I am a voracious, enthusiastic reader of all things young adult and one of the things that interests me the most as a reader, reviewer, and editor is the way that we write about girls, how those stories are framed, and how we engage with them. Warning: this column contains girls. And spoilers. But mostly, girls.
Looking at folklore and old tales and reinterpreting them is nothing new, of course; the Brothers Grimm did just that 200 years ago, and SFF and YA authors have been engaging with this kind of material for a long time.
That said, I do feel like there has been a renewed interest in YA to reimagine fairytales through feminist, subversive, and diverse lenses, with stories focused on girls and their empowerment. I recently read three of these—three novels published this year, three retellings that take beloved stories/tropes and turn them upside down. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill is a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” with a side of Slavic folklore and their Rusalka via an Irish history of policing women’s bodies. Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore is Swan Lake meets “Snow White and Rose Red” from a Latinx viewpoint. Finally, Damsel by Elana K. Arnold looks at the trope of the damsel in the dragon tower waiting to be rescued by a prince.