Shakespeare’s Legacy – Books of the Bard for Young Adults

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Article in Category:Young Adult Fiction and Category:Themes categories.

Shakespeare’s Legacy – Books of the Bard for Young Adults

This list is good for teen readers interested in Shakespearean themes & characters, and also in the theater arts. Created in Fall 2009 for Musings, Crozet Library’s Teen Writing Group.

The Man Himself and His Times

  • Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson—an engaging biography based just on what we can find out from historical sources.
  • Shakespeare Alive! , by Joseph Papp and Elizabeth Kirkland—Discover the London at the time when Shakespeare’s plays were first being staged. Who was who, how they lived, what it smelled like, and more.

Historical Fiction Set in Shakespeare’s Time

  • The story of Widge, an apprentice to Shakespeare’s theater company in Elizabethan England, is told in this series of theatrical mysteries by Gary Blackwood: The Shakespeare Stealer, Shakespeare’s Scribe, and Shakespeare’s Spy
  • King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper—An American boy playing Puck wakes up in Elizabethan England and finds acceptance and a mentor in Will Shakespeare. Will he return to his own time?
  • Shakespeare’s Daughter, by Peter Hassinger—Susanna’s life may be in danger after she runs away to be a singer, entranced by the life of the theater she sees through her father, William Shakespeare.
  • Swan Town: The Secret Journal of Susanna Shakespeare, by Michael Ortiz—Another story about Susanna, with as much adventure but with a lighter tone than Shakespeare’s Daughter (above).
  • The Fool's Girl, by Celia Rees

Modern Retellings

  • Romiette and Julio, by Sharon Draper - This retelling of Romeo and Juliet deals with Internet chats, gangs, and interracial romance.
  • Street Love, by Walter Dean Myers – a Romeo and Juliet story told in verse and set in modern-day Harlem. For yet another modern re-telling of R&J, try Star Crossed, by Mark Schreiber.
  • This Must be Love, by Tui Sutherland—Though the four main characters of this fun book are putting on Romeo and Juliet as their school play, they are actually retelling A Midsummer Night’s Dream in their various loves and losses.
  • Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, by Jody Gehrman – Hero’s clean reputation is at stake after bad boy John posts revealing pictures online; Geena trades witty put-downs with the skater boy-next-door. What else can you find in common with this updated Much Ado About Nothing?
  • Something Rotten: a Horatio Wilkes mystery, by Alan Gratz. Horatio Wilkes is just visiting his friend on a break from school when he gets embroiled in investigating the murder of his moody friend Hamilton Prince's father in Denmark, Tennessee. Guess which play this is based on?
  • Illyria, by Elizabeth Hand

Stories involving Shakespearean Characters

  • Ariel, by Grace Tiffany—The story of the dark fairy from The Tempest and her role in the story of the shipwrecked Prospero and his daughter.
  • Enter Three Witches, by Caroline B. Cooney - This tells the story of Macbeth from the point of view of a noblewoman in the Scottish castle, who fights to save lives from the power-mad Macbeths.
  • Ophelia, by Lisa Klein—Ophelia’s viewpoint sheds light on her relationship with Hamlet, as he falls into madness.
  • Shylock’s Daughter, by Mirjam Pressler — Jessica, living in the Jewish ghetto in 16th-century Venice, elopes with Christian Lorenzo, causing problems with her father Shylock, all characters in The Merchant of Venice.
  • Wondrous Strange, by Lesley Livingston—In this dark fantasy, 17-year-old Kelley, an actress playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, discovers she is a changeling, and the fairy characters in the play are alive and all around. Try the sequel Darklight.
  • Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. Beatrice arrived at the Théâtre Illuminata as a baby; and has lived there for all of her 17 years. The Théâtre Illuminata is no ordinary theater, however, and inside its walls live characters from plays, magically brought to life.
  • Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein.
  • Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub
  • Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Shakespeare’s Influence on Modern Lives

  • The Blue Avenger Cracks the Code, by Norma Howe—Sixteen-year-old Blue finds himself in Venice, cracking codes for his English teacher, who believes that Edward de Vere was the true author of Shakespeare’s work. Literary detection at its best.
  • Interred with their Bones, by Jennifer Lee Carrell— This literary mystery suitable for older teens follows a theater director on an international journey to uncover a long-lost Shakespeare manuscript.
  • The Juliet Club, by Suzanne Harper—a group of American and Italian teenagers attend a summer Shakespeare program in Verona. They learn theater, history, and love while studying the play Romeo and Juliet. (The Juliet Club is an actual group in Verona, and was also featured in the 2010 movie “Letters to Juliet”.)
  • Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) At Last, by Avi - Two eighth graders who secretly crush on each other are cast opposite each other in the lead roles of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Saving Juliet, by Suzanne Selfors—A teenage actress is transported into the story of Romeo and Juliet. Her actions may set the main characters onto a very different course than we expect—will the star-crossed lovers end up together?
  • Shakespeare’s Secret, by Elise Broach—Hero and her sister Beatrice (named for characters in Much Ado About Nothing) move to a new town, and Hero works to solve the mystery of an Elizabethan diamond hidden in a house next door.
  • King of Shadows by Susan Cooper – Nat is a young actor playing Puck at the Globe Theatre in modern London, when he mysteriously finds himself in the year 1599, and comes to the attention of Shakespeare himself. Many good historical theatrical details.

Want Just a Taste? Just Looking for a Good Quote?

  • Brush up your Shakespeare! by Michael Macrone—Famous phrases, the Bard’s own made-up words, a character index, and lots more Shakespearean tidbits.
  • Shakespeare on Fairies & Magic, compiled by Benjamin Darling. An illustrated collection of poems and quotations featuring the fairies and witches of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.

Studying Shakespeare?

The library has “parallel text” versions of most of Shakespeare’s plays, which include the original text, side-by-side with the story told in more modern language – very helpful for students struggling with Elizabethan English. These also include discussion material and study activities. Click here to see available titles in parallel text.

Graphic Novel Versions

Illustrated by Gareth Hinds:

Manga Shakespeare series: