If you’d asked me what my dream book would be, I probably would have conjured something that looks a lot like: FARAWAY, the new young adult collection of fairytale retellings from authors Rainbow Rowell, Nic Stone, Gayle Forman, Ken Liu, and Soman Chainani.
And not just because these are some of my favorite names in YA literature, but because …fairy tale retellings. With a modern twist! Doesn’t that sound like the perfect binge for the holidays?
Trust me, I thought so as I went into this and, then, believe it or now …I was even more enchanted as I started reading. Especially because there are not the fairytale retellings you might have expected to see – or at least not the ones that feel like old news at this point.
So, let me tell you a little bit about each of the books in this collection – though, if I’m being completely honest, the collection itself is worth a try. You might not have a long road trip in your future to visit family or relatives to run away from with a book, but …that means you’ll probably have more time to cozy up in your bed or couch and just read!
Win-win, even in a year that has felt like losing after losing.
And if there’s something we all need, it’s a little bit a happily ever after.
The Prince and the Troll By Rainbow Rowell
A charming everyman and a mysterious something-under-the-bridge cross paths in a short fairy tale by the number one New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and the Simon Snow series.
It’s fate when a man accidentally drops his phone off the bridge. It’s fortune when it’s retrieved by a friendly shape sloshing in the muck underneath. From that day forward, as they share a coffee every morning, an unlikely friendship blooms. Considering the reality for the man above, where life seems perfect, and that of the sharp-witted creature below, how forever after can a happy ending be?
There’s a lightness to this retelling, and that might just be Rainbow Rowell’s writing style, but I was positively charmed by a story that isn’t typically one of my favorites – new adaptations notwithstanding. Plus, the dialogue in this one is snappy and fun, and you won’t want it to end.
Hazel and Gray By Nic Stone
Two anxious young lovers lost in the woods. A beckoning mansion in a dark clearing. A short modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel by the number one New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin.
It’s bad enough that Hazel and Gray have defied the demands of Hazel’s foul stepfather. The Monster has forbidden their romance. Now they’ve awakened in the forest, phones dead, hours past curfew. But not far away is a grand estate in the middle of nowhere. The door is open. In this short story about choosing your own path, the fury of the Monster that awaits them back home may be nothing compared to what lies ahead.
If I’m being honest, Nic Stone was the one who caught my eye first, and thus the first of the collection I started reading. I’ve been a big fan of Stone since her first book, Dear Martin, and there’s just a warmth to the way she writes that makes any story leap off the page. Plus, the message of this particular story really resonated with me, and I think it really fits with the expectations the world has placed on us in 2020.
The Princess Game By Soman Chainani
There are no happy endings for the Princesses of Chaminade High in this short, twisty tale of teenage murder games by the New York Times bestselling author of The School for Good and Evil series.
The victims are the most popular girls in school, each murdered and arranged in a grim fairy-tale tableau. To find the killer, rookie detective Callum Pederson has gone undercover where the Princes hold court. He’s found enough secrets among the bros to bring them in for questioning—but he could very well get lost in the games the Princes play.
This one has a twist – or two! It is still recognizably a retelling, but murder mystery and princesses? Never knew that’s what I wanted! This one is also a bit longer than the other stories in the collection, by necessity, I feel, because there isn’t a world of it that feels dragging, instead it’s just the right amount to …you know, solve the crime.
The Cleaners By Ken Liu
Touch the past or wash it away? Two sisters have a choice in this unforgettable short story of everyday magic and the power of memory by the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author Ken Liu.
Gui is a professional cleaner at A Fresh Start, scrubbing away the unpleasant layers of memory that build up on the personal objects of his customers. Memory-blind himself, he can’t feel those wounds. Clara can, and she prefers them irretrievable. Until her sister, Beatrice, ultrasensitive to memory, raises one that could change Clara’s mind. For Gui, the past is gone. For Clara and Beatrice, deciding what to remember reaches to the heart of their shared history.
I have a soft spot for stories that are about family, and specially about sisters. This one is at once very clever and deeper than one would think at first glance, with the wonderful result that, as you read, you get lost in not just the world, but what the characters are thinking and feeling. It’s hard to pick a favorite of this collection, but this one definitely left me more emotional than the others.
The Wickeds By Gayle Forman
The reviled villainesses of Snow White, Cinderella, and Rapunzel team up to set the record straight in a subversively funny short story by the number one New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay.
Envious queen? Evil stepmother? Kidnapping hag? Elsinora, Gwendolyn, and Marguerite are through with warts-and-all tabloids, ugly lies, and the three ungrateful brats who pitted them against each other and the world. But maybe there’s more to the stories than even the Wickeds know. Is it time to finally get revenge? After all, they’re due for a happily-enough-ever-after. Even if they have to write it themselves.
You want a laugh? This one is funny funny, the type that will have you stopping to catch your breath, without letting go of the book, of course, because you just need to continue reading ASAP. The collection works in any order, but if you want my advice, leave this one for last and the whole thing will work much better. You wanted to come out of this feeling happy, after all.
FARAWAY, the new young adult collection of fairytale retellings from authors Rainbow Rowell, Nic Stone, Gayle Forman, Ken Liu, and Soman Chainani from Amazon Original Stories is available free to Prime members as well as Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Readers can download each story individually, or get the whole collection with just one click. Stories are also available for non-members for $1.99, with the option to add digital audio for free.