A Tale to (Re-)Tell

Maybe it’s a trend, or a micro-trend, or just the order in which I’ve happened to attack my reading stack, but my favorite teen/young adult reads lately have been retellings of classic stories.

thegirlsThe Girls by Tucker Shaw, coming out in April, is a modern take on Clare Boothe Luce’s play The Women. The all-female cast of characters in Shaw’s novel are students at an uppercrust boarding school in Colorado. The insidious and inescapable consequences of gossip (and some people’s unquenchable thirst for it) provide most of the suspense and tension in this story, for although the plot seems to revolve around the infidelity of  Mary’s boyfriend, the real story is how will she find out, who can’t wait to tell her and why, who her real friends are, and (almost as an afterthought) what she will decide to do about it. I have to admit, dear reader(s), that I have never read or seen a production of the play on which this novel was based. I have, however, seen the 1939 movie of  The Women (starring Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, and Joan Crawford) more times than I should probably admit publicly. Although for the first few chapters I kept having flashbacks to the movie, as Shaw retained the original character names, this book certainly stands on its own two feet as a fun teen read with a bit of bite.

Speaking of bite, do you remember the myth of Persephone and how eating  pomegranate radiantdarknessseeds cost her six months a year in the Underworld? Well, apparently that isn’t how it happened at all! According to Persephone herself in the forthcoming Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman, mythology has it all wrong. Actually, she was tired of her mother, the goddess Demeter, treating her like a child and she longed for romance and adventure. So when the handsome Hades invited her to be his queen, she happily accepted. Not without major consequences, of course, for herself and the entire world above ground. Though it flounders a little in the beginning, in my opinion (we get it–your mom smothers you!), once Persephone arrives in the Underworld the tale becomes much more taut and interesting, and we get to travel with Persephone on her fascinating journey as she grows into her roles as a queen and as an adult. Radiant Darkness arrives in May.

Another book that meets the criteria of a retelling with teen appeal is one that I really shouldn’t mention here. But what the heck–the blog is young and there aren’t that many people reading it yet! Fool by Christopher Moore is most definitely not one written or published for the teen audience, and I don’t carry it in my store because, frankly, if I sold it to a parent for a teen (which is usually the case here), the teen, the parent, and I would all die of embarrassment. It’s… let’s say “bawdy.” In fact, the advance copy I read earlier this year came in a plain brown wrapper with the following warning:

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank . . . If that’s the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!”

And this is not an exaggeration. Not even close. So if you are easily offended, you will not want to read this and certainly will not want to hand it to your teen. However… if you have a high threshold of tolerance for vulgarity and enjoy a good laugh, you should get this book for yourself immediately. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in years. It’s basically a retelling of King Lear in novel form, narrated by the king’s fool. While it doesn’t stick strictly to the original story by any means, it does get across the basics of Lear’s plight  in a very accessible way. With a lot of extra shagging. When you consider how much teens already know (much more than adults ever want to admit), this little book is unlikely to corrupt them beyond repair. Let’s say older teens (seventeen and up, to protect my bookseller backside) as well as adults will find much to be mildly but very enjoyably shocked and embarrassed by in Fool.

fool1Again, due to the vulgarity and gratuitous shagging and so forth, I don’t stock this one even in the young adult section, especially since so many advanced readers who are definitely too young for it frequently browse there. But we will be happy to order it for you at no extra charge. We’ll even throw in a complimentary plain brown wrapper.

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Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. P.S. – And I told her to check out your shop!

  2. I enjoyed your review/commentary on “Fool” by Christopher Moore. Made me laugh. I forwarded it to a friend of mine there in Asheville who’s a big fan of his.


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