The Guide, with its comprehensive approach to children’s book reviewing, has a unique perspective on trends in the industry. Recently there’s been a surge of upper-middle-grade and young-adult titles that re-imagine, retell, reinterpret, or just revere beloved stories. The following novels, all recommended by The Horn Book Guide, offer teen-friendly shakeups of classic fairy tales, legends, and literary gems from Shakespeare, Austen, and others.
Editorial Assistant, The Horn Book Guide
Barton, Zoe Always Neverland
308 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2011 ISBN 978-0-06-196325-4
YA When Peter Pan shows up in Ashley’s bedroom, she eagerly accompanies him to Neverland. Though the Lost Boys look upon her as a mother figure, Ashley wants to have adventures. She tussles with Never birds, mermaids, fairies, and pirates in this entertaining modern-day take on the classic J. M. Barrie story.
Crocker, Carter Last of the Gullivers
218 pp. Philomel 2012 ISBN 978-0-399-24231-1
Gr. 4–6 Twelve-year-old juvenile delinquent Michael discovers the Lilliput of Gulliver’s Travels fame in old Lem Gulliver’s garden. His efforts to protect the garden’s diminutive residents interfere with his attempts to turn his own life around. Michael’s struggles bring a compelling, welcome grittiness to the otherwise light fantasy.
Gaughen, A. C. Scarlet
296 pp. Walker 2012 ISBN 978-0-8027-2346-8
YA Thief “Will” Scarlet keeps Rob and his men informed about doings in Nottinghamshire, and in turn they keep their young messenger’s secret — he is really a she (with an enigmatic past). Scar’s voice is distinctive, and her unique perspective adds new components to the Robin Hood tale, especially as Rob and other familiar characters all vie for her romantic attention.
Harrison, Mette Ivie Tris & Izzie
267 pp. Egmont 2011 ISBN 978-1-60684-173-0
YA The legend of Tristan and Isolde gets a contemporary treatment when Harrison reimagines it in a high school setting. The romantic tensions among Tris, Izzie, Mark, and Branna translate well; witches, love potions, monsters, and a quest to rescue Izzie’s father push the book toward supernatural fantasy.
Jay, Stacey Juliet Immortal
309 pp. Delacorte 2011 ISBN 978-0-385-74016-6 le isbn 978-0-385-90826-9
YA Jay turns Shakespeare’s play on its head in this contemporary paranormal romance. Romeo and Juliet are revealed to be mystical spirits — and immortal enemies — doomed to eternal conflict as each is repeatedly reincarnated. As their struggle plays out, the characters discover they can make different decisions about forbidden love and self-sacrifice, all in a swoon-worthy manner.
Keplinger, Kody Shut Out
276 pp. Little/Poppy 2011 ISBN 978-0-316-17556-2
YA In this story very loosely based on the Aristophanes play Lysistrata, intense rivalry between Hamilton High’s football and soccer teams is the catalyst for the players’ girlfriends staging a sex strike until the teams make peace. Some honest conversations and confessions about relationships ensue; lack of character development and some weak plotting hinder this otherwise provocative battle-of-the-sexes story.
Mass, Wendy Beauty and the Beast: The Only One Who Didn’t Run Away
282 pp. Scholastic 2012 ISBN 978-0-545-31018-5
Gr. 4–6 Twice upon a Time series. To earn money for her family, twelve-year-old Beauty (who’s anything but) is in search of a magical crystal; meanwhile, a witch transforms sensitive Prince Riley into a comically grotesque beast. A twist neatly merges the two plot lines. The setting is a medieval kingdom, but the affectionate duo is delightfully modern. Short chapters, alternately narrated by the protagonists, keep the pace snappy.
Scheier, Leah Secret Letters
330 pp. Hyperion 2012 ISBN 978-1-4231-2405-4
YA When Dora learns that Sherlock Holmes is her biological father, she begins to study crime, hoping to meet the great detective. Though he dies before she arrives in London, Dora becomes embroiled in a case involving incriminating letters, a kidnapping, and hidden identities — and in a romance with Holmes’s assistant. A tightly constructed plot and nonstop pacing will keep readers fully engaged.
Serle, Rebecca When You Were Mine
341 pp. Simon Pulse 2012 ISBN 978-1-4424-3313-7
YA Rosaline Caplet is crushed when her estranged cousin, Juliet, steals her best friend and kind-of boyfriend, Rob Monteg. As Rob and Juliet’s relationship becomes increasingly volatile, Rosaline grows closer to bad-boy Len. Set in glamorous Southern California, this fresh take on Romeo and Juliet features juicy melodrama, a sizzling love story, and a tragic — though, of course, not unexpected — conclusion.
Ziegler, Jennifer Sass & Serendiptiy
371 pp. Delacorte 2011 ISBN 978-0-385-73898-9 LE ISBN 978-0-385-95668-3
YA A contemporary update sets Jane Austen’s classic sister story, Sense and Sensibility, in small-town Barton, Texas. Romance-minded fifteen-year-old Daphne and down-to-earth older sister Gabby couldn’t be less alike, but both end up finding their soulmates. The siblings are far less emotionally restrained than Austen’s heroines (and the story lacks the original’s sly social commentary), but teen romance fans will find it appealing.
From the September/October 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, click here.