Apr 27, 2012

Friday Five: Modern Retellings - Novels

I just finished a big project based on Retelling (familiar stories with a twist), so they've been constantly on the mind for the past month.  That means that you get to hear about them!  This is why last week's Friday Five installment involved teen movies based on classics.  This is how my mind works.

There are many, many, many, many  retelling available.  These are only five young adult options and not all are super great, but teens would definitely enjoy them.

Five Modern Retelling - Novels
1. Romeo's Ex: Rosaline's Story, by Lisa Fiedler
I wouldn't say that I detest Romeo and Juliet.  But I do say that it's Shakespeare's best comedy.  What? Comedy you say? Yes.
Juliet was also a rebound in Shakespeare's version.  So think about that the next time you sing the praises of a make believe couple.

Anyway, in this re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, we mainly get Rosaline's side of the story.  Turns out she's actually got a thing for Benvolio, and together they want to bring an end to the Capulet and Montague feud.  While not the best book in the world (her desire to study and be a healer is a little forced to add feminist power), I like that it puts Rosaline into focus because so many forget that she existed in the background.

2. Avalon High, by Meg Cabot
When she’s forced to move to D.C. for a year while her King Arthur obsessed parents are on sabbatical, Ellie knows her junior year is going to be terrible. Sure enough, the high school is a little weird.  In this modernized retelling, Ellie encounters a bunch of students who seem to act like characters from King Arthur tales.  They even have the same names.  Ellie just thinks it's a coincidence, but then a teacher warns her that the stories are true and the high schoolers are actually reincarnations of real people.  

I liked this book a lot because you didn't need any prior knowledge of King Arthur to understand what was happening.  There's a lot of explanation in the text which was helpful to people like me who tend to shun classics or just never got the chance to read them. 

3. Golden, by Cameron Dokey
Part of the Once Upon a Time series, this novel shines a new light on Rapunzel.  In this version, she doesn't have the long, golden hair for a prince to climb.  No, here she's actually bald.  When she finds out the sorceress who raised her has a real daughter locked in a tower, Rapunzel promises to help set her free and, in doing so, learns about love.

I liked this book enough, but it got a bit weird near the end when the real daughter is this super weak girl who doesn't know how to talk to people.  Ok, I get that she's been locked in a tower for years, but to have someone speak to a boy for you and agree to your eventual marriage to said boy, and then just set off to marry him like it's no big deal?  I can't buy that.  I buy the sorceress stuff before that plot point.  But the baldness gets a thumbs up from me.

4. This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel
This retelling is a prequel to Frankenstein.  Victor is a teenager with a twin dying from a mysterious illness.  Despite the fact that alchemy is illegal, Victor sets out to create the Elixir of Life, using directions from a book he stole from his family's "Dark Library."  In doing so, he gets his first taste of power and what it's like to give the power of life.

Now, I personally hated Frankenstein, and much preferred Young Frankenstein and it's Broadway counterpart, but I liked this prequel.  Obviously parts are a little far fetched because they're creating the Elixir of Life and there's absolutely zero mention of Nicholas Flamel (which just irks me and not even for Harry Potter reasons), but it's intriguing.  I did like how the twin's name, Konrad, was a nod to Konrad Dippel, another noted alchemist born at Castle Frankenstein.

5. Something Rotten, by Alan Gratz
This is a modern mystery version of Hamlet.  Hamilton Prince's family owns a massive paper plant that is releasing poisonous chemicals into the river.  Nonetheless, they have a fortune and life is good until someone goes and offs Hamilton's father, his mom marries his uncle, and so on and so forth.  His friend Horatio decides to play detective to figure out whodunnit. 

It's the exact same story, but with modern elements.  Cancer instead of poison, alcoholism instead of madness, environmentalism instead of...well madness, it's pretty nifty. I liked this book the best out of this bunch, although The Lion King is still THE best version of Hamlet ever.

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