Spotlight on: Wuthering Heights.

Oh, Emily Brontë. So many slappable characters in one book. And oh, YA. So many adaptations of said book. Then again, considering the PASSION and the DRAMA and the TRAGEDY, that's not all that surprising. (I do admit to being surprised at JUST HOW MANY there are, though!)

Let's take a look:

• April's Lindner's newest—out this past January!—is a modern retelling called Catherine, and is set in and around the NYC music scene. I really liked this one! Despite my distaste for every single one of the characters in the original, Lindner managed to stay true to much of the spirit of the Wuthering Heights while making the characters—especially Catherine, who I loathe in the original—quite a bit easier to root for. (And as Nico Rathburn gets name-checked, it's also set in the same world as Jane, which was a nice touch.) See my column at Kirkus for more on that one.

• Also new in 2013 is Alison Croggon's Black Spring, a dark, atmospheric fantasy retelling of Wuthering Heights that focuses much more on the Catherine character than the Heathcliff character. Super-good stuff, and I covered that one at Kirkus as well. And the cover art? IS GORGEOUS.

• There's Wuthering High, the first book in Cara Lockwood's Bard Academy quartet:

A book with a tagline of "At boarding school, no one can hear you scream" that is ALSO set on Shipwreck Island sounded a little excessively ridiculous to me, too. But what could have been lamely over-the-top becomes just plain awesome when Miranda asks, "I mean, where am I? A Scooby-Doo cartoon?"

Heathcliff is a major player in all four books (although he has Edward Cullen-ish tendencies, he's mostly more likable than the original), and Emily Brontë shows up as well.

• I actually never finished Brian James's modern retelling The Heights, but that may well have been all on me: after all, the original characters are d-bags, so it stands to reason that the new ones would be, too. (I should go back to it and give it another try, though.)

Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, draws heavily from Wuthering Heights... so much so that in 2009, it catapulted Brontë's book to the bestseller list in the UK. (My issues with the Twilight saga aside, I LOVED the bit where Bella blathered on about how romantic Wuthering Heights was, and Edward was all, "WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH YOU?? IT IS SO NOT ROMANTIC." Although, Edward being Edward, it was way more mansplainy than that.)

Wuthering Heights gets name-checked at one point or another in most of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books (which aren't technically published for the YA market, but they're totally crossovers), but it's in the third book, The Well of Lost Plots, where he really goes for it in a crazypants, hilariously awesome way. That's when we find out that the entire cast is in mandated group therapy because they're all such horrible disasters. And there's a Titus Andronicus joke, and it's all just SO. NERDILY. FUNNY.

• Nicholas Brisbane, from Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Mysteries, has always reminded me a bit of Heathcliff, and clearly I'm not alone in that, as there are some direct parallels in the third book in the series, Silent on the Moor.

• In Markus Zusak's I am the Messenger, one of narrator Ed Kennedy's missions involves reading Wuthering Heights aloud to a old lady.

• Louise Rennison's Withering Tights, obviously, though except for being set out on the moors and featuring a brooding bad boy, it isn't particularly Wuthering Heights-y. WICKED FUNNY, though not as strong as the Georgia Nicholson books.

• As I didn't want to include anything on this list that I hadn't actually read, I went so far as to ILL Sarah Gray's Wuthering Bites, a Heathcliff-as-a-vampire book. It then proceeded to sit on my shelf for weeks. I held on to it until it was way overdue, but I never could force myself to crack it open. But, you know: it's out there.

• The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle works as both a prequel to and an imagined inspiration for Wuthering Heights. In it, young Tabby Ackyroyd—who was, in real life, the Brontë's housekeeper, and known for telling them scary stories—is brought to the dark and foreboding (and mysterious!) Seldom House to be nursemaid to a young boy. He's darkly temperamental, a heathen, and claims that he doesn't even have a Christian name. Before long, Tabby realizes that the two of them are in mortal danger: not just from Seldom House's living inhabitants, but from the dead ones. WICKED CREEPY, both in storyline and atmosphere, super illustrations, and prose that evokes Brontë while still being accessible to younger readers.

• Kay Woodward's Wuthering Hearts begins: "'Noooo!' wailed Emily, dramatically. It was Drama after all. And if she couldn't get away with being dramatic in Drama, where could she get away with it?" It's a straight-up romcom about aspiring actress Emily Sparrow, who is GUTTED when her Year Ten Drama teacher makes the (in Emily's opinion) terrible decision to choose Wuthering Heights as the school play. Meanwhile there's a new (dark, brooding, devastatingly attractive) boy in her class. Lots of parallels to Wuthering Heights, set in Yorkshire, includes a visit to the parsonage that the Brontë family lived in, and while it's ultimately pretty forgettable (and wanders into afterschool special territory towards the end), it's still a fun read. It doesn't have Louise Rennison's wicked humor, but it's in the same ballpark, though in the super-chaste section of said ballpark.

• Despite the Dead/Sleeping Girl on the cover of the paperback (the image I used in this post is the cover art from the hardback), Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere is FABULOUS, so I don't know why I never got around to writing about it at length. While it's not a rewrite of Wuthering Heights, Wuthering Heights is such a major player that it may as well be a secondary character: it's seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker's favorite book, and she's read it TWENTY-THREE TIMES. Her beloved older sister Bailey died four weeks ago, and she's (understandably) having trouble finding her footing again. Also, suddenly all she can think about is sex. The arrival of an amazingly attractive, talented, super-nice, not-at-all-brooding new boy in school does nothing but fan those flames. But she's also drawn towards Bailey's long-term boyfriend, Toby, since he's the only one who seems to exactly understand the loss she's feeling. Almost all of the chapters begin with a found poem—Lennie is in the habit of scribbling them down on whatever is on hand, dropping them, and walking away—and it's just a flat-out excellent contemporary about friendship, family, grief, healing, and music. Also, it's really funny. LOVED IT.

• Hila Feil's Blue Moon is about soon-to-be high school senior Julia Johnson, who takes a job as an au pair on Cape Cod for the summer. Despite a possible haunting, an understated romance with an older man, and a town lost beneath the sea, not a whole lot happens on the surface. While it wouldn't be a good match for anyone looking for an action-packed adventure, readers looking for a quiet, melancholy coming-of-age may well enjoy it. It isn't a rewrite of any story in particular, but it does pull from various Gothic traditions, as well as name-checking a number of the biggies, including Wuthering Heights, Turn of the Screw, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre. Also, Julia's employer writes for a soap opera, and there's a description of a Wuthering Heights-inspired dream sequence: "Lance, who has committed himself to Lila because he believes he is the father of her child, meets Sandi by accident and sees her as Catherine from Wuthering Heights, and Sandi sees him as Heathcliff." 

• Although we never interact with her directly, Emily Brontë is one of the ghosts in Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall. (That's the one about the Evil Boarding School run by an Evil French Medium who forces her young ESP-talented charges to be receivers for dead geniuses. Like most of Lois Duncan's books, it's got that mid-'70s feel, complete with mega-stilted dialogue and Parents Who Just Don't Understand. And, like most of Lois Duncan's books, it's massively entertaining.)

• Fourteen-year-old Emily Brontë is the protagonist in Brief Candle. Kate Pennington mixes fact (details about the Brontë household and the Brontë siblings' extensive fantasy creations) with fiction (Emily gets embroiled in a local scandal involving a wealthy young woman and a groom named Heslington that parallels Wuthering Heights) to create an atmospheric read, though the characterization is particularly simplistic: Emily is a passionate free spirit; Charlotte is prim and cowardly; Anne stutters; Branwell is an obnoxious, selfish loser. It does capture the wildness and danger of the moors, though, and it certainly doesn't shy away from the uglier aspects of Heathcliff's personality.

• As she lived longer and wrote more novels, Charlotte Brontë gets more page-time than Emily in Catherine Reef's biography The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne (he's not included in the title, but it also chronicles the life of their walking disaster of a brother, Branwell), but OBVIOUSLY it belongs on this list. It's more of a middle grade read than YA, but it's likely to appeal to any new fan, regardless of age. She does a great job of describing the era and culture, thus putting the accomplishments of the Brontës in context historically, and she mainly focuses on the life experiences that directly parallel their novels. Loads of pictures, quotes from their contemporaries, excerpts of letters and poems and art. It's got an extensive bibliography, too, which is always a plus.


BooklistsLeila RoyComment