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10 YA Shakespeare Retellings to TBR

Tirzah Price

Senior Contributing Editor

Most of Tirzah Price's life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has worked as an independent bookseller and librarian. She’s also the author of the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, published by HarperTeen, and Bibliologist at TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.

This list of YA Shakespeare retellings is sponsored by Wednesday Books.

Jade, Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of—until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target. They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

William Shakespeare’s work has permeated nearly every corner of literature, from retellings and adaptations to books that revolve around the study or performance of Shakespeare’s works. The YA field is no exception, and today we’ve rounded up some of the best YA Shakespeare retellings—books that take Shakespeare’s characters or plots and give them a new twist. I wasn’t able to include every YA retelling out there (because there are so, so many), but I tried to offer a good selection of titles and genres and vary the source material a bit. Get ready to be swept away by some of the best YA Shakespeare retellings to TBR!

The only thing worse than me is you coverThe Only Thing Worse That Me is You by Lily Anderson

This laugh-out-loud funny retelling of Much Ado About Nothing is about a group of competitive, nerdy teens at an academically rigorous school. Trixie and Ben are rivals who have been fighting for the #3 ranking in their class, but they’re forced to spend time together when their best friends fall in love. But when a cheating scandal puts their friendships and love lives at risk, Ben and Trixie must discover who is behind it, once and for all.

If You Come SoftlyIf You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson’s 1999 novel is a loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and is about a Black boy and a white Jewish girl who meet at their New York City school and immediately fall for each other, despite coming from very different backgrounds. The language is as poetic as (but much more accessible than) Shakespeare’s original work.

we were liars coverWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a very, very loose retelling of King Lear, about Cadence, whose family owns a private island. On that island, her wealthy grandparents own a home and have gifted a house to each of their three daughters. Cadence and her cousins spend every summer there but one summer, secrets and lies collide and something terrible happens. Two summers later, Cadence returns to confront the past.

exit, pursued by a bear e.k. johnston book coverExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnstone

Hermione Winters is a cheerleader and captain of a competitive, successful team. When she and her team attend a cheer camp with their entire league before the season begins, someone slips something into her drink and Hermione is assaulted. Now, she has to deal with the fallout and redefine herself as someone other than a victim in this loose retelling of The Winter’s Tale.

As I DescendedAs I Descended by Robin Talley

In this retelling of Macbeth, Maria and Lily are their boarding school’s power couple, and they’ll do whatever it takes to lock in their status. Desperate to stay together and ensure their future, they need to make sure that Maria wins a prestigious scholarship—even if it means crossing a dark line to take a scholarship from their school’s golden girl.

Romiette and JulioRomiette and Julio by Sharon Draper

When Romiette and Julio meet, their attraction is obvious, and their emotional relationship is a welcome relief against the pain and troubles of their own lives. But their interracial relationship won’t be tolerated by a local gang, and so they must take incredible risks to get to safety, only for their carefully laid plan to go horribly wrong.

Fool's GirlFool’s Girl by Celia Rees

In this clever and meta spin on Twelfth Night, Violetta and Feste head to London to rescue relics stolen by Malvolio, and along the way meet William Shakespeare himself—but all the while they must not lose sight of their mission to restore the stolen artifacts and return home to Illyria.

A Steep and Thorny WayA Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Starring a biracial girl named Hannalee in 1920s Oregon, this retelling of Hamlet looks at race, class, and history. Hannalee’s father died in a hit-and-run accident last year, but when she hears a rumor that her new stepfather is to blame, she goes looking for her father’s ghost to find the truth.

This Must Be LoveThis Must Be Love by Tui T. Sutherland

In this fun retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, best friends Hermia and Helena have all sorts of hilarious and Shakespeare-worthy mishaps in love as their school puts on a production of Romeo and Juliet and they strive to connect with their crushes.

These Violent DelightsThese Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Look for this retelling of Romeo and Juliet coming out this fall! Set in 1926 Shanghai, this book follows Juliette as she assumes her place as the heir to a powerful gang. But their rivals are fighting for their territory at every step, run by Juliette’s first love, Roma. When a mysterious darkness begins stalking Shanghai, Juliette and Roma must work together to stop it in order to save their people.

Want more? Check out my post about three awesome Much Ado About Nothing YA retellings, and be sure to put That Way Madness Lies edited by Dahlia Adler on your wishlist—it’s an anthology of YA Shakespeare-inspired stories out next year!