10 Contemporary YA Novels Inspired by the Classics

An open book

Recently, I was processing books at work and realized how many titles are inspired by classics. I love retellings because they provide an excellent introduction to classic literature for young people. I’m not one who believes every reader needs much classic lit in their life, but it can help to be familiar with prominent authors and titles since their work is referenced so often. Teens who plan to pursue an English degree or library work might be especially interested in classic retellings.

Today I’m sharing ten contemporary novels based on the classics, from Jane Austen to “Beowulf.” There’s something for everyone, so keep on reading.

Ordinary girls book cover

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh (Inspired by Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)

A lighthearted contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility finds two sisters, complete opposites in temperament, who discover that the secrets they have been keeping make them more alike than they realized.

His hideous heart book cover

His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined edited by Dahlia Adler (Inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe)

Thirteen of Poe’s terrifying works are reimagined in new and unexpected ways for modern readers. Poe’s own stories are included, so readers can compare.

Lost in the never woods book cover

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (Inspired by Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie)

When children start to go missing in the local woods, eighteen-year-old Wendy Darling must face her fears and a past she cannot remember to rescue them in this novel based on Peter Pan.

We are the perfect girl book cover

We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan (Inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand)

A warmhearted retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac finds two teens, the outgoing Aphra and the beautiful Bethany, working together in an unintentionally escalating deception to win the heart of a mutual crush.

Star without Stars book cover

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (Inspired by Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)

This sweeping reimagining of Les Misérables tells the story of three teens from very different backgrounds who are thrown together amidst the looming threat of revolution on the French planet-colony of Laterre.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride by Ibi Zoboi (Inspired by Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

A blade so black book cover

A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney (Inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

This isn’t the Wonderland you remember. The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew. Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White (Inspired by Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

The events of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein unfold from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, who is adopted as a child by the Frankensteins as a companion for their volatile son Victor.

Grendel's Guide to Love and War book cover

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A. E. Kaplan (Inspired by “Beowulf”)

A teen misfit resolves to defeat a local bully who upsets the senior community by constantly throwing wild parties, an effort that is complicated by the teen’s father’s PTSD, his unrequited feelings for the bully’s sister and an existential crisis related to his mother’s death.

A study in charlotte book cover

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes character from Arthur Conan Doyle)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson descendants, Charlotte and Jamie, students at a Connecticut boarding school, team up to solve a murder mystery.

All summaries are from NoveList.


Have you read any of these? What novels would you add to this list?

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