Greek Mythology in YA Book Riot Article and More

Grace Lapointe
4 min readMay 29, 2024


Here’s my new article on Book Riot today: 8 YA Books for Fans of Greek Mythology. Some are influenced by Greek myths or share similar themes. As I said in the article, they’re not all strict retellings.

[Content notice: references to sexual assault and murder in fiction]

I generally enjoy feminist retellings of myths and epics. Here’s a good, recent New York Times article on differing opinions of Greek myth retellings. In 2017, at the height of #MeToo, I remember seeing a Tweet saying something like, “How it always should have been,” with a photo of this 2008 sculpture by Luciano Garbati: Medusa with the Head of Perseus. I can’t find the post; maybe it was deleted. As the analyses linked above say, this statue seemed especially resonant and symbolic around 2017.

While ancient myths and epics have a lot of potential for feminist reworkings, sometimes they also originally condemned and punished sexual predators. For example, the ancient Greek goddess Artemis hid and protected human women from their abusers. A hunter named Actaeon watched Artemis bathing. For his voyeurism, Artemis transformed him into a stag, so he was killed by his own hunting dogs. This myth is referenced in Daughter of Sparta, Spin, and many other recent retellings. It may have also inspired rapist and torturer Ramsay Bolton’s violent death on Game of Thrones. I analyzed the Greek mythology references in Orphan Black, plus many other aspects of the show, on my Medium blog in 2022.

I liked Spin and interpreted the protagonist, Arachne, as sapphic and disabled. I didn’t mention this in my article because it’s only briefly mentioned in the book. If you read it looking for a sapphic, romantic relationship, you might be disappointed. I didn’t want to overemphasize any aspect of the book.

I also liked this article on the ways Greek mythology may have influenced Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. Agamemnon is from the cursed House of Atreus. Paul Atreides also says he has Greek ancestry in the books, but he only vaguely knows about Earth, let alone its specific cultures and countries.

Some of my favorite feminist retelling novels are for adult readers, by authors working in their own cultures and religions, like Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel. This article explains the political implications and controversies of Patel reimagining a figure from the Hindu epic The Ramayana. Kaikeyi is usually depicted as a villain. I also like when authors explicitly oppose colonialism, like Patel and many other authors do.

There’s way more than what I can explain here, but Greece was colonized by the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years, from the 1400s until the 1800s. The British Empire stole the so-called “Elgin marbles” (nicknamed for a British lord) from ancient Greek temples, supposedly with the Ottoman Empire’s permission. The UK has rejected the Greek government’s requests that Britain return them. That’s why I linked Lyndsie’s article asking a few Greek authors’ opinions on Greek myth retellings. Myths originate from specific, often historically colonized cultures, and do not belong equally to everyone. The terms white and Western are too vague and broad to refer to specific cultures.

In my new article, I also linked my own 2020 BR article on Madeline Miller’s work. I want to clarify something about the sacrifice of Iphigenia in Greek myths. In high school, I read Aeschylus’ Agamemnon first, in which Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia to make his ship move, without the wedding ruse. I know Madeline Miller didn’t invent the ruse that made Iphigenia think her murder was her own wedding to Achilles. It’s referenced indirectly in The Iliad by Homer and Agamemnon by Aeschylus.

I didn’t infer many years ago that Iphigenia was Achilles’ intended bride. However, my point still holds that these events and texts were confusing to me when I read them in high school and made more accessible in Miller’s retelling The Song of Achilles years later. I don’t want to cause any confusion, errors, or incorrectly attribute anything to Miller she didn’t make up, though. I do enjoy her knowledge and interpretations of Greek mythology and drama and am glad she’s writing a Persephone book.

Maybe my rant about the 2004 movie Troy didn’t fit well into my 2020 article either. But I still think it’s awful that the movie made Achilles and Patroclus COUSINS, precluding any possible romantic reading of their relationship. I hated that Briseis immediately has passionate sex with Achilles in that movie. In The Iliad, she is sex trafficked as a prisoner of war and cannot consent.

In retrospect, I think I was often trying to do too much in these very short, older BR essays. For another example, when I condemned teachers preying sexually on students in fiction in 2018, I said Aria and Ezra from Pretty Little Liars were an egregious example of this dangerous trope. Yes, Aria and Ezra also get married at the end of the series, which makes it even worse: romanticized and justified throughout the entire show! I’m glad my BR articles are a little longer now and I can explain my ideas more.