7 Fairytale-Inspired Book Recommendations for Your TBR

Fairytale retellings are overdone. These seven stories feature similar themes and tropes to classic fairytales without falling into dreaded cliches.

Book Culture Classics Recommendations Young Adult

Let’s face it– Fairytale retellings are overdone. Limited by pre-ordained plot points and endings, renditions of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White have become tiresome and predictable. Sure, these classic fairytales are popular for a reason, but it’s time for us to move on!

If you’re still craving a little magic and romance, don’t worry, there are options. Try one of these seven stories that feature similar themes and tropes to classic fairytales without falling into dreaded cliches.

1. Rapunzel – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

"Everything, Everything" is emblazoned upon a cacophony of colorful flowers, symbols, and settings. With an overbearing mother, a damsel-in-distress, and a handsome boy next door, this book is perfect for fans of the fairytale "Rapunzel."

What it’s about: Diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, Maddy is allergic to the world. As in, she hasn’t left her sterile house in fifteen years. Despite having only her mother, nurse, and books for company, Maddy’s grown content with her life. However, when an attractive new neighbor moves in, Maddy can’t stop thinking about him. Suddenly determined to get out of her bubble, Maddy will risk her life for love.

Why you’ll like it: Simply put, Everything, Everything is about a girl who sets out on an adventure with a cute guy after having been trapped inside for her whole life by her mother. With lies, romance, and one complicated mother-daughter relationship, Everything, Everything is perfect for Rapunzel fans.

2. Mulan – The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

Clothed in ancient Chinese war attire, a girl holds a bow and arrow. "The Poppy War" has similar themes to the legend of Mulan.

What it’s about: R. F. Kuang imagines an alternate war-torn Asia inspired by the 19th-century Opium Wars. The Poppy War follows Rin, a peasant orphan whose only chance to escape poverty and arranged marriage is to ace the government’s exams and earn a place at the illustrious Sinegard Academy. When Rin discovers she possesses an affinity for the dangerous art of shamanism, she realizes that control over her powers could turn the tide of the war.

Why you’ll like it: Similar to the legend of Mulan, Rin faces discrimination from her Sinegard classmates on behalf of her color, poverty, and gender. And with cruelty, violence, high stakes, and a dash of magic, this military fantasy is perfect for lovers of Chinese mythology.

3. Aladdin – When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The cover of "When Dimple Met Rishi" features a smiling girl holding an iced drink in her henna-covered hand. Perfect for fans of the fairytale "Aladdin."

What it’s about: Dimple Shah needs a break from her Mamma’s obsession with finding her the “Ideal Indian Husband.” She’d much rather focus on attending a summer program for aspiring web developers. Rishi Patel, on the other hand, wants to be arranged—he’s a hopeless romantic who believes in the power of tradition and heads off to the same STEM camp with plans of wooing his future wife. Dimple and Rishi think they have each other figured out, but love often appears where you least expect it.

Why you’ll like it: With themes of parental expectations, honor, and tradition, lovers of Aladdin will find contemporary similarities in When Dimple Met Rishi. Dimple and Rishi’s whirlwind romance delves into finding personal fulfillment when familial obligations clash with personal dreams and life plans, making this the perfect contemporary fairytale retelling.

4. Hercules – The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The cover features a Greek metal helmet upon a turquoise patterned background. With romance, war, and sacrifice, "A Song of Achilles" gives ode to the myth of Hercules.

What it’s about: The Song of Achilles retells the story of Greece’s greatest hero, Achilles, from the perspective of his best friend, Patroclus. While Achilles is strong, swift, and charismatic, Patroclus is a gangly young prince exiled from his homeland. Despite their differences, the two form an inseparable bond that eventually transforms into romance. Trained under the centaur Chiron and called to arms against Sparta, the two friends must brave war and violence to survive.

Why you’ll like it: Awkward, hapless, and caring, Patroclus has distinct similarities to Disney’s representation of the mythical Hercules. Combined with the tale of Achilles— a brawny hero sent to war for his people— The Song of Achilles hits all the important plot points. And, like every good fairytale, Madeline Miller packs the story with romance.

5. Alice in Wonderland – The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

A silhouette of a falling girl bisects the book cover, revealing a fairytale sunset underneath an image of the galaxy. "The Love that Split the World" is perfect for fans of "Alice in Wonderland."

What it’s about: Natalie Cleary lives an ordinary teenage life until she starts catching glimpses of things that shouldn’t be there. They are small, almost magical changes at first, but then suddenly her entire hometown disappears for hours and is replaced by rolling hills and farmland. When a mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother” appears, charging her with the task of saving a beautiful boy named Beau, Natalie sets off on an adventure that transcends reality and time.

Why you’ll like it: Just like Alice, Natalie is thrown into a new world where magic, time-traveling, and paranormal activity are, well, normal. Mystical, dreamlike, and transcendental, The Love That Split the World is perfect for readers hungering for a trip to Wonderland.

6. Cinderella – Geekerella by Ashley Poston

A girl in a blue formal dress leans up against a food truck labled "The Magic Pumpkin." With an evil stepmother, garish step-sisters, and one drop-dead gorgeous prince, "Geekerella" is perfect for "Cinderella" fans.

What it’s about: Elle Wittimer is obsessed with Starfield, a cult classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. When she hears of a Starfield cosplay contest boasting a first-place prize of attending the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball— and the chance to meet actor and real-life Prince Charming Darien Freeman— Elle has to enter. Even as her stepsisters work against her, Elle’s determined to win. Meanwhile, Darien dreads the upcoming ball, feeling like a fake, until he meets a perfectly cosplayed girl who finally makes him feel real.

Why you’ll like it: With an evil stepmother, garish stepsisters, and one drop-dead gorgeous prince, Geekerella has all the makings of a good fairytale retelling. The modern-day twist of sci-fi fandoms, orange food trucks, and Hollywood fame make this adorable romance one you can’t miss.

7. The Little Mermaid – Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

A man and woman stand side-by-side under a starry night sky. Similar to the fairytale of "The Little Mermaid," the novel "Part of Your World" has romance, sacrifice, and drama.

What it’s about: 37-year-old workaholic Alexis Montgomery has her life all planned out. Despite coming from a family legacy of ultra-wealthy, famous surgeons, Alexis chooses to become a “mere” ER doctor to avoid the spotlight. She mostly succeeds until a car crash throws her into the orbit of Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot 28-year-old carpenter. Young, ignoble, and unpredictable, Daniel is as far from Alexis’s world as he can get—but the chemistry between them is undeniable. When their short-term fling starts to feel like something more, they both have to decide whether they can sacrifice their old lives for each other.

Why you’ll like it: Just like the Disney adaptation of the famous fairy tale, Alexis and Daniel must come to terms with their highly dissimilar backgrounds. While no underwater kingdoms are involved, Jimenez includes a sprinkling of magic and references to satisfy The Little Mermaid fans.

Any of these seven reads will easily satisfy any fairytale craving. With surprising new perspectives, twists, and characters, you’ll never feel like you’ve read something too similar before. But if you’re a stickler for faithful fairytale retellings, check out these articles for more recommendations.