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.
Readalike 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.
Readalike for The Importance of Being Earnest
This hilarious play stands the test of time and may convince teens that not everything they read in English class from Ye Olden Tymes is difficult to understand or dense. After they finish that (and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, of course), here is their next read:
- 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
Hijinks, road trips, love, and absurdity collide in this irreverent story. It should be great for any reader who enjoys the snark and complete self-centeredness of Algernon Moncrieff.
Readalike for Wilde’s fairy tales
More mature readers may enjoy digging into Wilde’s fairy tales and then move onto adult writers like Anne Sexton or Angela Carter. But for some lighter reading, try this:
- Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Sunday Woodcutter meets a frog. He talks. He may be a prince. The Woodcutter family may have some beef with the prince’s family. The kickoff to a series that ties in lots of fairy tale tropes and characters in new and unexpected ways with a little bit of humor should be the perfect complement to Wilde’s original and charming fairy tales.
Readalike for Wilde’s personal life
Wilde was married to a woman and had children with her, but he was also accused of being gay and put on trial for sodomy. He was generally unapologetic about any aspect of his life or work.
- Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
To be closeted or not to be closeted? That is the question in this novel, which deals with a boy who is given the chance to reinvent himself at a new school. Given that Wilde was unafraid to be the man he was, this thought-provoking book may help questioning teens figure themselves out and allow any teen at all the opportunity to consider what it means to have a sexual identity.
–Hannah GÃ³mez, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn