Some books are just a wild roller coaster ride from start to finish – they reach inside of you and mess with your soul. Others have a massive plot twist at the ending that comes out of nowhere and hits you like a freight train and leaves you shattered. There have been many books that left me dazed, confused and frankly just plain upset. Here are 5 of them.
First off, I would like to state for the record that I am not, nor will I ever be, ashamed to admit that I read Young Adult fiction. Almost exclusively. I know that Ruth Graham’s “Against YA” article stated that you should “[r]ead whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children” tried to instil the fear of God and shame in the adult YA reader, but I will have none of it. YA is great literature that often projects great wisdom in its pages and it’s a valuable read for people of any age. Some of the following titles are YA, so get over yourself or get out.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
“Hits you like a shot in the heart” says the movie poster of the adaptation of The Spectacular Now. They couldn’t be more on the money. Despite what the title might suggest, the plot of this book isn’t exactly… well, spectacular. Sutter is a first-class self-involved, sociable
douchebag high school senior whose eye is caught by the naive and sweet Aimee. An unlikely romance develops between the two, and they encounter many difficulties along the way. College applications, ex-girlfriends, lousy dads. But what was most gripping to me in this book wasn’t just the hilarious writing style, but the reality it depicts of being a clueless teenager who’s about to graduate from high school, ready for a new life but also desperately clinging to the old, familiar life.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
Do you remember when in high school your English teacher taught you about the concept of a drama, a piece that would end in a total bloodbath, a bazillion deaths, and general unhappiness for anyone lucky enough to survive a murderous Shakespeare wielding his plume? And remember how you probably thought that it was a genre that was too archaic and over the top, a genre that no modern writer would ever use? You were wrong. The Casual Vacancy may not end in a literal bloodbath, but things sure don’t look too good for the inhabitants of Pagford, who populate this epic novel. Storytelling goddess and general ruler of the (literary) universe JK Rowling weaves an intricate web of plot lines that interact so subtly and unexpectedly that you cannot help but marvel at her skill when they all come together in an epic, albeit dramatic climax. To be fair, it took me 3 times to finally settle into the book and actually start reading it, and when I finished I asked myself why I do this to myself EVERY SINGLE TIME, getting so invested in characters whose lives just end in tragedy. You are a masochist, JKR. A wonderful masochist.
Oscar et la dame rose by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Hey, I’m European with a degree in French literature – you didn’t expect me to not sneak an obscure French novel into this list, did you? Well, here you go. Oscar et la dame rose (Oscar and the Lady in Pink) is without a doubt one of the shortest yet most moving works I have ever read. This book tells the story of a little boy who is terminally ill with leukemia. He encounters the Lady in Pink, a caretaker at the hospital, to whom he immediately takes a liking. The Lady in Pink, seeing that Oscar doesn’t have much time left, proposes that from now on, Oscar will age 10 years every day. That way, he will have lived a full life, even though he will not live past 10. She also tells him to write letters to God, and it’s those letters that make up the entire (very short) novel. We follow Oscar on his journey through 7 decades of his life – a journey during which he encounters his first girlfriend, his first kiss, and his first heartbreak. Oscar’s letters are written in such a disarmingly sweet and naive way, and are filled with a zest for life that will serve as an inspiration for days on end after you’ve finished this novel. So go out and get yourself a badly translated version of this French book – or buy the original and use it to brush up on your French. Since the book is comprised out of letters written by a 10-year-old boy, the French is fairly simple.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Let me tell you this. When I started reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, I expected it to be another quirky YA novel about falling in love and being different. Same shit, different pile. I had just finished Rowell’s Fangirl and was enamored by it. But this novel is nothing like that. I wasn’t prepared for such a heart-wrenching love story that is sabotaged by domestic abuse. I wasn’t ready for the uncensored depiction of high school bullying and life in a low-life Midwestern town. And I sure as hell wasn’t ready for that goddamn plot twist at the end.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why is the bizarre and intriguing story of Clay, who one day receives a mysterious box filled with cassette tapes that have been recorded by Hannah, a classmate of his who committed suicide not long before. As Clay listens to the cassette tapes, he is guided through his hometown and listening to the late Hannah’s voice, he discovers exactly who, which events, and which places drove Hannah over the edge. The premise for this story is so bizarre yet fascinating, and as a reader you cannot help but go along on the emotional roller coaster journey that Clay experiences.
Now, if any of you have another book to offer me that has the potential to break my heart into a million hopeless pieces, please do share those with me!