Fictional stories are only restricted by the limits of the writer and reader’s imagination. They can put a dragon in a spaceship, make a textbook talk, or have the Queen win a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics. Most importantly, books can grant us access into the mind of a person whose life is so different from ours. Minds that we may never get to experience without the help of a fictional world.
The following are books that will make you see the world differently and better understand not only the lives others, but also your own.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
Christopher Boone is a Maths genius with a remarkable memory who thinks metaphors are a lie and finds people confusing. He doesn’t like touching other people, or food touching on his plate; he can’t make sense of people’s emotions but he can make sense of patterns.
Christopher has autism. When he finds his neighbour’s dog staked to the lawn by a pitchfork, he tries to piece together the curious incident.
Author Mark Haddon says the book is about “seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way”. Through Christopher’s eyes, readers can appreciate what it’s like to live in a world that can be confusing and scary.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini
So much is known and understood about visible, physical injury and disabilities. However, despite 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffering from depression, mental health problems, receive far less consideration.
Ned Vizzini’s book is based on the author’s real experience of staying in a psychiatric hospital. Told by 16 year old Craig, who lives a perfectly normal life in Brooklyn. However, academic stress soon builds up into an eating disorder. This lead to depression and suicidal thoughts until he is admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Through the comic voice of Craig, Vizzini shows us how dark someone’s life can get but also how bravely they can struggle to see the light again.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” goes the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
In John Green’s novel, cancer-suffers Hazel and Augustus are truly victims of an uncontrollable fate.
A modern tale of star-crossed lovers. Hazel and Gus fall in love despite the world, and their bodies’ tragic countdown, conspiring against them. Green, through Hazel’s witty narrative, invites us into a lesser known world of grief and pain. Endless medication and hospital visits, and the constant fear of imminent death.
Throughout it all, however, is a teenager who’s trying to come to terms with both the abnormality of her illness with the normality of growing up and falling in love.
“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” August’s wish comes from his facial deformities, which attract negative attention, bullying, misunderstanding, and fear. Most of the time, it’s easier for him to hide behind his favourite astronaut helmet.
When he enrolls in school, August learns that there is nothing shameful about being different. And it’s his friends, not the bullies, who will change his life the most.
Most importantly, as the book is through August’s eyes, the reader soon forgets he has a facial deformity. We realise that he is just a normal boy for whom bravery is not just epic acts but small, everyday efforts to survive and stay happy.
Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
Meet Sam Kingston, who is dead. After a fatal car accident, Sam gets stuck in a Groundhog Day-style loop where she must relive the day of her death over and over again.
But why? Sam had it all – a handsome jock boyfriend and a group of friends who are the most popular girls in school. Yet, beneath the surface, is a darker reality of superficiality, materialism, falseness, dishonesty, and bullying. By reliving that day, Sam begins to realise that her life wasn’t as perfect as she thought and, through second, third, and fourth chances, can start to make amends.
For the reader, this unusual narrative angle of viewing a life retrospectively conveys an important message: every second in life is important, so make sure every second counts towards doing good for yourself and others.
Written by Florianne H.