3 Great Orpheus and Eurydice Retellings in YA

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.

Lerner Books.

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Retellings never go out of style, especially in YA, and so many abound—retellings of fairytales, myths, classics, legends, and more. It’s always notable when you find those books whose source material is a little lesser-known than the most popular tales, or perhaps not retold as frequently. This month’s publication of Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera got me thinking about retellings of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Although there are many variations of the myth, it is about two lovers who share a strong bond. When Eurydice dies, Orpheus travels to the Underworld where he makes a deal with the god of the dead in order to free his love. There are three YA books that retell or draw upon this myth, so I thought we’d explore them today!

Note: There isn’t a lot of diversity in this very specific sub-genre. We hope that publishing will continue to prioritize diverse retellings by authors of color!

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Eury has just arrived in the Bronx after a hurricane back home in Puerto Rico changed everything for her family. But she’s haunted too, and convinced that she’s being followed by an evil spirit and it’s only a matter of time before tragedy strikes again. Then, she meets Pheus, an enchanting young man and gifted musician who is immediately drawn to Eury…but her demons win’t let their love thrive, and it may take everything they have in order to fight to be together.

Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Raya grows up with her grandmother in a small Texas town, abandoned by her mother. She has a secret: Her best friend Sarah is more than a friend. But when their love is discovered, they’re both sent to a conversion therapy camp in order to stamp out their love. Raya maintains hope that she can rescue herself and Sarah from this fate, even as the camp abuses and mistreats them and their fellow campers—and she becomes fiercely determined to fight back, drawing on her love of mythology for strength.

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry

Tally is determined to become a famous astronomer one day, and is buoyed by the support of her adoptive family, who took her in after her mother abandoned her. But one day, she makes a life-changing discovery that sets her on an epic quest, and leads her straight to Maddy. As Tally falls for Maddy, she must also face the truth about her family, and decide if she is strong enough to make her way back home. (Note: This is the third in a series, but can be read as a standalone if you wish!)

Want more 3 on a YA Theme? We’ve got you covered!