Recently, Laura wrote a fantastic post on the importance of retelling. In it, she talks about the popular use of the hero’s journey in fiction, and how it’s typically a story about boys and men. For Laura– and for so many others whose stories have been left untold for so long– retelling is a way to reassert one’s right to exist, to be acknowledged, and to belong. It’s pretty much why I fall every time for books that claim to be retellings: a retelling is, ironically, a brand new chance at storytelling. It’s exciting. It’s also– in the right hands– a very radical act because it refers to narratives that have, thus far, excluded certain kinds of people and instead says, “Look, there’s space for everyone here, so come on in”. I cannot resist an invitation like that one.
As a result I have far too many retellings and adaptations in my TBR pile, in addition to those that I am itching to re-read. Here is my incomplete, ever-growing list of books for anyone interested in diverse, inclusive retellings!
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston. Based on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights […] The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of … she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black. In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale. — [X]
Romeo & Juliet by Gareth Hinds. Retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. [When] Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together? In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page. — [X]
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he’s in his own Brooklyn neighbourhood. But now he’s going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don’t exactly fit in there. So it’s a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock and after that they know they fit together — even though she’s Jewish and he’s black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that’s not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way. — [X]
Maxine Wore Black by Nora Olsen. Adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Maxine is the girl of Jayla’s dreams: she’s charming, magnetic, and loves Jayla for her transgender self. There’s only one problem with Maxine—she already has a girlfriend, perfect Becky. Jayla quickly falls under Maxine’s spell, and she’s willing to do anything to win her. But when Becky turns up dead, Jayla is pulled into a tangle of deceit, lies, and murder. Now Jayla is forced to choose between love and the truth. Jayla will need all the strength she has to escape the darkness that threatens to take her very life. — [X]
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. Adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which is in turn an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel of the same name. Sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic, housed in a slaughterhouse staffed by the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor. Wen often hears the whisper of a ghost in the slaughterhouse, a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. And after one of the Noor humiliates Wen, the ghost grants an impulsive wish of hers—brutally. Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including the outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the ghost. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen is torn between her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. Will she determine whom to trust before the factory explodes, taking her down with it? — [X]
Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon. A Robin Hood adaptation. The night her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley must learn to fend for herself. Her home, Nott City, has been taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown. After fleeing for her life, Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown’s merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can’t rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected. — [X]
A Thousand and One Nights
One Thousand and One Nights by Hanan Al-Shaykh. Written in Arabic from tales gathered in India, Persia and across the great Arab empire, these mesmerizing stories tell of the real and the supernatural, love and marriage, power and punishment, wealth and poverty, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate. Now adapted by Hanan al-Shaykh the One Thousand and One Nights are revealed in an intoxicating new voice. — [X]
Ash by Malinda Lo. A Cinderella retelling. In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted. The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love. — [X]
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it’s up to Hazel to go after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she’s read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn’t the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel. — [X]
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell. Adaptation of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. — [X]
Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Adaptation of The Goose Girl. Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future. But powerful men have powerful enemies—and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometimes the hardest choice means learning to trust herself. — [X]
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu. An adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master’s shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar’s world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it. But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it. — [X]
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s Nightingale’s Nest. Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree. There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties. But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy. — [X]
So what kinds of retellings are in your TBR piles?