7 YA Novels That Update High School Required Reads
No offense to all the high school English teachers assigning hundred-year-old books for the millionth time, but there are YA novels that do just as good of a job with the same themes. Bitter ex-AP students will also be surprised to learn that classic literature and fun YA reads have quite a bit in common. Below are seven YA novels that bring required reading into the twenty-first century with important changes.
Lord of the Flies → Wilder Girls by Rory Power
If Lord of the Flies taught us anything, it’s that mayhem ensues when you leave a bunch of teens unattended on an island. This feminist retelling follows boarding school girls quarantined after their teachers die of a mysterious disease. When one of three best friends goes missing, it’s up to the other two to uncover why they’re really deserted on the island.
Macbeth → Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin
The opening witches’ chant in Macbeth declares “fair is foul, foul is fair.” Just as Macbeth learned that justice may wear an ugly face, Jade learns the same when she takes revenge one-by-one on a group of boys who thought they could make her a victim. They’re about to find out the hard way that Jade is the wrong girl to mess with.
The Great Gatsby → Great by Sara Benincasa
If you read The Great Gatsby and thought “that wasn’t gay enough” then you’re in luck. In this contemporary adaptation of the classic, Naomi finds herself entangled in a web of drama during a summer in the Hamptons. As she watches It-girl Jacinta try to reconnect with old flame Delilah, a Gossip Girl-esque tragedy unfolds.
The Catcher in the Rye → The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Everyone loves a good coming-of-age story, and if you’ve tired out your copies of Catcher and Perks of Being a Wallflower you might want to look into The Beginning of Everything. Ezra has a lot on his plate senior year, from girl problems to homecoming to his broken leg. This quirky contemporary is sure to capture hearts.
To Kill a Mockingbird → Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Mockingbird might be the most popular required read in America but it’s time to pair it with a book about race relations from the perspective of a young black American. As Justyce becomes the victim of police brutality and the media fallout he writes a journal addressed to Martin Luther King Jr. wondering if his teachings still hold up.
The Odyssey → Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
For anyone who appreciates the story of The Odyssey but is frustrated by the language barrier, you’ll easily connect to this modern YA adaptation. After an earthquake destroys LA, Pen longs to find her family guided by a tattered copy of The Odyssey. Along the way she makes friends and enemies, assembling into a team of four LGBTQ+ teens for this voyage of mythical proportions.
Pride and Prejudice → Deadly Curious by Cindy Antsey
Honestly, if you’re a fan of Jane Austen you’ll fall head over heels for any of Cindy Antsey’s books so feel free to dive into her whole bibliography. For now, we’ll put a spotlight on Deadly Curious, which immediately transports you to London in the 1830s. Aspiring detective Sophia investigates her cousin’s suspicious death, which puts a darkly mysterious spin on the world of Pride.