This is mildly spoilerish, so if you don’t even want to know which books have unreliable narrators, turn back now! But if – like me – you love this type of story so much you’re willing to have that much revealed to you, read on. I promise I won’t tell you anything else you aren’t ready to hear.
Sometimes you know the narrator is unreliable from the very beginning, but sometimes you are caught unaware at the end. Some narrators don’t even know they are lying because they are mentally compromised in some way. Others know exactly what they are doing. Whatever the specifics, I have long loved the way these stories reveal themselves and, gullible as I am, I’m always surprised by the twists. Here are some of my favorites.
A group of eight pretentious high school students are the focus of this satirical and surreal novel about dating, absinthe, murder, and the media. Written in the style of a highly-edited journal, the dark humor is reminiscent of the author’s acclaimed children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events. But don’t be fooled – this is definitely not a children’s book.
This audiobook is among my favorites. The protagonist, Christine, has a type of amnesia in which she has trouble forming new memories. She can remember throughout the day, but when she goes to bed at night it’s like the slate is being wiped clean and the next morning she awakes again wondering where she is and who that man is sleeping next to her. The journal she begins keeping is helpful, but soon it raises more questions than it answers.
Vermont college student Laurel Estabrook survived a violent attack while bicycling, afterward retreating into her photography projects and volunteering at a homeless shelter. It is here she meets Bobbie Crocker, a mentally ill man with a mysterious box of photographs. When he dies, Laurel’s interest in his life and story becomes an obsession. I’ve long been a fan of Chris Bohjalian, but this novel has stayed with me longer than any of the others. Beautiful and haunting.
If you enjoy crime novels AND unreliable narrators and haven’t read this yet, you should get on the hold list now. (There are over 1200 people ahead of you, but it’s worth the wait.) The novel begins on the day of Nick and Amy’s anniversary, when Amy suddenly disappears. The story is told from alternating points of view: Nick throughout the course of the investigation, and Amy through her journal entries.
It’s obvious from the very beginning that Nick is hiding something, but there are so many twists and turns it will leave you reeling. Be warned: this novel messes with your mind. If you live with a spouse or partner, you will feel fearful and suspicious of them for days.
And because I love young adult fiction so much, I’ll throw in this one:
Micah admits up front that she is a compulsive liar, but that may be the only thing she says that is true. After her boyfriend is murdered her lies begin to catch up with her. This one went somewhere that I absolutely did not expect. There are many reasons why this book stands out among young adult fiction.
What are your favorite books with unreliable narrators? Tell us below in the comments!