Edgar Allan Poe’s body of work, updated and contextualized for a YA audience, isn’t as much of a stretch as you might think. YA fiction, much like the adolescence it depicts, is messy and gruesome and oftentimes a downright horror show. His Hideous Heart (Macmillan Audio) offers thirteen macabre tales for the young adult set, each inspired by a Poe classic.
To some extent, Poe’s stories are simply a jumping-off point for the diverse set of authors featured in this collection. In “Happy Days, Sweetheart,” a take on “The Telltale Heart,” a young woman dates her academic rival and finds herself falling in love with him, despite knowing that only with him out of the way can she take the coveted valedictorian spot. Author Stephanie Kuehn knows that the reader knows the way this story goes, so she shakes up the iconic ending with a subversive twist.
This is a trend I noticed throughout the collection. Don’t expect stories that follow the beats of the original ones. For instance: “The Pit and the Pendulum” becomes a Seven-esque murder mystery, with an antagonist who kills out of a twisted moral code, believing his sexually active teen victims to be sinners. One snag in his plan: the narrator isn’t quite sure whether she’d consider herself a virgin or not on account of her heteronormative sex-ed class and a still-shaky understanding of her own sexuality.
The result is two juxtaposed narratives: past, a coming-of-age story with breakups and gossip and hurt feelings; and present, a captive horror that modernizes the caged dread of “The Pit and the Pendulum.”
Casual and diehard Poe fans alike are probably curious about His Hideous Heart’s interpretation of “The Raven.” Poet Amanda Lovelace of The Princess Saves Herself in This One fame keeps it brief. It’s still a poem about loss. There’s still a raven, but he’s got more to say than “Nevermore.” It’s a cool take on a classic (and much longer) poem, though it’s also the only entry in this collection that will take you just a minute to listen to.
The rest of the stories in the audiobook version of His Hideous Heart run just past the fifteen-minute mark in some instances, and over an hour in others. This makes it the perfect collection for your commute to work or class—I listened to the stories out of order, essentially basing my daily pick around the morning’s Waze ETA.
In addition to those stories already mentioned, His Hideous Heart adapts Poe mainstays like “Annabel Lee,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” as well as some deep cuts such as “Metzengerstein.” And who could forget Poe’s short story “Hop-Frog,” reinterpreted here by This is Where It Ends author Marieke Nijkamp?
If you’re looking for something quick and brutal to get you in the mood for Halloween, His Hideous Heart will keep you occupied and up at night for fourteen hours on audiobook.
His Hideous Heart is now available for purchase.
About the Editor
Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens and LGBTQ Reads by night and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her novels include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting and the Radleigh University trilogy. She is the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart and That Way Madness Lies. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son and an obscene amount of books.