The story of a sweet, poor girl falling in love with a rich "prince" is not new, and every time we hear the story we immediately think Cinderella. The monstrous-seeming boy whose beastly ways are turned around by the patient girl brings to mind Beauty and the Beast.
A handful of YA fairy tale retellings pop up every year. Some hold close to the original tale, deviating little from original story lines and characters, while others use the themes as a guideline only, building a rich new world and cast of characters around those themes.
These are the best retellings, I think. I am drawn in by the mix of something comfortable and familiar combined with a fresh, new *big* spin. And when there are so many writers drawing inspiration from fairy tales, you need something to help your story pop. That could mean having the reader ask questions about the characters' sexual orientations, like ASH, by Melinda Lo (Cinderella), or placing the tale in an unexpected setting, such as Nazi Germany, as with BRIAR ROSE by Jane Yolen (Sleeping Beauty). Instead of recounting a story word for word (with minor changes, like putting it in a modern high school), really dig into the story and determine how turning some aspects of it on its head helps deepen the themes. Play up a dark, sinister thread, ask yourself how the story would play out if told from a maligned character's perspective or challenge the characters to be more than two-dimensional examples.
That doesn't mean you can't have ballgowns and castles and love. Sometimes, a breezy retelling hits the spot. Even so, how are you going to tell the story so that it is set apart from everything else out there? Meg Cabot's PRINCESS DIARIES series is classic Cinderella, but it's hard to not have fun with these books, with their endearingly clueless main character and snappy dialogue.
Don't shy away from the possibilities, should you want to draw on the vast fairy tale literary legacy. Whether you choose a well-known, Western tale, or a multicultural tale, give the story your own twist, your own flavor, and something unexpected to blend with the familiar.
What are your favorite fairy tale retellings?