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Tag: classics

The Age of the Retelling

Aliens. Vampires. Ghosts. Dystopians. These are some huge themes that pop culture has gone through in the past decade. From YA novels, to movies, to television shows there is always a theme that prevails for a period of time. Our current theme? Retellings.

The current line up of new movies are either remakes and reboots of originals or books and comics turned into movies, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant, and Deadpool leading the way. Current popular TV shows are either retellings or revivals of past shows, with the masses being particularly excited about Fuller House and X-Files.

Retellings abound in YA literature as well, not only in rewriting classics, such as Marta Acosta’s retelling of Jane Eyre entitled Dark Companion, but many retellings of fairy tales. What is it about retellings that catch our attention? Is it the themes that we know and love? Is it the comfort of the familiar, like we are coming home? I am sure the answer is different for everyone, but there is no doubt that retellings are taking the pop culture world by storm.

fairy tale retellings young adult literature

As with many themes, certain books quickly take the spotlight, while some others quietly gain attention. The same goes with retellings. Below are some books that all your friends may have been telling you about, books you haven’t heard of, and new books to keep an eye out for.

Wilde Reads

Happy 160th birthday, Oscar Wilde! In honor of this most fascinating and talented writer, I’ve rounded up some great YA that definitely owes a debt to Wilde’s work – or his life.

darkerReadalike for The Picture of Dorian Gray
It shouldn’t be surprising that Wilde’s novel would resonate with teens – who doesn’t think from time to time about youth and beauty and the fear of growing old? While Wilde’s novel itself is already great for teens, this book may also resonate with them, and it fits into the popular paranormal genre by making what is clearly a supernatural occurrence in the original Wilde work more blatant:

  • Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber
    Natalie is mute, but she is observant and sensitive, which is why she is the one who notices that a new portrait of Lord Denbury has a bit too much life to it. It turns out that the young, handsome man’s soul is actually trapped behind the painting, and Natalie is the only one who can access it and help him escape the magic that binds him there.

 

Remixing The Classics: Young Adult Novels Inspired By Classic Literature

DJ at Cafe de moc eyalnow flickr
Image courtesy of Flickr user eyalnow

From the multiple big and small screen Sherlock Holmes adaptations to the Web sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ rewriting of Pride & Prejudice for the YouTube era, entertainment media continue to look to well-known literature for inspiration.  In the world of young adult literature, re-imagining familiar stories in contemporary settings or with unique twists has become quite a tradition. Throughout 2012 and 2013, Hub bloggers Jessica Pryde and Jessica Miller traced this very trend in their series “From Classic To Contemporary,” covering a wide range of re-imagined classics in both young adult literature and film.  Additionally, a number of new titles remixing classic novels or plays have appeared on the scene in just the past year.  As the school year gains momentum and students study such classics, it seems only appropriate that we highlight a few of their young adult lit remixes.

conversionConversion – Katherine Howe  St. Joan’s Academy is one of the top high schools in Danvers, MA.  Within its hallowed walls, teenage girls battle for valedictorian, labor over applications to the best colleges in the country, attempt to sort out first relationships, and manage shifting friendships & high parental expectations. Senior Colleen Rowley and her friends knew they had a lot to balance but they were keeping it together–or so they thought.  Then the seemingly flawless Clara Rutherford is overcome by uncontrollable tics in the middle of homeroom and within hours, the strange symptoms have spread to her friends.  Suddenly, St. Joan’s becomes into a media circus as more students become ill and everyone fails to come up with an explanation or a cure.  But only Colleen, who has continued to work on her extra credit project researching The Crucible,  realizes that Danvers used to be called Salem Village and another group of girls was once at the epicenter of a similar episode a few centuries ago.

This modernization of Arthur Miller’s play interweaves the events unfolding at St. Joan’s with a fresh perspective on the witch hunt hysteria in historical Salem.

Required Reading: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

required_readingA few weeks ago, The Hub posted a poll asking for your favorite assigned summer reading in high school. With 49% of the 134 votes, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the top selection. This got me thinking about how required reading has impacted us as YA readers.

It’s a safe assumption that we’re all readers over here on The Hub. The results of the poll show that there were some fantastic experiences, but does it mean that all of our past reading experiences were great? I turned to some of our bloggers to get the scoop on required reading: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Read on to hear how assigned readings have made our bloggers stronger feminists, wish fatal illnesses on heroines, and really, really love bacon.

The Good

Jessica Lind: “When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had an English teacher who really challenged us with reading. During her class, I fell in love with Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, and 1984. I was transitioning out of the books of my childhood and these classics helped to keep me reading.”

The JungleGretchen Kolderup: “My 10th grade US History class was combined into a two-period class with our English class. We learned history and we learned English, but it was all through the lens of social movements in America. The books that we were assigned were really thoughtful choices that illuminated social issues and that weren’t what you’d typically have as required reading — Power by Linda Hogan, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller are the ones I remember. I loved that what we were reading was actually put into context so I could understand it — I would have missed so much of the meaning in the books if I hadn’t known what was happening in the world at the time they were published.”

Carla Land: “When I was in tenth grade I was in an honor’s English class and one of our required readings was The Great Gatsby. I absolutely hated it! My teacher was obsessed with the “eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg” and spent weeks talking about how important they were. I swore off of F. Scott Fitzgerald forever after that class. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when I took a Modern Literature course- taught by a professor who was a Hemingway and Fitzgerald scholar. He’d spent his whole career studying them and their words. When we got to The Great Gatsby I held my breath and waited for the inevitable week long lesson on T.J. Eckleberg and his eyes. My professor commented on them once and they weren’t even on the test. After listening to him talk about the book and the author I had to take his Hemmingway and Fitzgerald course the next semester. It’s now one of my favorite books!”

From Classic to Contemporary: Pride and Prejudice to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries… and eventually to Austenland

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion… but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful… or maybe not.

prideandprejudice2The Classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

In one of the most quoted and famous novels of all time, Miss Elizabeth Bennet makes astute observations about the societal structures in place around her while simultaneously trying to avoid her mother’s attempts to marry her off to an appropriate man.  While encouraging her elder sister’s romantic attachment to a very eligible bachelor, Lizzie meets his friend, Mr. Darcy, and the two immediately come to detest one another.  Through a series of unfortunate interactions and the verbal machinations of others, Lizzie’s hatred for Darcy continues to deepen and when he unexpectedly proposes, she refuses.  When her youngest sister, Lydia, elopes with a dashing, but devious soldier, Mr. Darcy covers the scandal and sees them properly wed.  Upon these actions, Lizzie knows that Mr. Darcy truly must care for her and she must admit to her own growing feelings for him.

From Classic to Contemporary: Persuasion to For Darkness Shows the Stars

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.

persuasionAnne Elliot had once been happily betrothed to a poor but kind naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. When both her family and a trusted friend objected to the match, however, Anne broke the arrangement and spent the next nine years deeply regretting her action. When Wentworth reemerged a newly rich and successful Captain after the Napoleonic Wars, Anne’s family was on the brink of financial ruin. To help defray costs, they’d rented their home and lands to Wentworth’s sister. Forced to be in each other’s company once again, Anne and Frederick must each decide whether they can be persuaded to put aside their own hurt and mistrust to reconcile with the one person they each treasured the most.

From Classic to Contemporary: Romeo and Juliet to Warm Bodies

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic:  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

romeo and juliet folger shakespeare library coverBy the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably been overexposed to this story and all the literary analysis that goes with it. You’ve seen both the Franco Zeffirelli film from 1968 and the Baz Luhrmann one starring a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Paul Rudd. And there’s another version slated to be released later this year in the UK, adapted by Downton Abbey favorite Julian Fellowes. If for some reason, you’ve never read it — not even the Wishbone version — here’s the breakdown.*

There are two families in Verona, a town in Italy (where Shakespeare set most of his plays. There’s a lot of talk about how he stole a bunch of these stories from Italian stories, but we’ll save that for another day). These families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and all of their servants, friends, and allies, have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember. When we enter the story, the violence between the youths of the families has escalated to the point where the Prince of the city has had to intervene.

Meanwhile, some of the Montague cousins (and family friend Mercutio) have discovered that the Capulets are having a party and decide to crash. They implore Romeo, the son of the Montague patriarch, to join them. He’s lovesick over some girl named Rosaline — whom we never see — and reluctantly decides to go. There, he sees and immediately falls for Juliet, who, it turns out, is the daughter of the Capulet patriarch. Much drama ensues, confusion prevails, and what everyone in 1597 thought was going to end up like a comedy (well, what they thought if they weren’t listening to the prologue) ends in tragedy and death.

The Contemporary: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Classic to Contemporary: The Secret Garden to The Humming Room

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secret-garden3 “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

When young orphan Mary Lennox arrives at her uncle’s English manor, the spoiled girl, used to a pampered life in India, immediately decides that she will simply not enjoy her new life. Readers soon find their sympathies aroused as the somewhat neglected girl forlornly explores the estate alone day after day. It is not until she locates the secret door to a long-forgotten garden and embarks upon a covert journey to its restoration that Mary finds purpose in her new existence.  Assisted by a young friend, Dickon, a friendly robin, and a gardner who excels at keeping secrets, Mary breathes new life into the garden. When she discovers Colin, a sickly, hidden cousin, it is Mary and the revitalised garden that help him recouperate. It is Mary who finally not only strengthens the secret garden, but also her family’s deepest relationships, finding a new forever home.  

The Contemporary: The Humming Room by Ellen Potter