Discussion: The Small Details of Retellings

Hi guys! I hope you’ve had a good week and can do lots of reading this weekend. 🙂

Today I have a post I’ve had in my head for a while, and that’s about retellings. We all know them, we’ve all (probably) read at least one, and some of us (me included) love them. But how often are the small details considered, such as similarity, originality, and diversity? Let’s talk!


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I know this is more of a subjective topic, and depends more on readers as individuals more than anything else. Is there a middle ground, a happy medium? How close should a retelling be to the story it’s based on?

In December I read two retellings: A Whole New World by Liz Braswell and The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury. Both were good books, but I definitely enjoyed one more. I thought A Whole New World had a brilliant, unique story, but with references to the Aladdin movie I grew up watching scattered throughout. Meanwhile, I enjoyed The Forbidden Wish, but found it hard to make any connections between it and the movie.

On another note, let’s look at A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. * It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, as I’m sure you all know by now, and there are very mixed thoughts, as I’m sure you also know. There are plenty of similarities to the original story, at least the Disney version of it, but also a ton of twists and turns. I never expected the events of the last 150 or so pages, and I imagine a fair amount of people can say the same.

* Would it really be one of my posts if I didn’t include ACOTAR somehow?? I mean, really. 😛

What I’m getting at is this: how different should a retelling be? How similar? If it’s too similar, it becomes predictable, and yet if it’s too different it’s hard to tell if it’s actually a retelling. How do you balance the new and the old? Personally, I want to be able to find references to the old story, and a good amount of them, but I also want to be surprised as I read. 😉

I think most of you can agree when I say that 98% of retellings that are currently published and out in the YA world retell the same few stories. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin… There are a few others, out and upcoming, that are different, like The Little Mermaid (specifically, The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember) and Mulan (specifically, Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh). As much as I love retellings of those stories, I’d love more that explore other fairy-tales and legends. I’ve already mentioned The Little Mermaid and Mulan, but I would also love Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The 12 Dancing Princesses, Alice in Wonderland, and various myths.

On a similar note, recent retellings have improved their diversity factors as well. I know Beast by Brie Spangler is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the modern world where Belle is transgender. Ash by Malinda Lo is a retelling of Cinderella in a fantasy world with a girl-girl romance. I found this list on Goodreads of diverse YA retellings, though it’s short. This is progress for sure, and I think it will be even better in the coming months and years. I found on Twitter an idea for a Mulan retelling where Mulan is transgender and really does become Ping. With so many new groups in both the LGBTQ+ and POC categories and rising awareness toward mental illnesses and disabilities, the possibilities really are close to endless.

I know the last paragraph turned a bit more into a general diversity post, but my point is just that I think more variation in retellings would make it a much more intriguing genre. Overall, I think retellings are a really interesting discussion topic, and I’d love to what you think! 🙂

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How similar do you think retellings should be to the original story? What fairy-tales and myths would you love to see retold more often? What’s your favorite retelling that you’ve read so far? Which one is at the top of your TBR? I’d love to know! 🙂

I’m off to continue reading Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes and cry inwardly as it breaks my heart and toys with my emotions. Fun times, fun times! XD I hope you all have a fabulous (and much more peaceful) day/night! ❤

Until next time…

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