Fiction does a number of jobs. While there will always be a demographic of people who feel fiction is purely escapist, devoted readers of fiction would argue otherwise. One thing is for certain: some fiction is comforting—fit to delight and charm— while other authors prefer to confront our ideologies and push us outside of our comfort zones. These confronting books come in all genres, whether it is the latest literary fiction darling or a young adult novel that enchants teens while parents squirm.
Personally, I'm a fan of confronting books since they rattle me a little. While I may not always like them, I can usually appreciate them for pushing me, or I can applaud the author for trying something new.
If you know you'd like to try out some confronting books, I have a few recommendations. Some are confronting because they present a difficult issue while others confront with their unusual structure or the author's unique writing style.
If you're open to being confronted, these should suit you just fine.
Cynthia Bond's novel, "Ruby," is the story of a young woman who descends into madness after she returns from New York City to her hometown in East Texas. The men of the town take advantage of Ruby in myriad ways while the women of the town turn away. Only her childhood friend, Ephram, advocates for Ruby's safety and well-being. While the novel is brutal, violent and difficult to stomach at times, it is ultimately hopeful and packed with timeless themes: examinations of racism, the importance of mothers and enduring love.
"Dept. of Speculation," by Jenny Offill, comes in under 200 pages but manages to challenge readers with its form. Written by a nameless narrator known only as "the wife," it is the story of a marriage from initial meeting to the trying days of new parenthood and infidelity. The unique quality of the writing comes through in paragraph-length vignettes, something akin to stream-of-consciousness.
"We Were Liars," by E. Lockhart, is a young adult novel all abuzz in readers' circles. Four wealthy teens spend summers on a private island with their families until Cadence, the main character, has an accident that steals her memory and her health. When she returns to the island two summers later, she is reunited with her friends and she uncovers the secrets surrounding her misfortune. Lockhart's writing is lush and involving, and the buzz surrounding this book stems largely from a dramatic twist that seems to polarize readers who either love it or hate it.