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10 Modern YA / Classic Literature Pairings to Help You Survive English Class

Hello there, Swooners! Since you’re on this site, it’s probably safe to say that you like to read. Like, really read. A lot. So much so that you might even be considering studying English literature once you get to college. (Or maybe you’ve already got a degree in English!) Does this sound like you? If so, get ready to make your TBR just a little bit longer—here’s a list of some classics that students of English are often required to read, but beautifully paired with their most compatible Swoon titles. What’s not to love about some brand-new YA that can help bring those high-minded concepts a little closer to home?

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You’ll have to read Beowulf, so why not read When Life Gives You Demons?

Beowulf spends his time killing frightening creatures like Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and an actual dragon; Shelby Black spends her time fighting fearsome demons. Both Beowulf and Shelby choose to contend with ferocious beasts for the sake of the greater good, and they earn the loving respect of others and make names for themselves (all while putting their lives on the line!) in the process.

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You’ll have to read The Canterbury Tales, so why not read A Prom to Remember?

A group of story-telling acquaintances passes the time by having fun with the pleasures of narrative—is this a motley crew of pilgrims on their way to a cathedral or a group of nervous teenagers in a limo en route to a dance? Both of these works illustrate the magic that happens when multiple viewpoints take center stage.

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You’ll have to read The Faerie Queene, so why not read The Boyfriend Bracket?

Virtue is key in both of these works, which explore the different ways an individual can try to prove themselves to be worthy when faced with various challenges and scrutiny. It’s no allegory that Stella has some tough choices to make as she works to find her own noble, lovestruck knight who’s trying to do his best.

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You’ll have to read Hamlet, so why not read How to Breathe Underwater?

Hamlet and Kate both come from families that are a little more unsavory than they might like. Unable to trust the authorities in their lives, they must rely on themselves to make sense of the world. The difficulties of maturing certainly take their toll, and by the end of both works, you’ll understand just how close these characters come to getting sucked under.

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You’ll have to read Paradise Lost, so why not read The Supervillain and Me?

Moral ambiguity is the theme here: why is it that these bad guys are so compelling? Although Satan and the Iron Phantom aren’t exactly playing the same game, the ways they make us think about labels of “good” and “evil” are fascinating. Just like Adam and Eve, Abby is forced to grapple with her own understandings of what’s right and wrong, and ends up learning that goodness (and badness) shouldn’t always be taken at face value.

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You’ll have to read Pride and Prejudice, so why not read Surviving Adam Meade?

To be young and in love! Claire, Adam, and the Bennet sisters certainly have some ideas about what they believe is best for themselves. But what happens when immovable objects meet unstoppable forces? Stories like these, which require their characters to readjust their preconceived notions, show us that things aren’t always as they initially seem.

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You’ll have to read Jane Eyre, so why not read Let’s Talk About Love?

Jane—iconic, intelligent, independent; Alice—amazing, assured, adventurous: these young women find themselves on the chilly fringes of their worlds, but their resilience and willingness to pursue the things (and people) they love help them make the social periphery the coolest (and warmest) place to be.

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You’ll have to read Through the Looking-Glass, so why not read Amid Stars and Darkness?

Poor Alice and Delaney—thrust into strange worlds they don’t quite understand and caught between even stranger political troubles that neither involve nor make much sense to them. What’s a girl to do? They’re both set to be crowned in these bizarre places that won’t let them go, but the way to clarity is their own self-reliance and determination to make sense of the nonsensical.

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You’ll have to read To the Lighthouse, so why not read Love Me, Love Me Not?

Hailey Brown and Lily Briscoe would probably be good friends in another universe: they’re both forging ahead despite numerous forces that try to hold them back, and they both learn about the trying process of making their dreams come true. Whether it’s about looking for love, leaving something meaningful behind, or simply hoping to understand what it means to be alive, these two have the right insights.

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You’ll have to read Go Tell It on the Mountain, so why not read The Impossibility of Us?

Young John, Elise, and Mati have an awful lot in common: the people and institutions they love aren’t exactly accepting of the way they choose to love. How does it feel when the people you know and trust turn cold when you start to live your life in a way that’s different from theirs? Dealing with intolerance, obstacles to budding romance, and the struggle to accept those that might not accept you back are central themes in these novels.

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