6 YA Retellings of Literary Classics

As a culture-seeking society, there are few things we love more than a good retelling of an old classic. We want Lord of the Flies as a school field trip gone awry. We want Macbeth as a really cutthroat student council election. We want Hamlet told from the point of view of Ophelia. We want Pride and Prejudice but with zombies. And if any of those premises even remotely piqued your interest, then the following YA retellings of classic tales should be right up your book-loving alley.

The Duke of Bannerman Prep, by Katie A. Nelson
This book is a combination of my two great loves: The Great Gatsby and boarding school stories. Tanner McKay is the newest addition to Bannerman Prep, an elite private institution and a far cry from his former public school. Having been recruited to Bannerman because of his skill as a competitive debater, Tanner hopes this place will be his way up and out—a key to Stanford and a better future. But when Tanner gets partnered up with Andrew Tate, a charming but mysterious party boy everyone calls “the Duke,” he gets caught up in the Duke’s lavish lifestyle. Which is, as it turns out, just one wrong move away from collapsing completely. Whether you hated The Great Gatsby or loved it—or even if all you can remember is something about Daisy, a green light, and the American Dream—you won’t want to put down this smart, well-plotted page-turner for even a second.

Olivia Twisted, by Vivi Barnes
Sixteen-year-old Olivia has spent most of her life bouncing around the foster care system. She’s lonely, she’s dealing with major abandonment issues, and she’s just looking for a place where she belongs. Who knew that place would be a halfway house for juvenile delinquents? Where Oliver Twist has a ragtag team of pickpockets living on the mean streets of nineteenth-century London, Olivia, Twisted has a ring of teenage cyber-criminals. It’s like Charles Dickens meets Mr. Robot. But as Olivia falls in deeper and deeper with Sam, Z, and the group’s enigmatic leader, Bill Sykes, she learns—too late—that there might not be a way back out.

A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
In the first installment of Brittany Cavallaro’s addictive, fast-paced trilogy, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the descendants of a certain famous crime-fighting detective duo. Charlotte, like the original Holmes, is tempestuous, unpredictable, and completely brilliant. Jamie is the reserved, honorable, utterly Watsonian straight man. When the two are framed for the murder of a student at their Connecticut prep school—a murder ripped straight from the Sherlock Holmes stories themselves—things get all kinds of suspenseful. Soon it’s up to Jamie and Charlotte to clear their names.

The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh
In this richly told, atmospheric YA retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, Sharhrzad wants revenge. The Caliph of Khorasan—Khalid, the Monster King—is a man as merciless as he is vile. Every night, he takes a new bride. Every dawn, he has her executed. When Sharhrzad’s best friend, Shiva, falls victim to the Monster King, Sharhrzad volunteers to be his next wife. She manages to stay alive by weaving captivating stories for him that she refuses to finish until the next day, all while plotting his murder. Before she can follow through with her plans, however, she discovers the king is not at all what she expected; indeed, everything may not be as it seems.

Seeking Mansfield, by Kate Watson
This fresh and funny take on Mansfield Park brings Jane Austen’s telltale witty banter (and penchant for complicated love triangles) into the twenty-first century. Like Fanny Price, sixteen-year-old Finley Price is a quiet girl with a strong moral compass. Unlike her nineteenth-century counterpart, however, Finley wants to join the prestigious world of theatre—with the help and encouragement of her best friend and secret crush, Oliver. But when movie star siblings Harlan and Emma Crawford move in across the street, they cause quite a stir. Particularly when Emma begins to pursue Oliver (who isn’t exactly NOT interested), and Harlan finds himself increasingly attracted to Finley.

A Little in Love, by Susan E. Fletcher
In this beautifully penned, heart-wrenching retelling of Les Misérables, Susan E. Fletcher brings to life everyone’s favorite doomed waif. As per the title of the story’s source material, France in the 1800s wasn’t exactly a great place to be, and certainly not for Eponine Thenardier. Between her wretched parents, her life of poverty, and her struggle to be good in a world where she’s always falling short, the only silver lining for Eponine is Marius—the boy with whom she has fallen hopelessly in love. But then Cosette comes along, and you want to know my favorite part about this book? The fact that Cosette is presented not purely as a romantic rival, someone who robs Eponine of her happiness, but as someone good and kind who is worthy of Marius’ love, just as he is worthy of hers. And that, for Eponine, might just be the greatest tragedy of all.

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