The best YA books inspired by classic fiction

Who am I?

I have a real love of classic fiction and my first novel The Pretender is a modern-day adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. I discovered this story as a child when a relative gave me a copy to read on the journey home from Scotland. While aspects of the story are frequently copied, the essence of the original novel felt forgotten. It’s such a beautiful story with many of the themes still relevant today that I decided to adapt it so a modern audience could rediscover and fall in love with it all over again. As an author, I draw a lot of inspiration from the classics.

I wrote...

The Pretender

By Katie Ward,

Book cover of The Pretender

What is my book about?

Life for Princess Isabella is far from a dream, trapped by tradition, protocol and the stifling burden of inheriting the crown, she longs to escape her shackles. After fleeing her abusive home, Sophia and Isabella meet at the palace gates. Realising how alike they look, they plan to switch places for one week. What could possibly go wrong? What starts out as a naïve plan to follow their dreams soon takes an unexpected turn with events quickly spiralling out of control. As the nightmare continues around them, it’s a race against time to stem the devastating consequences of their actions.

The books I picked & why

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Always Never Yours

By Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka,

Book cover of Always Never Yours

Why this book?

One of my all-time favourite stories is Romeo and Juliet but since it’s been covered so many times before it rarely feels new. However, Always Never Yours is a strong adaptation of this classic as it provides such an original viewpoint. Megan is definitely no Juliet, she is the one before guys meet their ‘one.’ She’s used to never being chosen and instead focuses on her ambitions in theatre directing. However, to get into her dream college she needs an acting credit. Seeking the comfort of the smallest part in the play, she’s aghast to be cast as Juliet. I love a story that shows us the development of a character and this is a great illustration of that as we follow Megan’s journey of self-discovery and love.


By Jenny Moke,

Book cover of Hood

Why this book?

As an archery enthusiast, I always feel a bit Maid Marian when I’m practicing with my bow and arrow! This historical YA reimagining of Robin Hood gives a new perspective on one of our most beloved childhood tales. However, it doesn’t focus on Robin as we’d expect but instead on his teenage daughter as she flees the clutches of King John in search of the father she has never known. Finding herself forced into a world of criminals to search for safety. This is a great adaptation and gives the story a whole new angle which makes it feel brand-new yet still features the beloved characters we’d wish to see. I love that this book allows you to rediscover such a classic story all over again!

Second Star

By Alyssa B. Sheinmel,

Book cover of Second Star

Why this book?

Peter Pan has always been a bit of a dark story, I remember as a child being quite concerned about how easy it was to kill Tinkerbell and why Peter needed his shadow stitched back on! Second Star is a modern but dark retelling of this children’s fable, set in sunny California and amongst the surfing community, we follow a 17-year-old Wendy as she searches for her missing brothers. Stepping into a dark world, she finds herself drawn to the Cove’s enigmatic leader Pete but she is also pulled towards his dangerous and drug-dealing nemesis, Jas. This novel shows how a classic can be used as inspiration but the author is still able to make the story their own and I always enjoy reading that.

New Girl

By Paige Harbison,

Book cover of New Girl

Why this book?

I do have a real penchant for dark stories and thrillers that ooze suspense and intrigue and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the best for that. I haven’t come across many stories that have adapted this so I was definitely interested in that. New Girl is a suspenseful adaptation of this classic. After the mysterious disappearance of an elite school’s most popular student, the new girl, who remains unnamed through most of the story, finds herself taking Becca’s place within the school and her friendship groups but is always aware she’ll never be able to escape her shadow. This is also a dual POV book. I enjoy both writing and reading from this perspective. This is an excellent adaptation of this mysterious classic.

Olivia Twisted

By Vivi Barnes,

Book cover of Olivia Twisted

Why this book?

Hands up who wasn’t in a play of Oliver Twist at school! This is such a classic and theatre favourite which I remember starring in twice. But this is a truly modern and interesting reimagining of a Dicken’s masterpiece. Olivia is an orphan, strong and independent but with wounds from her many years within the care system. When her computer skills are noticed she is recruited to Syke’s hacker gang of cyber thieves which masquerades as a home for unwanted children. Each chapter starts with a quote from the original which foreshadows the events to come and provides a nice correlation between this version and the original. I really love how endearing the characters can be despite their flaws. This adds a really nice dimension to the story.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in theatres, Robin Hood, and hackers?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about theatres, Robin Hood, and hackers.

Theatres Explore 52 books about theatres
Robin Hood Explore 5 books about Robin Hood
Hackers Explore 8 books about hackers

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Modernism in Kyiv, Will in the World, and Censoring Racial Ridicule if you like this list.