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The Next Big Retelling: Gothic Novels

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

We’re all pretty familiar with retellings of classic stories; Pride and Prejudice took up a great deal of the second half of the 2000s, from Enthusiasm to Prom & Prejudice. Then fairy tales became huge, with authors like Alex Flinn producing awesome tales like Beastly, A Kiss in Time, and Cloaked. And that’s not to mention the resurgence and reprinting of stories by Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine. But the past couple of years have shown us the start of a new Big Thing: the retelling of Gothic novels.

Late 2010 was when I first saw it: this gorgeous, dark, and windy cover, stained neon pink with the letters J-A-N-E. This was the first time I’d seen a contemporary YA retelling of Jane Eyre in published format. A few months later, I came across Jane Slayre, a vampire hunter novel much in the vein of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Withering Tights, a (very loose) retelling centered on a theater school in the moors in the North of England. Just this past year, we were given the wonder that is A Breath of Eyre, a slice of Ffordian book-travel that drops a heroine right into the body of Jane Eyre herself.

Cover of the Novel Catherine by April LindnerAnd early next year, the same author who gave us Nico Rathburn is coming back with Catherine, a retelling of Wuthering Heights set in modern-day Manhattan, where Catherine is swept up in a passionate romance with Hence, a musician she meets in The Underground, her father’s famous club. Alongside this story, we read along with Chelsea, a girl who discovers a letter from her mother — who disappeared long ago — and starts out at the letter’s place of origin: The Underground. You’ll definitely hear more about this one in January on the Classics to Contemporary feature, so stay tuned!

And Catherine is coming out just in time for the next US showing of the new adaptation of Wuthering Heights on film at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s unclear when there might be a full nationwide release, but catch it if you can!

Another retelling that has come out this year that gets a special mention in this category is Paige Harbison’s New Girl, a prep school novel based on Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. I give it special mention only because, while very Gothic in nature, Rebecca is not technically a Gothic novel — it was written in the 1930s.

Okay, so from this post, it looks more like the Next Big Retelling is going to be Brontë Sisters stories (I’m waiting for the big Tenant of Wildfell Hall contemporary novel), but I’m hoping this will start a trend. Maybe we can get some big names to write contemporary horror stories based on Udolpho and Otranto!

— Jessica Pryde, excited to start The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson