Top Ten Character Driven Novels
So this week was a little tougher for me. Before I could compile my list I had to do some research on what the hell a “character driven” novel is. I’ve heard the phrase before, but I’ve never really stopped to consider if what I’m reading is character driven, plot driven, or both. If I like it, I read it. One of the best references I found (assuming it’s accurate) that helped me to understand the differences in these plot devices, separates the two by defining character-driven stories as relying on feelings, creativity and intuition – the characters’ lives, motives and choices tell the story. In contrast to this plot-driven (or action-driven) stories focus on the goal in the story and how the character goes about achieving that, including obstacles that stand in the way, and the character’s reactions to events in the plot. In most books I love, there seems to be a blend of the two, so for today’s list I’m including books where I feel the character development, back stories and motives drive the story most.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I love this book. I hate it in equal measure. I push it on everyone. It’s my favourite Flynn novel, and yet the first time I finished it I wanted to rip it into little bits, fling it at a wall and burn it. I love the character psyche insights, the omniscient reader experience and the thought-provoking questions about
human nature the nature of psychopaths. I hate Flynn for ruining my happiness for days after finishing it. I’ve never been so in love with a book I’m so conflicted about. It’s deliciously infuriating.
2. Room by Emma Donoghue – Narrated by five year old Jack who is living through an emotionally traumatic experience, most likely unknown to him as the story unfolds, this book was difficult to get into (due to a 5 year old attempting to tell the story), but was excellently written. My review of Room.
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I don’t quite fangirl over this book as hard as most John Green fans, but I really enjoyed this read. It was painful, hopeful, heart breaking and emotional, and the story very much relied on the characters’ stories and life developments. My review of The Fault in Our Stars.
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – This counts, right? It’s been a long time since I read this book. In fact, I’d love to fit in a reread this year, if possible. The love story, and the personal struggles our main characters face trying to deal with time travel propel this story, adding weight, emotion and depth.
5. Far From You by Tess Sharpe – A fabulous debut novel. I loved the development of the main character, Sophie, and I loved the mystery element to the story as Sophie investigates what happened to her best friend, Mina. While there are plot-driven elements to this YA mystery, the underpinning story comes solely from the lives and loves of the characters.
6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – Again, I’ll argue my case for this one. Although this series is high fantasy and full of action, the characters, their back stories and their self-discovery are all essential elements in what drives the story forward, and what makes it so amazing!
7. Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry – You could include all of my New Adult favourites for this. This series is usually categorised as Young Adult, but I feel it closes the boundary between YA and NA. I’ve picked Pushing The Limits (and really, all of this series) because they are just so well done – the characters, the back stories, the romance, the swoons. I’m really looking forward to reading more of these. My reviews of Pushing the Limits and Dare You To.
8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – I was recently approved for The Rosie Effect on NetGalley and I’m so happy! While the main character in this story reminded me too much of a certain Sheldon Cooper for me to really love it, I still enjoyed the read and found it to be very witty, and it’s great seeing some more diverse characters in fiction. My review of The Rosie Project.
9. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This is a recent read that I really enjoyed, it was surprising, and I really like the diary-entry style, which reminded me of the Adrian Mole books, a series I loved when I was younger. For coming-of-age stories, mixed with some deeper issues, Perks has the perfect mix. My review of The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
10. Harry Potter by J K Rowling – Rowling can do no wrong. Although The Casual Vacancy would probably be a more obvious choice for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I can’t ignore the amazing-ness that is Harry Potter (and it’s been at least a week since I’ve included it in my list!). Yes, the plot and action drive this novel, but so do the deeper questions of friends, family, loyalty and discovering who you are, and who you want to be.
How do you define a “character driven” novel? And which books made your list today? Link me up in the comments!