Samantha Downing recommends 6 books with unsavory narrators
Samantha Downing's new thriller, For Your Own Good, features a teacher at an elite school who's determined to turn all his students into better people. Below, the author of the best-seller My Lovely Wife recommends six other books with unsavory narrators.
Perfect Days by Raphael Montes (2016).
Teo is convinced that he and Clarice belong together. She just needs a little persuading to see things his way, and there's nothing he won't do to achieve this. Yet he's so engaging, so pure in his belief, that you can't help but follow along on this harrowing journey. Buy it here.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (2015).
Ani is an ambitious, materialistic young woman with an eating disorder. She's a hard woman to like, and the type I wouldn't want to sit next to in the office. But she's also had a difficult past, which is slowly revealed throughout this heart-wrenching novel. Buy it here.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting (2013).
Celeste is a teacher who preys on her 14-year-old male students. This story is a dark tour through a sociopathic mind, but Nutting has achieved something special. Tampa is a brilliant test of how sympathetic (or not) you find a female predator as opposed to a man — such as Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Buy it here.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (2013).
Nora is a single woman, the quiet neighbor no one thinks much about. What people can't see is how angry she is, and she's about to act on it. Nora becomes obsessed with the Shahid family and starts inserting herself into their lives in increasingly disturbing ways. This novel is a master class in obsession. Buy it here.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009).
No list of unlikable narrators is complete without one from Flynn, who specializes in creating complex women who are hard to like. Libby is depressed, broke, and has never held a job. Now she's running out of money and tries to cash in on the triple murder of three family members, an event from her childhood that has shaped her entire life. Buy it here.
You by Caroline Kepnes (2014).
This novel spawned a series of follow-ups, as well as a Netflix series. Joe is a stalker, a sociopath, and not someone you should date. As disturbing as this story is, Joe is so compelling — and charming — that it's impossible to put down. Buy it here.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.