10 Enchanting YA Books That Are Actually Based on a Classic Fairy Tale

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If you’ve ever seen Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story, then you’re well aware that modern re-imaginations of classic fairy tales (Cinderella in particular!) can be downright epic. While it may seem kind of boring to read the same story over and over again, the twists and turns that the author chooses to add can wind up making the book feel nostalgic and familiar, yet somehow completely unique at the same time.

A lot of the time, authors who try their hand at re-doing a classic tale take common criticisms (i.e. that they are totally sexist) and flip them upside-down: gender-swapping, queering characters and turning the damsel into the hero. Keep reading to see 10 contemporary adaptations of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella.


Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1), by Marissa Meyer

This first book in The Lunar Chronicles series is Cinderella, cyborg-style! Linh Cinder, the main character, is part-human, part-robot living in New Beijing, a war torn city in Asia, and a ravenous disease is wiping out the population. Of course, the classic elements of the Disney fave are there: a glamorous ball and a dashing, young prince, too! If you're not already sold on adding this book to your reading list: there are three sequels AND a prequel — all of which are based on a different fairy tale!

Photo: Macmillan Publishers

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted is a fairy tale retelling slightly aimed towards younger YA readers, but it's one of the most popular versions of the Cinderella story (and the film adaptation has Anne Hathaway in it so you KNOW it's gotta be good!).

TBH — this book is an early feminist Cinderella. In Gail's version, Ella had been given the "gift" of obedience by a fairy when she was born and that means she LITERALLY has to do everything asked of her (that sounds familiar, no?). While the intention behind the fairy's blessing was to make the girl's life easier, the consequences make unwavering obedience 100 percent a curse.

Photo: Scholastic Books

Ash, by Malinda Lo

Fairy tales get a lot flack for being soooo heteronormative (A.K.A. only featuring straight couples) so Malinda adds a twist to the classic Cinderella tale and makes one of our favorite princesses gay! Instead of escaping her mundane life by falling into the arms of a handsome prince, she falls for the King's huntress, Kaisa. Of course we love to see LGBTQ+ folks represented in more forms of entertainment — and it's even better as a spin on one of our all-time fave stories!

Photo: Little Brown Books

Damsel Distressed, by Kelsey Macke

What might be so important about Kelsey's re-imagination of Cinderella is that it puts the story in a more REALISTIC frame. Imogen, our protagonist, is dealing with real-life issues: body insecurities, depression, anxiety and grief — and it's actually her stepsister, Ella Cinder, who is making her life a living hell. If you can relate to Imogen, she just might end up being your favorite book character of all time.

Photo: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass Series #1), by Sarah J. Maas

Cinderella as an assassin seems dark AF and yet also way too intriguing to ignore. Plus, instead of just one Prince Charming, there are two — and as always, a love triangle tends to raise the stakes a bit.

Some call this book series a "female version of Game of Thrones" (tbh, didn't know that Game of Thrones was considered a "male" series in the first place...) but that's just straight-up inaccurate because Throne of Glass (and GoT) can be enjoyed by ALL genders and honestly don't have that much in common aside from their similar names and being a part of the fantasy genre.

Photo: Bloomsbury USA

Six Impossible Things, by Fiona Wood

If you couldn't tell already, we love a Cinderella story with a funky, new-age twist, and Six Impossible Things is exactly that.

Dan Cerelli (an anagram for 'Cinderella') tells the story: he's recently found out his father is gay AND his massive crush on his neighbor, Estelle, is seemingly going nowhere. It's got everything you need to be a real page-turner and we LOVE to see the gender-swap in literature!

Photo: Little Brown Books

Cindy Ella, by Robin Palmer

After an Op-Ed she wrote about all the reasons why prom is basically the. worst. thing. ever. gets published in her high school newspaper, pretty much everyone besides Cindy's two BFFs decide to shun her. The strange exception is, of course, the hottest senior at the girl's school... who also happens to be her BIG TIME crush. You've gotta wonder if getting attention from the apple of her eye will make Cindy change her tune on how horrific prom is...

Fun fact: Robin also wrote Geek Charming, the book that the same-named Disney Channel Original Movie is based on!

Photo: Speak

Just Ella (The Palace Chronicles #1), by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Cinderella, or just 'Ella' in this version, is all set up to marry her Prince Charming when The Palace Chronicles picks up the classic fairy tale. But is the world of royal manners, etiquette and glass slippers actually the world that Cinderella wants to be in? "Happily Ever After" just might mean "in captivity for good" if Ella doesn't figure out what she wants and how to get it — fast!

Photo: Simon Pulse

Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton

Two things that aren't usually put together actually become a fascinating story in Cinderella's Dress: fairy tales and World War II. There are moments of creepiness, intensity and suspense in this Historical Fiction/Fantasy novel. There's also a sequel called Cinderella's Shoes (which P.S. is apparently even better than the first!).

Photo: Entangled Teen

Roses & Bones: Myths, Tales & Secrets, by Francesca Lia Block

This book is actually three stories in one and earned a spot on this list even though it doesn't actually "retell" Cinderella in a classic way. Part three of the book, called "The Rose and the Beast," is actually compromised of nine short stories which draw on different classic fairy tales like Cinderella (obvs), but also Snow White, The Beauty and the Beast and Thumbelina.

Photo: HarperTeen

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