Why We Love a Good Retelling: Fairy Tale Nostalgia in YA Romance

Have you ever wondered why you are so drawn to certain romance novels? YA Fairy Tale retellings bring us joy, comfort, and twists to nostalgic classics that make us ask for more.

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Whether your parents read them to you at bedtime or it was one of your favorites as a child, fairy tales are comforting stories. As we grow as readers it’s reassuring to see the stories we love most grow with us. Reimagining the fairy tale to suit the YA genre and bringing a more realistic approach to YA romance enhances the experience.

There is something intrinsically comforting about picking up a book where you already have a connection with the characters, though you’ve never read it before. The heroine’s name may not be Snow White or Belle anymore, but the premise of their story calls to the classic that came before it. From the Grimm Brothers to Disney to Maas, the story just continues to build.

Fairy Tales have specific criteria, no matter the age-appropriate category they’re placed in; good vs evil, royalty and the supernatural, some form of a lesson, and of course, the Happily Ever After. While the classics have no doubt made an impression on our young minds, it’s the newer fairy tales that are rapidly becoming fan favorites, and here’s why.


The Retelling Throws in New Twists to the Classic Plot

As the saying goes, times change. And, so too, does the narrative. In this case, Beauty gets her Beast, but maybe she does the saving. Perhaps it isn’t the wolf that’s the villain, but the woods he lives in, and his mate turns out to be Red, who together must bring peace to their kingdom. Removing the stereotypes of the past and updating the tropes to today’s ideals are what revived the fairy tale genre. Throw in some more modern ideas of romantic partnership and you’ve got yourself an intriguing story.

fairy-tale-retelling-curse-so-dark-and-lonely; book cover

Brigid Kemmerer’s twist on the Beauty and the Beast classic gets a contemporary upgrade in A Curse So Dark and Lonely. The beast, Rhen, changes into a man for one season a year, autumn. Beauty, Harper, has cerebral palsy and is from modern-day D.C. No good deed goes unpunished as she’s thrust into Rhen’s world after trying to help someone on the streets.

Modern Romance in Fairy Tale Retellings for the Win

Briar Rose doesn’t need to be left behind to save the kingdom from Maleficient. She can fight alongside her Prince bringing peace to the realm, too. Women are far more independent in our society and the reader likes to see a heroine she can identify with. Strong male protagonists, who invest in their love interest’s strength and independence? Yes, please!

The Princes’ are not as charming as they are believable. They’re not singing in the middle of the forest about having known the girl once upon a dream, they’re more likely to be an enemy turned lover. Love, at first sight, isn’t as exciting as tension and animosity are. As they say, there’s a thin line between love and hate.

for-the-wolf-ya-fairy-tale-romance; book cover

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten is a twist on Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. The second daughter of the royal house is sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood, as had happened to each generation before her. Relieved to finally accomplish her duty and never harm another, Red finds out the woods and the wolf aren’t quite what history has made her believe.

Versatility in Retelling a Fairy Tale With Modern Concepts

A fairy tale is a concept; love conquers all, evil is thwarted, and everyone lives happily ever after. That doesn’t mean that the setting has to be that of medieval times. Retellings in the sci-fi genre include a Cyborg Cinderella who is a mechanic and saved the world in an intergalactic war with her prince in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

fairy-tale-retelling-stealing-snow; book cover

The contemporary era meets fantasy when Snow White escapes a mental asylum and treks into the woods in Upstate New York in Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige. The liberties the authors can and have taken to reimagine fairy tales are limitless.

So grab a blanket and a cup of tea, and snuggle into your favorite reading spot to sink into your next adventure. If you can’t get enough of fairy tales, here are a few more recommendations:

Love the fantasy side of fairy tales? Click here to read this month’s featured article on Black fantasy writers!