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There is an old saying that every story to be told has already been written. But the point is, these stories can always be told in new and interesting ways. These five recent YA titles prove that bringing a classic story into a new setting creates a whole new narrative. What’s refreshing about all of these titles is that no knowledge of classic stories is needed to enjoy these tales (although if you’re familiar there are some fun Easter Eggs for you). Another good thing is that if you like these YA books like the classic books, you can search for other tales of the original stories to keep enjoying twists and similar characters!
Talk for you by Lana Wood Johnson
This delicious new romcom is like a reverse Gen Z version of Edmond Rostad Cyrano de Bergerac, mixed with a comedy of manners worthy of a play by Oscar Wilde. Where 19th century Cyrano’s ghost wrote love letters to a woman he secretly loved, this book finds Skylar stepping in to DM a boy on behalf of the girl who’s falling for him. The drama and misunderstandings that flow from it are all very similar to 2021, including a hilarious gag involving the Fast & Furious franchise. Bonus: Johnson’s previous romcom, Technically you started it, includes its own version of mistaken identity online.
You are so dead by Ash Parsons (June 14)
This new thriller sounds like the Gen Z version of Agatha Christie’s And then there was none. Just like in Christie’s book, a group of aliens are gathered on an island for mysterious purposes. But in an oh-so-2021 twist, the island looks a lot like the hapless Fyre Festival, and outsiders are all social media influencers. For another take on the classic Christie’s setup, try Gretchen McNeil’s Ten.
Serpent Sisters by Sarena and Sasha Nanua (June 15)
This is a genre-changing Indian inspired YA that brings its own twist to Mark Twain’s most famous formula. The Prince and the Poor (and / or the film by Vanessa Hudgens The Princess Switch). Written by IRL twin sisters, who must know what it’s like to swap places, this book tells the story of a princess and a street kid who – surprise! – realize that they are identical. What to do other than change places? As in the work of Twain and other similar storylines, of course, things only get more complicated as the deception continues.
Romain and Bijou by Dana L. Davis
This one gets a bit of meta because it contains a Romeo and Juliet tell in a Romeo and Juliet tell. Wait, let’s go back. Jerzie and Zeppelin are the leaders of a Hamilton-hip-hop style reimagining Shakespeare’s play. But even as they learn their roles, a Romeo and Juliet-esque love story is also developing behind the scenes. For a different take on Romeo and Juliet, try Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, which defines the doomed love story in 1920s Shanghai.
Anna K: a love story by Jenny Lee
This is a contemporary version of Leo Tolstoy Anna karenina, placing a wealthy Korean American teenager at the center of the drama. This Anna is 17 and lives at the top of Manhattan’s privileged society. But a meeting with the famous playboy “Count” Vronsky upsets everything she knew about the world and her place in it. As with all of the books on this list, no knowledge of the original book is needed to fall in love with Anna’s dizzying and heart-breaking story. Bonus: Anna K’s story continues in a newly released sequel titled Anna K: absent!