A Discussion of YA Retellings
Guest Post: Emily Mead
If you think about it, nothing is original, least of all stories. Many of the books and tales we love have tropes that have existed for centuries. Some are explicit retellings, and it’s these retellings that I want to talk about today. Whether they’re fairy tales, classic novels or even ballets, retellings have always appealed to me, both as a reader and a writer. I’m going to talk about some of my favourites, some of the ones I’m anticipating, and ones I’d like to write myself.
My Favourite YA Retellings
When I think of YA retellings of classics, there are two that immediately come to mind. The first is the Every series by Ellie Marney, and the second is Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. The Every series is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, where Rachel Watts is the main character, and James Mycroft is her partner in crime. It’s very Australian and is perfect if you want a terrific thriller. Wintersong is kind of a retelling of Goblin Market, a poem by Christina Rossetti that I absolutely love. It also has elements of Labyrinth, but it’s basically about a goblin king and music and it’s absolutely enchanting.
I feel like as soon as you think of ‘fairytale retelling,’ you think of Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. From Cinderella all the way to Snow White, these books each feature a different main character and a different fairytale. It’s a fusion of fantasy and sci-fi that’s so gripping it makes even the 800-page finale go quickly.
One of my favourites is North Child by Edith Pattou, a retelling of an old Norse story called East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon. From the Northern setting to polar bears to beautiful writing, it’s beautiful enough to read again and again.
Of course, there’s also Rick Riordan, who has written so many retellings it’s hard to keep track of them. From Egyptian to Norse mythology, he always manages to pull off an hilarious, fresh twist on old legends.
Finally, I really enjoyed The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember, which is an f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid, and obviously we can always use more mermaids.
Even though retellings aren’t so much the craze they were a few years ago, they’re still going strong, and what I love is that they’re becoming more diverse than ever. Here are some I can’t wait to read.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. It’s described as a feminist Snow White, and it has two intertwining tales from the past and the present. It sounds dark and magical and wonderful, basically.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, is an ‘East Asian fantasy reimagining of the Evil Queen legend’ – and I’m so excited to read it.
Lastly, The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen, which I haven’t heard much about in all honesty. It involves a bunch of short stories from different fairytales or stories, like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. I’m hesitantly excited.
Retellings I Want to Write
What makes a good retelling? For me, the retelling can’t be too similar to the original, or you might as well read the original. At the same time, it’s nice to have things you recognise from the original. I adore retellings with a twist, or unusual retellings, or diverse retellings, so those are the kinds of things I want to write.
A Retelling of Paradise Lost
I’d love to write something similar to Philip Pullman’s books. I’m not religious, but Biblical tales have always fascinated me and I think it’d be really interesting to write.
A Retelling of Jumanji
How cool is Jumanji, though? A board game that can actually kill you? At the moment I’m plotting a book where a group of teenagers are taken to a different, abandoned landscape with each turn (like an abandoned church, house or train station, for example). If you’re interested you can see my Pinterest board for it here.
A Contemporary Retelling of Snow White
This is the book I’ll probably write for NaNoWriMo this year. Instead of seven dwarves, ‘Snow’ would move in with seven other housemates when they start uni together. I’d love to see more contemporary retellings so I figure I’ll just write one myself.
Retellings are a lot of fun, and it’s always so interesting to see how one story can produce dozens of incarnations across time. As soon as you think one idea has been played out, there’s a new spin on it that brings it back to life. What with Rick Riordan’s new imprint dedicated to mythology-based writing from diverse or under-represented authors, I’m excited for what’s to come in the future of YA retellings.