I love Disney movies. Despite some of the problematic aspects that have been widely recognized and continuously called out in a few of these beloved classics, I still get unabashedly excited whenever one of them pops up on my TV screen, and I can spend an entire Sunday afternoon watching one after another. And there is a lot to love about them, from the gorgeous animation to modern female characters that have started to embrace the tenets of feminism we all look for in our fictional heroines. And there are also so many bookish takes on these tales, fairytale retellings that delve into the dark underbelly of the stories Disney we have come to know so well, while also creating new and intriguing plots and characters within the world.
But there are also a lot of book comps to Disney fairytales that you might not have thought of: contemporary YA love stories with real connections to some of our favorite Disney couples; fantasies that take inspiration from existing fairytales, but move them to different countries or time periods; and characters that are just as brave, intelligent and loveable as the heroines who populate Disney films. Keep reading below for nine picks Disney fans are sure to love.
If You Love 'Tangled' Read 'Everything, Everything' by Nicola Yoon
What It's About: Maddy is allergic to the world, and so is forced to stay indoors, with only her mother and her nurse for company. But when Olly's family moves in next door, everything changes, and soon, Maddy is determined to get out there, even as she risks everything she's ever known.
Why You'll Like It: Well, it's about a girl who has been kept indoors for her entire life and then sets out on an adventure with a cute guy. There are also secrets, lies, and one seriously complicated mother-daughter relationship. What more can you possibly want?
If You Love 'Aladdin' Read 'When Dimple Met Rishi' by Sandhya Menon
What It's About: When an opportunity arises to head to a STEM camp for the summer, Dimple Shah is more than ready for a break from her family, especially considering her Mamma’s obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Rishi Patel, on the other hand, is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him — wherein he’ll have to woo her — he’s totally on board. Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
Why You'll Like It: Discussions of legacy, honor, and love abound in this both Aladdin and When Dimple Met Rishi, and both also delve into what happens when familial expectations come up against our own dreams and life plans; the lies we tell ourselves and others and why; and all of the many ways we can find our own ideal romance and personal fulfillment.
If You Love 'The Princess & The Frog' Read 'Shadowshaper' by Daniel Jose Older
What It's About: Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art and hanging out with her friends But when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep, she discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order's secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who now wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the otherse. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family.
Why You'll Like It: Both Tiana and Sierra are creative, ambitious women who aren't interested in any sort of fairytale love story. But they both come across obstacles that prevent them from reaching their goals and must go beyond their comfort zone to discover the true meaning of their lives...especially when unexpected magic, and unexpected romance, comes into play. Oh, and there are two life-changing father-daughter (and grandfather-granddaughter) relationships that drive the stories, too.
If You Love 'Mulan' Read 'Flame In The Mist' by Renee Ahdieh
What It's About: Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. So, at 17 years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, who’ve been hired to kill her. The lone survivor, Mariko, dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back.
Why You'll Like It: Mariko and Mulan are definitely cut from the same cloth; two bad ass young women who will do whatever it takes to find their own paths in the world, with some serious butt kicking skills, a little bit of play acting, and souls that won't be tied down by the social conventions of their time.
If You Love 'Cinderella' Read 'Geekerella' by Ashley Poston
What It's About: When Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out. Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but photo sessions and meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
Why You'll Like It: It's Cinderella for lovers of fandom, a perfectly unexpected take on the classic tale. Plus, if you had concerns about the less-than-feminist aspects of the original story, you will love Elle's rebellious nature and geek-girl knowledge.
If You Love 'Beauty & the Beast' Read 'Rebel Belle' by Rachel Hawkins
What It's About: Harper Price was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.
Why You'll Like It: Though it's definitely less problematic than the whole "Maybe Belle had Stockhom Syndrome" thing, Harper is still stuck with David due to circumstances beyond her control; and she still grows to care for and understand him more throughout their time together. Imagine a kickass version of bookish Belle and a decidely more human take of Prince Adam, and destinies intertwined, for better or worse.
If You Love 'Frozen' Read 'Far From The Tree' by Robin Benway
What It's About: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family: Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, whose adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface; and Joaquin, who has spent 17 years in the foster care system. Together they will learn what it really means to be a family, with all of its complications... and love.
Why You'll Like It: Behind all the music and magic, the most intriguing plot point of Frozen is family: sisterhood and parenthood and what it means to be a family unit; how we sometimes have to fight to be ourselves within that unit; how to overcome the secrets we keep from one another; and the ways we can create a family, however different it may be from the ideal. It also explored the idea that familial love can be some of the strongest and most complex in our lives...and that is exactly what you'll get from Robin Benway's latest, too. Prepare for feels.
If You Love 'Brave' Read 'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu
What It's About: Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. Viv’s mom was a Riot Grrrl in the '90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
Why You'll Like It: Two awesome heroines who are sick of the sexist BS they have to put up with and decide that its time to take their destinies into their own hands? Yeah, Merida and Viv definitely have a couple of things in common. The thread of mothers and daughters and how their relationships can change and shift over the years also run strongly through both narratives.
If You Love 'Snow White' Read 'The Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns' by Julie C. Dao
What It's About: The stars say Xifeng is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed.
Why You'll Like It: It's an evil queen origin story set in a fantasy Chinese-inspired world. If that doesn't have you rushing to add it to your TBR, I don't know what will.