8 Fairy Tale Retellings to Leave Teens Happily Ever After

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: Livia Masci, Moment/Getty Images

Though we may realize their flaws — too-perfect princes, too-passive heroines, too many pat happily-ever-afters — we always return to fairy tales. No matter our complaints, these stories stay with us.

The new generation has grown up with these stories, too, and is now seeing them revived in young adult retellings that are many times modernized or futurized. It’s a brave new world for princesses and their glass slippers!

Here are some of the best fairy tale retellings, fit for a teen.

  • Cinder

    by Marissa Meyer

    A retelling of "Cinderella," this first entry in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles is set in New Beijing, where humans and androids crowd the streets. Cinder is a cyborg and a second-class citizen, and when she falls for Prince Kai, trouble ensues.

  • Fairest

    by Gail Carson Levine

    From the author of Ella Enchanted (itself a retelling of "Cinderella"), this spin-off plays with both the Snow White story and Cyrano de Bergerac. In Levine’s tale, Aza is just plain ugly, but she happens to have an amazing singing voice, a prized thing in her kingdom. She also possesses the power to “illuse,” or throw her voice anywhere. She’s blackmailed by Queen Ivi, who needs Aza’s lovely voice to preserve her reputation.

  • Fables series

    by Various Authors and Illustrators

    Available from:

    This comic-book series — available in graphic novel form — is an amazing mash-up of dozens of different tales. The noir-esque story is set in a clandestine New York neighborhood called Fabletown. The long-running series has some material suitable for more mature readers, but the serialized format and amazing artwork make this is a great choice for reluctant readers.

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  • A Long, Long Sleep

    by Anna Sheehan

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    Anyone who’s ever complained that "Sleeping Beauty" is a touch, um, passive, will find Sheehan’s retelling quite redemptive. Rosalinda Fitzroy has been in a chemically induced state of sleep for 62 years when she’s suddenly woken by a kiss and learns she’s heir to an interplanetary empire. Readers who don’t like Rose at the start of the book admit to being very pleasantly surprised by her development over the course of the story.

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  • Princess of the Midnight Ball

    by Jessica Day George

    A retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” George’s version is set in a fictional 19th Century Europe. The tale adds depth to the original fairy tale about a young soldier (who knits!) charged with learning why the castle’s twelve princesses must dance their shoes to tatters each night. The book includes knitting patterns for teens looking to pair a hobby with their reading habit.

  • Grim

    by Various

    Big-name YA writers — from Julie Kagawa and Ellen Hopkins to Amanda Hocking and Malinda Lo — take on short-story retellings of Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Standouts include a retelling of “Bluebeard” by Rachel Hawkins, “Hansel and Gretel” by Kimberley Derting, and “Beauty and the Beast” by Sarah Rees Brennan.

  • The Looking Glass Wars

    by Frank Beddor

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    Though Alice in Wonderland isn’t technically considered a fairy tale, its fantastical elements seem to make it fair game for a retelling. Alyss Heart is heir to the throne in Wonderland, until her aunt Redd kills her parents, causing Alyss to flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. With plenty of battles and some sci-fi touches, this is a good one for boys.

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  • Briar Rose

    by Jane Yolen

    Part of Yolen’s Fairy Tale series, Briar Rose is another retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" but this time with a familial spin. Protagonist Rebecca has always been enchanted by her grandmother’s amazing stories about Briar Rose. But her grandma's dying words, "I am Briar Rose," set Rebecca on a journey to uncover the truth.