You know the kind of book I’m talking about. Either through the story’s plot, characters, or world, an author portrays an issue or concept in a way that makes you rethink, well, everything. You go into the book expecting one thing and are utterly blown away; you turn the last page and set the book down with your jaw on the floor and a whole new perspective on something. If you ask me, these kinds of books are the most meaningful reads. They’re truly life-changing and you’ll never forget what you learned from them. Here are five books/series that have done exactly that for me.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Ah yes, the book series that inspired this article. Scythe and its sequel Thunderhead are my two favorite books of all time; they take place in an incredibly fascinating and complex dystopian world unlike any other. In this world, humanity has conquered death and is ruled over by a conscious AI being called the Thunderhead. The Thunderhead is perfectly benevolent and always acts with humanity’s best interests at heart. It rules over everything in society except for the Scythedom: a group of people tasked with killing others so that the planet doesn’t become overpopulated. The story centers on two teens, Citra and Rowan, who become scythe apprentices and begin to discover that the Scythedom may not be as honorable and faultless as it leads everyone to believe. It follows their journey as they become more and more entrenched in the world of scythes and as they start to question the essence of their positions.
These books make you think about human nature, religion, AI, and so much more. The list of discussion topics within them is truly endless, and you’ll find yourself thinking about aspects of the story long after you’ve read the last word.
Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
You think you know what a pop-star romance story looks like? Yeah, I did, too.
Permanent Record is as far as can be from what I consider the “usual” YA romance book involving a celebrity, where the largest obstacle the characters face is almost always the paparazzi and media attention. In this book, Mary H.K. Choi dives so, so much deeper as the two characters grow closer and try desperately to hold onto their relationship: it brings up questions about mental health, toxic relationships, financial well-being and responsibility, debt, and what it means to be biracial (among others). Choi’s writing was brutally honest; she didn’t pull any punches at any point in the story. It wasn’t necessarily an enjoyable book to read (I was so stressed and frustrated with the characters for almost the entirety of the novel), but it’s absolutely worth it.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: I’ve never cried as much while reading a book as I did while reading this one.
The fact that something tragic happens in this book is mentioned in the synopsis, so I knew it was coming – but it wasn’t anything like I expected, and as a result, it cut so much deeper. The second half of this book was not easy to read, but I’ll also never forget it. I felt so connected with the characters and felt like I got to know them on a level that few other books have reached.
The Serpent King is a story of friendship, family, grief, and grappling with the future. It may take place in a small town, but its messages are big and important in so many ways.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Autoboyography is full of happiness and is one of the cutest books in existence, but it’s also so much more. It centers on Tanner, a proud bisexual teen who was more or less forced back into the closet after his family moved from California to a town in Utah where the majority of the population is not accepting of his identity because of their religion. Tanner decides to sign up for a creative writing class at his high school and very quickly finds himself falling in love with a boy who had taken the class the previous year and is now mentoring it. Sebastian, who’s the son of the town’s Mormon preacher, isn’t as open or willing to question his sexuality as Tanner is. They begin a whirlwind romance: they seem to fit so perfectly together, yet the differences in their backgrounds and beliefs are so stark that you start to wonder if they’ll ever be able to make it work.
Autoboyography is a story of self-acceptance, identity, and, above all, the power of love. It may sound cheesy (and parts of it certainly are), but it also tells an incredibly emotional and impactful story that will without a doubt stick in your mind.
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
The Nowhere Girls is a story of girls from diverse backgrounds coming together to fight the rape culture that runs rampant in their high school. It’s both an ode to and an anthem for intersectional feminism, so the scope of the topics it discusses encompasses so many things that aren’t talked about enough. It’s a hard-hitting story that will get you thinking about the underlying messages in media and society that we may unconsciously take in on a daily basis. I read this book almost two years ago and still think about its characters and themes all the time.
What books have changed your life by making you think?