While we’re all about healthy relationships, there’s definitely no harm in living vicariously through a seriously twisted, fictional relationship. Just like the romantic highs and lows of celebrity couples keep us coming back for more, the dark turns and unexpected moments of clarity in books can teach us a lot about what we want — or don’t want — in our relationships with our friends, family members and significant others.
This week, we’re chatting with Caroline Kepnes, the brilliant mastermind behind the novels You and Hidden Bodies. If you haven’t read either of these books, stop what you’re doing, run to your nearest bookstore and buy them. Then call in sick to work and get ready to hunker down and read for the next 72 hours, nonstop. Seriously, the books are that good. And if you don’t believe us, take Stephen King’s word for it. He calls You, “Hypnotic and scary… never read anything like it.”
Both You and Hidden Bodies explore the dysfunctional relationships of Joe, a lonely book seller who seamlessly moves from best boyfriend to creepiest stalker EVER. Whether he’s infiltrating exclusive Upper East Side parties in NYC or hunting for his ex-girlfriend through the Hollywood hills, both of these novels are nonstop chills, and you’ll love every second of it.
Today, Caroline shares her favorite twisted love stories, which she clarifies, “might not seem like love stories, but are actually very much about the human quest for love and fellowship, and how we all have very different ideas about what that is.” Scroll on for 12 reads to add your bookshelf STAT.
Caroline Kepnes’ Favorite Twisted Love Stories
1. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis ($9): Bret Easton Ellis fulfilled my dreams and nightmares with this story, drenched in neon. It amazed me that he was 21 and his book felt young and old, wide-eyed and jaded. Love is not enough, and it’s not always gonna work out for everyone.
2. Strange Animals by Chad Kultgen ($16): The quest for meaning, purpose and companionship is so profoundly universal, and Chad Kultgen celebrates this fact. He ensures that each character is a human. Every belief system is valid to the believer. And that’s true, difficult love.
3. Misery by Stephen King ($8): The obsession, the twisted logic of Annie Wilkes, the way all love feels real to us, regardless of how it feels to others — Stephen King is our nation’s best psychologist, and there’s a reason this story always feels relevant. It’s as if he saw the future.
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens ($4): Because so many years later, I still carry the image of Miss Havisham in the forefront of my mind. The sweeping narrative, the way a person can control you — aah, Dickens!
5. F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher ($12): Tarryn Fisher has that thing. You’re instantly in this, and the conflict feels so immediate and bitingly sincere. Fearless writing with constant vulnerability.
6. Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willet ($16): Because Jincy Willet knows that we seek out anxiety in so many ways. We are messed up! We pursue it. We all have our version of what happened. Also one of the funniest books ever.
7. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates ($6): I’m a writer because of this short story in a lot of ways. A caveat about flirting, taut, spellbinding. Because Arnold Friend exists, because Joyce Carol Oates sees the web of the world like no other.
8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov ($10): I read it one summer while working in a used bookstore. How liberating, how Nabokov dwells in a moment, in a mind. I love the density, the my-way-or-the-highway of his style, how that dovetails with the story itself.
9. Better by John O’Brien ($16): There is darkness and then there’s John O’Brien level of darkness. This book traps you in the sun, in this house, with The Love Boat on TV and this nasty, lazy, hazy love triangle.
10. What She Saw… by Lucinda Rosenfeld ($13): Lucinda Rosenfeld is a hero to me, constructing this heartfelt, humorous book about how we become the people we are. Ultimate Relationship Writing.
11. In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien ($10): It’s a deep mystery both in terms of plot and character. How you can know someone and not know someone? Also the footnotes. Also politics. Also Tim O’Brien!
12. Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates ($13): I’m a Yates fanatic and it’s hard to choose one. But this one, oh God — the self-destruction on display in this stubborn, painful book about the treacherous territory where money and love collide.
What’s your favorite dysfunctional romance novel? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
Feature image via Getty