The best young adult fairytale retellings

The Books I Picked & Why

Cruel Beauty

By Rosamund Hodge

Book cover of Cruel Beauty

Why this book?

This brilliant Beauty and the Beast retelling has hints of Bluebeard, and begins with the iconic line “I was raised to marry a monster.” The story follows Nyx, who lives in a world with a parchment sky, and is forced to become the bride of the Gentle Lord—the prince of demons who cursed her homeland centuries ago. But Nyx’s father has trained her all her life to break the curse, and to kill the Gentle Lord. Fueled by anger and bitterness, Nyx is both terrified by and drawn to Ignifex. As she navigates the maze of rooms in his magical house, can she bring herself to complete her mission? Or will her own heart betray her?

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The Puppetmaster's Apprentice

By Lisa DeSelm

Book cover of The Puppetmaster's Apprentice

Why this book?

This fascinating, gender-swapped Pinnochio retelling has a few hints of Frankenstein, and is gorgeously written. The main character, Pirouette, begins life as a tree and is carved into a puppet by her father, then brought to life by the magic of the blue moon. When the powerful Margrave of Tavia commissions Pirouette and her father to make one hundred wooden soldiers or risk imprisonment, they have no choice to comply. And then the Margrave makes an additional demand: he wants Pirouette to carve him a life-sized assassin—and then bring it to life. But is she making a monster or a masterpiece? And can she keep her own origins a secret?

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By Heather Dixon

Book cover of Entwined

Why this book?

This is my favorite The Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling! Heather Dixon includes all twelve princesses, named after various plants, and gives them distinct enough personalities that not only can you keep them straight, you care about each one. This story follows Azalea, the eldest of the twelve sisters, and the mysterious Keeper, who invites the princesses to dance every night in his silver forest. But the Keeper likes to keep things, and can Azalea bear to pay the cost? Eerie and gorgeous, romantic and masterful!

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A Rush of Wings

By Laura E. Weymouth

Book cover of A Rush of Wings

Why this book?

A poignant, passionate retelling of The Seven Wild Swans set in an alternate Scotland, this gorgeous book stars a prickly, fierce girl who will do anything to save her brothers from a wicked enchantment. Rowenna’s mother Mairead dies before she can teach Rowenna the magical craft she is so desperate to learn. But when Mairead seemingly comes back from the dead, Rowenna is powerless to defeat the evil creature wearing her face, who proceeds to curse Rowenna, her brothers, and the boy named Gawen Rowenna rescued from the sea. The boys are turned into swans by day, only shifting back to their human forms at night. Rowenna herself is robbed of her voice by day. There is only one thing that can save her brothers and herself—shirts woven out of stinging nettles. But can she weave the shirts before time runs out?

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By Edith Pattou

Book cover of East

Why this book?

A retelling of the Norwegian fairytale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, East—also called North Child—is the book that introduced me to this fairytale, and is still one of my absolute favorites. It follows the story of Rose, whose superstitious mother insists she’s an “East” child, not a wild and unpredictable “North” child. When Rose agrees to go and live with a talking white bear to save her family from poverty, she finds herself in a magical house, and is strangely drawn to the white bear. Told in alternating POVs—including one from the Bear, which reads like sparse, free verse poetry—this book is glittering, bright, and beautiful.

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