Friday, September 30, 2011

Why "Disturbing" is Good

In light of Banned Books Week, and also just because I feel the need to talk about it, I'd like to talk about disturbing books.

Books get banned and challenged and not-recommended for all kinds of reasons. Sexual content is a big one, so are topics like drugs and religion.

The one I'd like to talk about is violence.

"Violence," to me, can mean different things. It can mean physical fighting. It can mean angry emotional intensity. It can mean blood and gore.

Last night I finished reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It was a rip-roaring roller-coaster of a book, never slowing down for a second. The pages flew by. The plot was fantastic, the characters were fantastic.

And it disturbed me.

Oh, god, did it disturb me. There are so many things that could be disturbing about this book. Scary bad guys? It has 'em. Blood and guts? Oh yeah. Sad death scenes of characters that shall not be named? Has 'em in spades.

I'm not going to reveal exactly what it is that disturbed me, I don't want to spoil it. I'll just say that it was a scene where a character acted rashly, resulting in a death.

It wasn't a main character who died. It was the equivalent of Taxi Driver #3 being killed in a big-budget disaster movie. But somehow, the situation slid under my skin and stabbed right into the core of me.

I didn't know whether to burst into tears or slam the book shut and toss it against the wall. I didn't know whether I wanted to be violently ill or curl up in bed and sleep for days. I was paralyzed, physically and emotionally.

That scene shook something up inside me. Like the titular knife, that whole book slit me open and spilled my insides, stitching them back up after.

That is why disturbing books are good. They change you. They break your heart and put it back together. You heal from the pain, but you're different afterward. They scare you, but they teach you about yourself. Sure, maybe I wish I'd never read that scene in The Knife of Never Letting Go (it would save me a lot of heartbreak), but now I know how not to act. I learned that I could never stand to cause such intense fear and tragedy, like the character who killed did.

I know myself better now because of those disturbing book. I would recommend the experience to anybody.


  1. Totally agree, Becca! Disturbing books are often a really harrowing, but worthwhile reading experience :)

  2. I've had this experience too with Room by Emma Donahue. It definitely got under my skin and made me consider things I'd never thought of before. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Great post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Room was excellent. I've rarely been so on-edge the whole time I read it! And the voice was pitch-perfect.