempestuous, by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
I won’t insult you by telling you which play this retelling is based on; instead, I’ll just tell you that it’s a real whirlwind of a story. Miranda has been sacrificed by her so-called best friends and exiled to a gross mall job. Luckily, she has her new friends Ariel and Caleb to keep her sane. Then something crazy happens: a blizzard traps everyone in the mall, and Miranda and her crew set out to get revenge. And it gets weirder: Miranda is handcuffed to Caleb, who’s just slightly less than enthused about this whole thing. It’s a reminder of just how nutty Shakespeare can get, and how awesome.
What’s your favorite Shakespeare retelling?