We’re all narrators in our own life story. Our own inner monologue is non-stop, but it’s also biased and limited. Those inner narrators have only our experiences, anxieties, and memories to work with, form opinions, and shape how we see the world. And the same is true for characters in the books we read; the way they tell the story is largely based in their world view and limited to what they know.
That doesn’t always quite work for the story, though. Sometimes narrators aren’t reliable – there have been a number of books with main characters who have mental illnesses that make them unreliable or they suffer from amnesia or they’re just liars. Other times, the narrator just doesn’t know everything needed to fully tell the story; recent years have seen an uptick in YA books where the main character’s love interest also gets to narrate the story, which allows readers to get to know the love interest and their thought process.
Having multiple narrators can come in handy when keeping readers from knowing too much and adding suspense. A lot of stories require readers to get to know the main character intimately, but sometimes the story requires distance from the characters. Think of it this way: if one character or two characters told the story, there wouldn’t be a story.
Sure, there can also be some downfalls with multi-perspective books. Some don’t do enough to differentiate the perspectives and the voices sound the same, causing confusion for any reader. Multiple perspectives can also be challenging for readers who prefer being closer to the character.
When a book manages to balance multiple perspectives with distinct voices though, that really allows a reader to get to know each character – it can be magic. These multi-perspective books can be fun and adorable, like Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different, or they can tackle a mystery, like Riley Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie and Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, or they can build up who a character really is, like Adele Griffin’s The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone and Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice. Even the biggest doubter of multiple perspectives can find at least one YA title to love.
How do you feel about a book having more than two narrators? Does that take away from the story? Add to it? Or does it depend on the execution? Tweet us your thoughts @piquebeyond!