To Be Or Not To Be Retold—YA Edition | SLJ Spotlight

4 stellar YA titles that put a fresh, contemporary spin on the classics.
If you have teens that can’t get enough of classics retold, these picks just might slake that thirst. From a topsy-turvy take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to a graphic novel adaptation of the “Pied Piper” tale by Jay Asher, these YA works will make wonderful companions to the originals that inspired them.

Anderson, Lily. Not Now, Not Ever. 352p. Wednesday Bks. Nov. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250142108.

Gr 8 Up –Elliot “Ever” Gabaroche Lawrence is a science fiction–loving, Oscar Wilde–quoting, running machine. Unlike most 17-year-olds, she has definite ideas about her future after high school. Unfortunately, those plans don’t coincide with her mother’s Air Force academy, or her father’s law school intensive dreams. Elliot decides to risk the ire of both parents to seize her one chance at charting her own course. She signs up to compete in the Melee at Rayevich College. The Melee is an academic boot camp competition that pits genius against genius in a trial that will test their mental and physical capabilities. The winner of the Melee wins a scholarship to Rayevich College, which is the one school that would allow Elliot to fully explore her love of science fiction literature. Elliot must navigate the sabotage attempts of her fellow boot campers, an unexpected familial complication, a new love, and the plans of her parents in her effort to win her prize. This is wonderful book that explores the desire to be loyal to family and to create a space that belongs solely to oneself. Ever’s is a fresh and welcome voice that unashamedly embraces her geekiness. The follow-up to the author’s The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You is inspired by The Importance of Being Earnest and gives teens permission to simply be themselves. VERDICT This is an engaging title that would make an excellent addition to school and public libraries.–Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

Asher, Jay & Jessica Freeburg. Piper. illus. by Jeff Stokely. 140p. Penguin/Razorbill. Oct. 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780448493664.POP

Gr 6 Up –Maggie, who lives in a small village in the woods, is a dreamer. Ignored and abused by the other villagers because she is deaf, she takes refuge in her imagination, making up stories of forging a better life and finding love. Maggie becomes attracted to the handsome, magical stranger who arrives in town, and hopes that her dreams might come true. He appears to return her feelings, and they form a bond, but however kindly he treats her, the piper must still be paid. In this vivid reimagining of the Pied Piper legend, the artwork features rich, saturated hues with noticeable color differences among everyday life in Hameln, the muted shades of Maggie’s daydreams, and Piper’s and Maggie’s dark backstories. The characters’ dynamic body language and expressive faces speak volumes, especially during dramatic sequences. During quieter moments, the illustrations and dialogue shine. Asher, Freeburg, and Stokely take a fresh look at an intriguing, centuries-old legend. However, the protagonist’s lip-reading abilities are not always realistically portrayed. ­VERDICT A moving graphic novel about isolation, love, and retribution, this dark version of a familiar tale will remain with readers long after the last page is turned. Fans of the authors and Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods will adore this tempting piper’s song for the eyes.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

George, McKelle. Speak Easy, Speak Love. 432p. bibliog. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062560926.

Gr 9 Up –This debut novel explores what Shakespeare’s characters in Much Ado About Nothing would do and act like in the roaring 1920s. In this retelling, Beatrice has come to live with her Uncle Leo on his estate on Long Island. Beatrice quickly learns that the old mansion, called Hey Nonny Nonny, and its occupants are much more than meets the eye: her uncle and cousin are running a struggling speakeasy out of the basement. Beatrice butts heads with one occupant, Benedick, a trust-fund kid trying to become a writer. While the two can’t seem to reconcile, their friends trick them into thinking they like each other. George adeptly captures Shakespeare’s witty characters and transplants them to the 1920s. All of the play’s characters make an appearance and George cleverly incorporates all the romantic misunderstandings among the well-rounded characters. Skillfully, the author has named each chapter title with a quote from the source material. The time period is accurately portrayed, and George is able to explore jazz, prohibition, women’s rights, and even organized crime. An author’s note and bibliography, expands on the historical details. Overall, this retelling is witty and clever, but may not stand alone if readers are unfamiliar with the original play. VERDICT A great purchase for school libraries where Much Ado About Nothing is being taught or for public libraries looking to purchase more historical fiction.–Aileen Barton, Sherman Public Library, TX

redstarMedina, Tony. I Am Alfonso Jones. illus. by John Jennings & Stacey Robinson. 176p. Tu Bks. Oct. 2017. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781620142639. POP

Gr 9 Up –Alfonso Jones loves to play trumpet and is thinking of trying out for his class’s hip hop–themed Hamlet. On a shopping trip with his crush Danetta, the African American teen, who is looking for his first suit to wear in celebration of his father’s release from jail, is shot by a white off-duty cop who incorrectly assumes the suit hanger is a gun. The rest of the graphic novel jumps among Alfonso’s past, the aftermath of the shooting, and his experience on a possibly never-ending train ride with other victims of police violence, including Amadou Diallo as his guide. Medina’s juggling of the three threads isn’t always graceful, but the variation of Robinson and Jennings’s panels and design pushes the narrative forward. A teacher’s dialogue with Alfonso’s classmates is illuminating and realistic. The outrage and grief are palpable, and the black-and-white illustrations enforce the gut-punching pull of each character’s journey. And as Alfonso meets the historical figures who preceded him, readers will understand the systemic racism that underlies these violent cases. VERDICT A brutally honest and bleak but necessary selection for all graphic novel collections.–Shelley M. Diaz, School ­Library Journal

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