I don’t know about you, but though I’ve always been a bookworm, most “classics” have always been a hard pass. All through school, I struggled with Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf. But, I’ve never been able to resist a retelling of a classic tale. So, my fellow GGAers and I have compiled a list of five awesome books that reimagine some classic tales. This is not your average summer reading list.
Austin Chant‘s Peter Darling is a sequel that reimagines some of the basic concepts of Neverland and Peter Panitself. Peter Darling is simultaneously hopeful and heartbreaking. In Chant’s tale, Wendy isn’t real: Peter Darling is a trans man whose parents force him to live as Wendy. So, ten years later, Peter returns to Neverland and gives himself a new identity — Peter Pan — and a new body. Captain James Hook is a gay* man who was born without one hand. In Neverland, he can be a swashbuckling pirate who lost that hand in battle, who can take a man as a lover. Also, what if all that animosity Peter and Hook felt towards each other was … something else? And, like, as much as Chant has woven a beautiful enemies-to-lovers romance, they have also created a love story about owning your body. I def cried.
What if every fairy tale you knew was wrong? What if the characters existed, but their events unfolded differently from how you’ve heard? And, what if the good guy wasn’t exactly all that good? Second Hand Curses by Drew Hayes is the retelling you never knew you needed. Hayes presents what he calls “the Bastard Champions” of the fairy realm, who are on a quest to find and destroy the Blue Fairy. Who are these champions? They are mercenaries for hire — you have a task, they’re at your service. Jack, Marie and Frank, which aren’t exactly the names you may know them by, work as needed while traveling from town to town, village to village. Recognizable stories from your childhood pop up, though with fun twists. If you have the time, or if you prefer audiobooks, check out the Audible exclusive version; the wit and action really come to life! — Talyna Morrison
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter
This book in the list of retelling of classic stories is Sherlock Holmes, but make it a futuristic queer sci-fi comedy — that’s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall. It’s almost parody, considering how ridiculous John Wyndham (our Watson character) is. Still, the story’s central mystery is gripping enough that the book never jumps the shark (though someone does punch a shark). Shaharazad Haas is a drug-abusing, a**hole pansexual sorceress in need of a babysitter roommate, and fairly new to the planet Khelathra-Ven, John is low on options. Ahh. A match made in heaven. Also, John is a gay trans man who comes from an extremely religious planet and the fact that he’s routinely scandalized by everything Shaharazad does is endlessly amusing.
CW: (provided by author) Violence, threats of violence, guns, imprisonment, on-page smoking and drug use, heavy drinking, mentions of past trans rejection, mild on-page transphobia (one scene).
The Chosen and the Beautiful
Jordan Baker is wealthy and talented but also queer, Asian and adopted. She slips in and out of people’s lives and homes, exoticized for her background despite having wealth and status enough to fit in with high society. She wiles away the days with her friend Daisy Buchanan and attends parties at the Gatsby mansion, all while figuring out her place in 1920s New York. Like its source material, The Great Gatsby, The Chosen and the Beautifultakes place over one sweltering, climactic summer. Readers will be instantly transported to the roaring twenties; intoxicating parties and secluded speakeasies are at the center of Nghi Vo’s first novel. This is a gorgeously written and unapologetically queer reimagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, perfect for the languid heat of the summer. — Alex Faccibene
CW: Abortion, car accident, colonialism, death, domestic abuse, murder, racism, drug abuse, alcohol use.
tl;dr: Fairytales on acid. The Faraway Collection is an anthology of retellings of classic stories: The Prince and the Troll by Rainbow Rowell, Hazel and Gray by Nic Stone, The Princess Game by Soman Chainani,The Cleaners by Ken Liu and The Wickeds by Gayle Forman. This collection of tales is described as “fairy tales for the here and now.” And, yes, ’tis true. From meditations on Starbucks and climate change to cleaners who wipe away memories, I wasn’t always sure what I was reading, but I was here for it. The series is available exclusively on Amazon.
CW: Child abuse (sexual and emotional), kidnapping, rape, murder, sex trafficking, drug use, sex.
There you have it, folx! Five awesome books that are retellings of classic stories. Have you read any of them? Did we miss your favorite? Sound off in the comments below!