10 YA Novels Re-imagine Shakespeare Works

From a choose-your-own-path Romeo and Juliet to a Macbeth retelling that channels #MeToo, there's something here for all teen readers and fans of the Bard. 


As I Descended. Robin Talley. HarperTeen. 2016.
Something wicked comes to Virginia’s elite Acheron Academy in this modern retelling of Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s darkest works. A séance reveals cryptic prophecies and opens the door to spirits, leaving the characters unable to control their actions. A tale about fate and ambition that addresses racism, classism, and homophobia.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear. E.K. Johnston. Dutton. 2016.
A gripping take on The Winter’s Tale, this is an intensely emotional look at cheerleader Hermione Winters, who is drugged and raped, and the aftermath of this horrific crime. An empowering story of support and female friendship.

Foul Is Fair. Hannah Capin. Wednesday. 2020.
Macbeth meets #MeToo in this brutal, rage-filled, bloody tale of sexual assault and vengeance. A sisterhood of girls plays out an over-the-top revenge fantasy as they scheme, manipulate, and murder the guilty parties.

The Last True Poets of the Sea. Julia Drake. Disney-Hyperion. 2019.
Violet and Liv fall for each other in coastal Maine in this character-driven novel full of complicated, messy relationships. Loosely based on Twelfth Night, more melancholy romance than comedy, this is a quietly moving story about mental health, sexuality, family, secrets, and shipwrecks.

Macbeth. Gareth Hinds. Candlewick. 2015.
A graphic novel adaptation that retains the rhythm of the Bard’s language, this abridgement brings the characters to life, letting facial expressions, vivid scenes, and an effective and moody palette help carry the story.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You. Lily Anderson. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2016.
Geeky rivals find love in this comic book, fandom-filled take on Much Ado About Nothing. With snark, humor, and clever banter, it captures the spirit of the original in a nerdy tale of enemies falling for one another.

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure. Ryan North. Riverhead. 2016.
Anything can happen in this delightfully ridiculous and interactive take on Romeo and Juliet. Veer from the canon and brace yourself for ninjas, pirates, happy endings, side quests, secret paths, puzzles, and puns.

The Steep and Thorny Way. Cat Winters. Amulet. 2018.
In 1920s Oregon, biracial Hanalee investigates her father’s death with the help of his ghost in this Hamlet-inspired novel. A captivating look at history, racism, betrayal, and survival.

That Way Madness Lies. Dahlia Adler, ed. Flatiron. March 2021.
Fifteen YA authors bring diversity, inclusivity, and creativity to a variety of Shakespeare’s works in this forthcoming anthology.

These Violent Delights. Chloe Gong. S. &S./Margaret K. McElderry. 2020.
As a lethal infection ravages the city, Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, heirs to rival gangs, solve its mystery in this Romeo and Juliet retelling. Set in 1920s Shanghai, this political narrative stars a diverse cast speaking many languages.

Amanda MacGregor (@CiteSomething) blogs at “Teen Librarian Toolbox.”

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