14 YA Retellings Inspired By History and Literature

Posted by Marie on April 1, 2019


The Brothers Grimm aren't the only source of major inspiration for young adult books. Some of the buzziest reinventions base their stories on royal history and classic literature, which is why we rounded up a few of the most popular, non-fairy tale retellings from the last three years.

These include a fantastical and contemporary spin on Tudor family drama, a Pride and Prejudice remix set in New York, and an interstellar Arthurian legend. Which ones will you be adding to your Want to Read shelf? Let us know in the comments!


Literary Retellings

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The eponymous hero of one of Charles Dickens' favorite novels is recast as an orphan girl who transforms from a thief to a debutante, catching the eye of the Artful Dodger.


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Before she made heads roll in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts was a lovestruck baker named Catherine in this retelling from the bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles.



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This modern-day take of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's acclaimed series, the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meet at a boarding school.



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The 2017 National Book Award finalist and author of American Street takes Jane Austen fans from Longbourn to Brooklyn, where Zuri Benitez clashes with her new neighbor, Darius Darcy.


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In the distant future, a young fugitive crash-lands on Old Earth. Here she discovers that she's the latest reincarnation of King Arthur and embarks on a quest to break a terrible curse.



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The curious world of Lewis Carroll is altered into a dark realm where nightmarish creatures rule. Only warriors like Alice can keep them at bay (as long as she makes it home by curfew).



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To escape a life of poverty, Elizabeth Lavenza must befriend a monstrous boy in this gothic homage to Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley from the author of The Conqueror's Saga.


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The titular heroine of Jane Eyre is recast as Stella Ainsley, whose floundering spaceship is the only prospect she has until the brooding captain of the Rochester brings her aboard.



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Maid Marian never meant to step into Robin Hood's shoes. But when the beloved outlaw dies, she finds herself taking up his mantle and his mission to save the people of Locksley.



Historical Fantasy Retellings

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A magical plague is turning the denizens of 17th century London into stone. Thomas Fawkes is one of them. To stop it, he must join his father in a treasonous plot to destroy the Parliament.


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Lady Jane Grey is known in Tudor history as "the nine-day queen." In this enchanting retelling, the reason for the abrupt end of her reign is simple: shapeshifters.



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Based on the historical legend of Anastasia Romanov, this sci-fi adventure reinvents the famous Russian royal as the lost princess and the last hope of an entire galaxy.



Historical Retellings

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Instead of social calls and silk dress fittings, Audrey Rose Wadsworth prefers to study forensic medicine—an emerging science that can help her track a notorious serial killer.



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Meet Henry, the de facto ruler of Lancaster High. He's got a lot in common with King Henry VIII, including a succession of six girlfriends. Side note: Their breakups don't end well.



Which of these retellings are you most excited about? Let's talk books in the comments!

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The Best Romance Books of April

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Heartless is fantastic!!


message 2: by Pattricia (new)

Pattricia Mesa I can't recommend My Lady Jane & Stalking Jack the Ripper, enough!


A Bear and a Bee Books My Lady Jane was amazing!


message 4: by TishBee (new)

TishBee I really enjoyed Olivia Twist. A Blade So Black was a bit of a disappointment, I really wanted to like it I think it needed some more edits to make it work.


message 5: by Kate (new)

Kate A Bear and a Bee Books wrote: "My Lady Jane was amazing!"
My Lady Jane was the best book ever. Hilarious and exceptional written; I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and couldn't put it down!


message 6: by Celeste (new)

Celeste How did you leave the Conqueror's Saga by Kiersten White off this list? HOW?


message 7: by Quin (new)

Quin Last of Her Name and Stalking Jack the Ripper were by far the most amazing books. I especially enjoyed them because I love plot twists.


message 8: by Denise (new)

Denise How do some of these authors get away with retelling a story? Is it not plagiarism to basically tell the same story as someone else?

I don't feel that way when it's a different person in the same universe but when it's the same story retold it bothers me.


message 9: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Denise wrote: "How do some of these authors get away with retelling a story? Is it not plagiarism to basically tell the same story as someone else?

I don't feel that way when it's a different person in the same ..."


I understand. I think, when the new books' summaries are clearly citing the original work, it's respectful inspiration. And since the subject matter for all of the books above are over 100 years ago, the published works are in the public domain, so copyright has expired.


message 10: by Natashalie (new)

Natashalie Lumley I will forever stand by the Enola Holmes series. Enola is a strong young pre-teen who manages to run circles around her brothers (Sherlock and Mycroft). There is the occasional famous real person or fictional character (i.e. Florence Nightingale) to spice it up further.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6...

E.D. Baker's "A Question of Magic" is a great reimagination of the Baba Yaga legends. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
And of course, her Frog Princess series begins with a brand-new take on a much-loved fairy tale! (Though I, personally, prefer her "Wide Awake Princess" series.)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

Dave Barry writes a well-imagined retake on the Peter Pan tales (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...).

Carolyn Q. Ebbitt's book "The Extra-Ordinary Princess" is (one of many) retellings of "The Wild Swans", but it is very well done with delightful characters.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6...

There are several others buried in my book list, but those were the ones that came to mind!


message 11: by Louie (new)

Louie Kay wrote: "I will forever stand by the Enola Holmes series. Enola is a strong young pre-teen who manages to run circles around her brothers (Sherlock and Mycroft). There is the occasional famous real person o..."

E.D. Baker's books are my favorites! I discovered them a few years ago and read all the ones I could get my hands on. She is amazing with retellings!


message 12: by Louie (new)

Louie Where is Ashley Poston? She has written multiple popular YA retellings, like Geekerella, A contemporary Cinderella retelling, Heart of Iron, A Sci-Fi Anastasia Retelling, and The Princess and the Fangirl, a Prince and The Pauper Retelling which just came out.


message 13: by Louie (new)

Louie Also Jessica Day George, the NYT Bestselling Author who's written a ton of retellings, such as Princess of the Midnight Ball and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.
And don't forget award winner Melanie Dickerson who wrote a whole series of interconnected fantasy retellings called Hagenheim.


message 14: by Leticia (new)

Leticia The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White is awesome!


message 15: by Beth (new)

Beth The whole series of A Study in Charlotte is incredible.


message 16: by Danielle (new)

Danielle So many good ones left out! The Splintered series and Stonefield.


message 17: by Tanzila Tabassum (new)

Tanzila Tabassum Zisha (Annabel Lee) Celeste wrote: "How did you leave the Conqueror's Saga by Kiersten White off this list? HOW?"

Right? That's the first series that came to my mind seeing the caption. And I have a feeling Conqueror's Saga is far better than any other books here.


message 18: by Justine (new)

Justine Heartless is one of my all-time favorite books! It’s unconventionally superb!


message 19: by Erin (new)

Erin Heartless was absolutely fabulous!


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Ali I 💓 YA


message 21: by Jane (new)

Jane Doe a study in charlotte is just so incredible


message 22: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle All of these look amazing, especially the ones about Olivia Twist, My Lady Jane, Sherwood, Anastasia Romanov, and A Study in Charlotte.


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