Thought-provoking. Disconcerting. Provocative. There's a probably a thousand ways to spin it, but some books can make you feel downright uneasy.
With the recent buzz about Raziel Reid's GG-winning controversial book, When Everything Feels Like The Movies, I started thinking about the types of books we read, and just how much can feel like too much.
Here are six titles that some readers have found to have pushed the boundaries when it came to sex, violence and more.
Reader beware - these aren't for the faint of heart!
When Everything Feels Like The Movies
Raziel Reid, 2014
Inspired by a real-life tragedy, Reid's debut novel follows an openly-gay teen narrator as he explores his sexuality, school troubles, and family dysfunctions.
The first young adult book to win a Governor General's Award, Reid's explicit novel has invited a lot of attention - and not all good. While some have lauded his writing to be unflinching and authentic, others consider it gratuitious and vulgar.
TV personality Lainey Lui will be defending the novel later next month in CBC's Canada Reads debates.
My Loose Thread
Dennis Cooper, 2002
If the odd, bloody cover doesn't make you feel slightly out of sorts (The two boys resemble creepy clowns in an intimate embrace), the synopsis will most likely do the trick: Larry, a high-school senior struggling with his sexuality, is paid to kill a peer and steal his notebook, which holds information on a number of students. Thrown in the mix is a strange relationship with his younger brother, Jim, who harbours secrets of his own. Told from Larry's point-of-view, the story holds little back when it comes to violence and the nature of dark obssession.
Another story inspired by real events, Tampa follows Celeste Price, a young, attractive junior-high English teacher. Celeste is married to a hot cop, lives in a nice house, and drives a fast car. She's got it all...including a singular taste for 14-year-old boys. Her entire life revolves around feeding this obssession. It's hard to feel even a little sympathetic for a pedophilic predator like Celeste, and even Nutting's eloquent (but sometimes revolting) prose can't make it happen. What you do get, however, is a twisted look into the mind of a deceptive woman who will do anything to get her way. But do you really want to peek in there?
The Ages of Lulu
Almudena Grandes, 2005 (English trans.)
Lulu starts off as a precocious fifteen-year-old who is seduced by a family friend more than a decade her senior. This sparks a strange, and sometimes scary, sexual journey that finds Lulu blurring the line between decency and perversion as she explores the darker side of love and sex.
Translated from its original Spanish, Las edades de Lulú won the Sonrisa Vertical Prize for erotic literature in 1989 when it was first written.
Nelly Arcan, 2011 (English trans.)
In Montreal, in a not-too-distant future, desperate people can buy their own deaths. An obscure company designs customized suicides for those that can prove their desires to die are authentic and absolute: after all, there are no refunds for this service. Antoinette Beauchamp fulfills the criteria, but something goes wrong and her death wish leaves her a bedridden paraplegic instead.
The powerful commentary on life and death is only compounded when you learn author Arcan committed suicide just days after this original French title was finalized.
Tabitha Suzuma, 2011
Lochan and Maya have only had each other for support through years of neglect and abuse from their parents. They've always felt more like friends than siblings. When these feelings grow into something more, they struggle with their unconventional relationship and the desperate, all-consuming love that drives it. While certainly not as explicit as some of the other titles on this list, Forbidden explores tricky and taboo territory. It isn't new (think of the Dollangangers in Flowers in the Attic), but incestuous love stories don't quite make it to the standard romance shelves either.
Some other honourable mentions for this list include:
Whether this list makes you want to go out and read them all, or simply know which ones to avoid, we can all be grateful that we have the choice to decide. This week is Freedom to Read Week (February 22 through 28) - it's a great time to celebrate whatever it is we're reading. Want some more ideas for reading this week? Check out the previous post of challenged titles.
If you'd like to share a provocative title you've recently read or would recommend, tweet us (@torontolibrary) or leave a comment!