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William Shakespeare died 400 years ago on April 23. If you didn’t know that, chances are you will in the near-future, since it means a lot of books about the Bard and a lot of celebrations of his work are upon us.
Shakespeare is a staple of high school classrooms, and he’s also a staple of theater departments throughout the English-speaking world. I thought it would be fun to explore Shakespeare through YA lit over the next few weeks, to see how many iterations, fascinations, and spins on his stories are readily available. For many readers, pairing the classics with something modern is a great way to enjoy or understand someone’s work even more.
Let’s begin this series of Shakespeare YA themed posts with a look at three titles that retell his classic stories in contemporary ways. And if you missed it last fall, I compiled a “3 On A YA Theme” about recent diverse takes on Romeo & Juliet.
Exit, Pursued By A Bear by EK Johnston (a take on A Winter’s Tale)
Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.
But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:
Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.
Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.
The Fool’s Girl by Celia Reese (a take on Twelfth Night)
Violetta and Feste have come to London to rescue the holy relics taken from the church in Illyria by the evil Malvolio. Their journey has been long and their adventures many, but it is not until they meet the playwright William Shakespeare that they get to tell the entire story from beginning to end
We Were Liars by E Lockhart (shades of King Lear)
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
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