10 Books for the Twenty-Something Reader

Between my full-time job, writing, my busy television schedule, and the occasional happy hour, I rarely have time to read. But over the past year, I’ve forced myself to delve into at least one novel a month, sometimes more, depending on the time of year.

As a fairly typical twenty-something female,  I’m naturally drawn to anything drenched with scandal, dark, angst-y, and all around effed-up. But it’s rare to find something written for and about millennials that isn’t laden with unrealistic sex and bound by a cheesy book cover (brooding guys with tattoos, half naked cowboys, a full on romp against a brick wall, etc.)

There’s New Adult, of course, which has the potential to be really powerful, but often falls short, at least for me. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 26 — basically mature young adult. Sounds perfect, right? Not really. The plots are pretty much all the same, and the NA market is currently saturated with unrealistic sexcapades and brooding bad boys who hook up with 21-year-old virgins. Sure, it sounds interesting, but it’s repetitive. Again, maybe it’s just me.

For instance, this is very typical of the NA genre. Try and read it out loud with a straight face.

And of course, there’s Fifty Shades of Shit. And if you couldn’t already tell, I’m not a fan. I got about half way through this mess (around the time Christian yanks a tampon out of Anastasia), before promptly powering down my Kindle Fire — never to return.  It still blows my mind how something so poorly written could soar to the top of the NYT Bestseller’s List. I get that it’s fiction, and not necessarily a realistic portrayal of the twenty-something experience, but come on, nobody speaks like these characters without being ironic.

Like, really?

“What shall we do this evening?” and “Oh, please…” were some of my favorite moments of dialogue. Yes, yes, the author lives in England, but her characters do not. They live in present-day Seattle. So then why does Anastasia speak like a she just stepped out of a Jane Austin novel? And there is also no way that a college student in this day and age could make it through four years at a major university without an e-mail address, cellphone or computer. How did she get snow day memos and emergency text alerts?!

Now that I’ve gotten my rant out of the way, there are still books out there that fulfill the natural, twenty-something desire for scandal and high drama without detestable characters . Now please don’t get all judge-y and pretentious with my list, because most of these titles (if not all) are mainstream, bestsellers that you’ve probably heard of. You’ve maybe even read them already.  But if you’re looking for a quick, fun read, here are my top ten picks for books I read in 2013.

1. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn – Not only was this on of my favorite book I read last year, it might actually be my favorite book ever. The movie comes out next fall, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Twenty-Something Characters: While technically thirty-somethings,  Nick and Amy are so maniacal and immature, they’re actually just like twenty-somethings. Also, the book chronicles their entire relationship, which begins in their twenties.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Nancy Grace-esque circus surrounding a missing blonde woman, suspicious husband, diaries, scavenger hunts, revenge, major plot twists.

2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple – I’ve never read anything like this before, but must say, I’m glad I did. I LOLed a lot — like cackled to myself on the subway. The humor was subtle, dark and the whole thing was so absurd, but in such a good way.

Twenty-Something Characters: There are none off the top of my head, but the narrator is a precocious 15-year-old girl who searches for her missing, possibly insane, mother by rifling through e-mails, letters, and other documents.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Satirical humor, big sunglasses, internet stalking, Microsoft, Seattle, Anxiety.

Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight

3. Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight – To me, this felt like Pretty Little Liars meets Cruel Intentions, but through the eyes of a mother/lawyer (Veronica Hastings, anybody?). And since I’m bizarrely obsessed with PLL, and according to all of my security questions set up circa 2004, Cruel Intentions is my favorite movie, this book was right up my ally.

Twenty-Something Characters: None. But there’s a lot of high school drama, and it’s from the point of view of a mother, so mother – teen = twenty-something?

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Cyber bullying, high school scandals, mean girls, Park Slope, anonymous texts, law school.

Defending Jacob, William Landay

4. Defending Jacob, William Landay – A crime-drama, involving the murder of a 14-year-old boy in the suburbs of Boston.

Twenty-Something Characters: Non. It’s narrated by a former assistant DA who’s teen son is suspected of killing his classmate. So again, Parent – Teen = Valley of Twenty-Something.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Sociopath teens, narcissism, murder in the burbs.

The Silent Wife, A.S.A Harrison

5. The Silent Wife, A.S.A Harrison – This was Gone Girl-esque for me, but way less intense.

Twenty-something Characters: There’s a home-wrecking college student who brings a lot to the table.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: scandalous affair, cohabitation, therapy, revenge.

Hopeless, Colleen Hoover

6. Hopeless, Colleen Hoover This was on the YA/NA side, but I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was dark, intense, and made me have a serious crush on a high school student. Creepy.

Twenty-Something Characters: Mature high school students will fill this void.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Missundaztood bad boy, childhood flashbacks, repression.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

7. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – This was another YA, but I really, really think John Green is one of the most talented writers out there right now. I cried, I laughed — and according to Dolly Parton, laughter through tears is the best emotion, right?

Twenty-Something Characters: Again, devastatingly mature high schoolers, who are way wiser than any twenty-something I know. Think Perks of Being a Wallflower meets A Walk to Remember.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Feelings, Amsterdam, being depressed.

Help for the Haunted, John Searles

8. Help for the Haunted, John Searles – You know that creepy doll family of demonoligists from The Conjuring? Well it’s sort of like that — if they happened to be murdered in a church and survived by two teenaged daughters.

Twenty-Something Characters: The older daughter is a 19-year-old bisexual who dates a couple of interesting twenty-somethings.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Sibling rivalry, girl fights, being creeped.

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn

9. Dark Places, Gillian Flynn This was very In Cold Blood for me (which happens to be one of my favorite books – so yay). The details in this book were disturbingly vivid, which is partly why I loved it. The movie comes out later this year starring Charlize Theron.

Twenty-Something Characters: The main character Libby (sole survivor of a massacre at her family farm 25 years earlier) is in her late twenties, but she has the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Charlize, kleptomania, satanic cults, strippers.

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

10. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn – A reporter returns to her hometown to investigate some creepy murders.

Twenty-Something Characters: Protag, Camille, is in her early thirties I believe? But again, another emotionally crippled character who acts more like she’s 23.

Things Twenty-Somethings Love: Bitchy, psychology disturbed tweens, homecomings, Molly.

What were your favorite books of the year? Leave in comments!

Char

Charlee Fam is the author of the 20-something novel, Last Train to Babylon (William Morrow, Fall 2014). Currently based in New York City, she graduated from Binghamton University in 2010 and has since dabbled in journalism, PR and social media marketing. When she's not writing, she can be found assembling epic cheese platters, traveling, or Instagramming photos of her French Bulldog, Marv. Follow her on Twitter: @char_fam - or visit her website: www.charleefam.com

3 Comments
  1. I would absolutely recommend Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This book is truly a page turner, and a book all women should read. So do yourself a favor ladies and READ THIS BOOK!

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