I’m a big fan of series. I love joining characters on lengthy adventures and being in it for the long hall. But that doesn’t mean I read series exclusively. On the contrary, I’ve read some fantastic standalones in my day. Today, I’d like to recommend a few of my all-time favorites. From fantasy to contemporary and beyond, here are six books you should absolutely read:
- If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
For fans of dark academia, look no further than this stunning debut. This story follows a group of college seniors at a performing arts school, as they navigate increasing tensions and competition. Their lives turn downright Shakespearean when one of them turns up dead. This book explores many things, from friendship to loyalty to accidentally falling in love with your best friend/roommate. And you’ll absolutely lose your mind at the ending. This is one tale of woe you don’t want to miss.
- Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Cashore plays with your idea of reality in this book, the novel an exploration in genre. Jane is invited to visit Tu Reviens, the mysterious mansion home of college acquaintance Kieran Thrash. Bound by a promise to her late aunt to accept an invitation to this house, Jane joins Kieran on a weekend vacation. There she is faced with many mysteries and one pivotal decision, seemingly insignificant but actually life-altering. Even better, we get to see the outcome for each possible choice. It’s a third-person choose-your-own adventure story in which we get to go on each adventure. It plays with identity (and lady love!) in a way that really makes you think. Oh, and it dabbles in multiverse theory. No biggie.
- The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This three-perspective novel may seem like your average YA contemporary, but it’s far from it. This story follows Alex, Peekay, and Jack as their lives intertwine. Alex is a loner, still reeling from the brutal rape and murder of her older sister. Peekay is the preacher’s kid, fighting for an identity outside her parentage. Jack is a star athlete who still holds guilt for the role he played the night Alex’s sister disappeared. When Peekay befriends Alex while volunteering at the animal shelter, she sets all three of them on a course that will change their lives forever. Based on the Rudyard Kipling quote, “The female of the species is more deadly than the male,” this book is viciously feminist. It’s basically required reading. However, I do advise looking for a list of trigger warnings for this book. Because this book is one wild, eye-opening ride.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If you’ve ever wondered what old Hollywood was like, look no further than this fascinating account. Virtually unknown journalist Monique Grant gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to write a tell-all biography of reclusive movie star Evelyn Hugo. We get to hear all about Evelyn’s crazy, scandalous life from the woman herself and it is glorious. It’s got three of my favorite things: morally gray characters, Hollywood behind-the-scenes, and ladies in love. What more could you ask for?
- The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
A biting criticism on the misogynistic woman in the refrigerator trope, this novel tells the stories of different superheroes, supervillains, and supergirlfriends who were killed in order to further their male counterpart’s story. Each woman is an analog of famous DC and Marvel characters. It’s both a reproach of this trope and a celebration of these women. I was riveted by each of these women’s stories. If you’d like to read a feminist tale about characters who deserved better, then put this book on your TBR.
- The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Picoult is a master at questioning morality and exploring shades of gray, but this book really takes the cake. Sage Singer, mourning her late mother, meets Josef Weber in a grief support group and they form an unlikely friendship. But one day, he confesses the unthinkable and asks Sage to help him die. This story explores three perspectives: Sage’s, Josef’s, and Sage’s grandmother Minka’s. It weaves an unforgettable tale of one of the greatest atrocities committed by man: the Holocaust. Poignant and moving, Picoult asks whether some people deserve forgiveness. In this tale of murder vs. justice, the real surprise twist is which side you land on.
What are some of your favorite standalones? Tell me about them in the comments!