Top 5 Wednesday: Unreliable Narrators

The narrator is always telling the truth… right? Right? What happens when they don’t? This week on Top Five Wednesday, Chelsey and Alexandra talk about their favourite unreliable narrators and how they effect their particular stories.

Whether these characters are not only lying to you the reader but to themselves, or they’ve basing their opinions on false information, these characters show how much we’re at their mercy. The only information that we’re going to get is what they share with us. No narration is not biased, but sometimes it’s worth it to take a step back and see how far the characters thoughts and opinions colour a narrative.

Also it’s worth mentioning that since we are the narrators of this video and we are unreliable, this list is in no particular order.

Top Five Wednesday is a book tag started by GingerReadsLainey. Join the goodreads group to get each week’s topic and participate yourselves!

1. CAMERON FROM GOING BOVINE – LIBBA BRAY

In Going Bovine, the protagonist Cameron is very ill. He’s suffering from Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease). Cameron’s brain is slowly turning to mush which causes him to have vivid hallucinations. The reader follows Cameron on this crazy road trip, searching for a scientist who will supposedly be able to cure him. There is only one problem, with all these wacky things happening around Cameron, is any of it actually real?

2. COLIN SINGLETON FROM AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES – JOHN GREEN

Colin has a weakness for women named Katherine. After the last Katherine dumps him, he goes on a road trip with his best friend and tries to create an equation that will predict the outcome of any relationship. Colin leaves you wondering: how could you have dated twelve people and have them all dump you. There is something about that that doesn’t add up. John Green always does a great job when it comes to portraying and critiquing relationships. In An Abundance of Katherines (and Paper Towns for that matter) he takes the trope of the manic pixie dream girl and analyzes it. He makes you question whether what your protagonist tells you is the truth about the other characters around them. Katherines is a fun quick read and is a great introduction to John Green’s sense of humour. If you’ve never picked up one of his novels then we suggest you give him a try.

3. JENNSEN FROM THE PILLARS OF CREATION – TERRY GOODKIND

The Pillars of Creation is the seventh novel in The Sword of Truth series. The series up to this point has been focused on Richard and all of his accomplishments. By this point you’re used to hearing about how awesome Richard is and listening to everyone constantly sing praises about the most minor of his deeds. In Pillars you’re no longer following Richard’s perspective, this time around you’re following his sister Jennsen. Jennsen has lived a very sheltered life and one day is interrupted by someone who tells her that Richard wants to kill her. Jennsen spends the rest of the novel hating Richard and twisting all of his accomplishments into examples of his evil and cruel nature. As you go through the novel, Jennsen’s opinions slowly drive you crazy, but it does serve as a break from basking in Richard’s greatness.

4. MACKIE DOYLE FROM THE REPLACEMENT – BRENNA YOVANOFF

Mackie is one of the most whiny characters that we have ever come across during our time running this website. Mackie is unreliable because he goes through life with a miserable outlook. Through his inner monologue he is constantly telling the reader how his life sucks and that he is alone and no one loves him. In truth Mackie is surrounded by an amazing network of friends and family that would do anything for him. To name two, Mackie’s sister figured out that her brother was a monster when she was seven but still loves him and he has a best friend who would give up his chances with the girl of his dreams if he so much as felt Mackie needed him.

The Replacement has a great atmosphere of dread and has a cool take on fairies. We totally recommend you check it out. Just don’t trust a word that comes out of Mackie’s mouth.

The Replacement was one of the first book reviews we have ever filmed. You can watch it here.

5. HAMLET FROM HAMLET – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

If you know Hamlet, you know there are two main interpretations of this text. The first is that Hamlet is actually batshit insane. The second is that Hamlet is pretending to be insane. You can argue both fairly easily.

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespearian play. I love how complex it is. I love that there is no right answer. The more I read it, the more I notice certain things like Claudius. He’s Hamlet’s main antagonist but when you look at it, he’s not a bad King. As soon as he assumes Kingship he diverts a war with Fortinbras. It is only Hamlet who shows dislike or suspicion towards him. Hamlet spends the rest of the play plotting his revenge against Claudius. It is up to the reader/audience to decide if Hamlet is actually being truthful or if everything is just a product of a grief disturbed mind.

When you think about it, this entire list is unreliable. We’ve only read so many books that we could have missed what someone else would deem to be a clear choice. Tell us about your favourite unreliable characters in the comments below, and try not to think too hard about the biases in literature. Or you’ll end up like David Tennant here.

Happy reading!

Written by
Alexandra is always looking for the next book she can devour. She has a love hate relationship with teen fiction specifically when it comes to fantasy, post apocalyptic and failed shakespeare adaptations.

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