14 Fractured Fairy Tales for Teens
by Devon A. Corneal
Fairy tales are a staple of bedtime reading for children. Unfortunately, dwarves, giants, and magical mirrors seem to lose their appeal after elementary school. Happily, there’s no reason teens have to leave these enchanting stories behind. They just need new, creative, more adult versions of their old favorites. That’s why we’re thrilled to share a list of some of our favorite fairy tale retellings that we know will enchant your young adult readers.
Have you ever imagined Snow White in the Roaring ’20s with seven street urchins instead of dwarves? Interested in a modern-day LGBTQ retelling of Cinderella? These aren’t your grandmother’s fairy tales, and that’s a good thing.
Six Crimson Cranes
Magic, curses, dragons, and a banished princess combine in this unputdownable mashup between The Wild Swans and East Asian folklore. It’s about a teenage princess named Shiori with hidden magic. When her stepmother exiles her and turns her brothers into swans, Shiori sets out to break the curse and uncovers an underground plot to overthrow the empire.
House of Salt and Sorrows
If you love spooky fairy tales with plenty of thrills and chills, pick up this retelling of 12 Dancing Princesses. Annaleigh’s once-wealthy family has suffered multiple tragedies, and now her sisters have started dying. Convinced that something sinister is happening, she tries to prove that her sisters’ deaths were not accidents. As she investigates, she finds ghostly visions, gruesome dreams, and deadly curses haunting her family.
Skin of the Sea
YA readers everywhere are obsessing over this fractured retelling of The Little Mermaid. When Simi rescues a drowning human boy, she angers the gods and puts all Mami Wata (mermaids) in peril. Simi embarks on a journey across the sea to save her people and restore order, where she crosses paths with ancient gods, monsters, and magic.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
The first book in the Rise of the Empress series takes the bones of a traditional fairy tale — a poor girl destined for power, an evil queen determined to stop her, unrequited love, and magic — and gives them a richly imagined East Asian setting.
This creepy twist on Rumpelstiltskin will send shivers racing down your spine. Ellerie lives in a small, isolated town surrounded by a monster-filled forest where the creatures can give you anything for a small favor. As more and more townspeople bargain with the creatures, Ellerie realizes that her home, family, and world are in mortal peril.
Other Ever Afters
Next time you’re in the mood for an unusual fairy tale that ends in unexpected ways, pick up a copy of Other Ever Afters. This graphic novel is filled with feminist and queer retellings, making it a quick and fun way to satisfy your craving for fractured fairy tales.
Cinder & Glass
Romance gets complicated in this gorgeous retelling of Cinderella from the New York Times bestselling YA author Melissa de la Cruz. After her father’s death, Cendrillon’s stepmother forces her into servitude until she attends a royal ball where she meets the crown prince. She tries her hand at catching (and marrying) the prince — while falling in love with his younger brother. Watch for this author’s Snow White retelling, Snow & Poison, coming in April 2023!
Flame in the Mist
The very best fairy tales speak to us about common truths, no matter their setting, and this new novel from Renée Ahdieh does just that in a story about a young girl striving for a life unconstrained by her gender. Anchored in Feudal Japan, the story of Mariko’s quest to realize her potential will definitely resonate with adolescents.
The Guinevere Deception
YA readers who love the legend of King Arthur will enjoy this retelling from Guinevere’s point of view. Guinevere goes undercover as King Arthur’s wife while searching for the source of dark magic threatening to destroy Camelot. New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White gives readers a story filled with magic, romance, and heart-stopping suspense.
The Bone Spindle
Go on the adventure of a lifetime with this fractured fairy tale retelling of Sleeping Beauty. When she pricks her finger on a bone spindle, Fi becomes the unsuspecting guardian of Prince Briar Rose’s spirit. To break the curse and return Briar Rose to his throne, Fi teams up with a warrior girl named Shane to tackle dark magic, a witch, and whatever else comes their way.
Most of the titles on this list contain dark magic and high-stakes adventure. Geekerella offers fairy tale lovers a lighter option based on modern fandoms, cosplay contests, and marketing gimmicks. For more adorkable twists on fairy tales, pick up the author’s other books, The Princess and the Fangirl and Bookish and the Beast.
Sometime After Midnight
The sweetness of this romance, which kicks off with a Cinderella-like meeting, will win over every reader. When Nate and Cameron meet at a night club, they immediately bond over their shared love of music. That night, Cameron takes a photo of Nate’s sneakers before he abruptly disappears. Will the photo be the key to tracking Nate down? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Fairy tales, with their bold characters and gripping plots, are uniquely suited for graphic retellings. Matt Phelan’s decision to put Snow White in gritty 1920s New York is brilliant, fusing Wall Street and urchins with the familiar evil stepmother to create a fascinating take on this classic.
Egg & Spoon
From the author of Wicked comes this marvelous take on Baba Yaga. Imperial Russia perfectly captures the atmosphere of the traditional Baba Yaga stories, complete with her chicken-leg house, while allowing Maguire to imbue them with new life.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2022.