This tag was created by Jen Campbell on YouTube, and the idea of it is to go around your shelves (whether virtual or physical!) and choose pairs of books that you think compliment each other well, perhaps because they have similar themes, or one is a retelling of the other, etc. Jen asks us to aim for between five and ten pairs of books so I’ve pushed myself to go for ten.
I didn’t read most of these in pairs, apart from the ones I read for university modules, but have chosen them because I think they would go well together.
1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith / Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.
I connect these books in my head because I read them at uni for the same module, and that’s because they go well together. Readers often say that Smith has been heavily influenced by Rushdie. It’s been a while since I read either of them but according to my friend Mr Google there are several structural and linguistic similarities between these two novels. Both have themes of religion and multiculturalism, and both have the same dry, dark sense of humour.
2. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie / Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
I read the Alice books over and over again when I was younger, but I only read Peter Pan last month. I really wish I’d read it when I’d been a child: I think I would have loved it. I was reminded of Carroll’s books by Peter Pan‘s silliness: Nana, the dog, made me laugh and I loved how everyone just accepted that she acted as a nurse to the children. Hook was a delicious villain and I think I would have loved him as a kid. It’s not quite as nonsensical as Alice but I was reminded strongly of Wonderland while reading about Neverland.
3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld / Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill.
Both of these books look at what our obsession with the way we look might come to in a dystopian future. Uglies shows us a world where, at the age of sixteen, every ‘ugly’ – or normal-looking human by our standards – is surgically changed into a ‘pretty’. On the surface it solves a lot of problems, but underneath we know something sinister is going on.
In Only Ever Yours, the future is ruled by men who have created ‘Eves’, beautiful girls who are being trained to please a man by either becoming his wife or his sex slave. The girls’ obsession over their looks has magnified to dangerous levels: extreme dieting and eating disorders are encouraged; to make up their grades, photos of the Eves are rated on social media, causing intense competition between the girls.
Both of these dystopian futures felt unsettlingly plausible, but Only Ever Yours in particular felt like something not that far off from the world we know now.
4. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly / Fairytales by the Brothers Grimm.
The Book of Lost Things is made up of retellings of fairytales as well as some original ones. All are dark and eerie. If, like me, you mostly know your fairytales by the Disney cartoons, then reading some classic tales like those by the Brothers Grimm might give you a more informed outlook when going into this book. However, I read it before reading the classic tales and really loved finding out just how wrong I’d been, thinking I was going to read a cute fairytale romp. So you could read these in either order.
5. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne / The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
I still haven’t finished Anne Frank’s diary, but what I have read was a very emotional read. I think it’s important to read books about the Holocaust, especially with the way things have been going lately *cough*. So if you’re not sure where to start, I’d recommend both of these. Anne Frank’s diary is a real-life account of Jewish families who went into hiding, and is a very harrowing read. I quite often forgot that I was reading non-fiction, because firstly, it’s hard to imagine that such terrible things would ever happen in real life, but secondly because she was such a good writer.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is fictionalised but, I think, just as harrowing. The privileged son of a Nazi officer moves to a new house not far from a death camp, though he has been sheltered and thinks it’s farm. Through the fence surrounding the camp he makes friends with Shmuel, a Jewish boy of the same age, and of course the book is tragic.
6. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel / Wonder by R. J. Palacio.
I’ve said enough times how much I adored Wonder, so if you’d like to see more details then feel free to read my gushing review. I felt that Faceless was the version for older readers, and put more focus on the importance placed on the way women look, whereas Wonder was more about looks in general. I had to laugh out loud when I got to the Halloween scene, which is practically identical to the one from Wonder. I think it must have been an influence for Sheinmel. (I’m not saying this is a bad thing – I loved Faceless and think the Halloween scene was probably a bit of a homage.) (If you’d like to read my review of Faceless, click here.)
7. Room by Emma Donoghue / The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks.
Room is the more sophisticated out of these books, but I think if you enjoyed Room you will enjoy The Bunker Diary. Both are about characters who have been kidnapped and held in unknown locations against their will – The Bunker Diary being slightly more sensationalist. They have different tones but it’s interesting to explore the different ways people might react to this kind of situation. In Room, Ma survives for Jack, trying to create a normal, educational environment for him in what to her is a terrible place, but (nearly) always staying strong for him. The Bunker Diary has more characters who have been kidnapped, all of whom deal with the situation in their own ways.
8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green / All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
I wasn’t a huge fan of either of these books – I didn’t mind them, but think they’re overrated – but I feel they’d go well together. They have similar tones and both deal with death and grief, though TFiOS is about teenagers diagnosed with cancer and All the Bright Places is about teenagers contemplating suicide. I think if you liked one, then you’d probably like the other.
If you’d like to read my review of All the Bright Places, click here.
9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte / Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
Guys, guys. LOOK AT THAT COVER OF JANE EYRE. I MUST HUNT THIS COVER DOWN.
These are some books I DID read alongside each other, because they were part of the same uni module. Both considered ‘sensationalist fiction’, they have similar storylines and look at women snatching at their small chances for independence in the Victorian era.
10. The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn / The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.
I chose these two because I wanted to suggest some historical fiction to read alongside each other, or one after the other, and these were the only two I’ve read about Katherine Howard so I thought that might be interesting for others who might not know much about her either. Dunn‘s book is told from one point-of-view and has a pretty clear image of the sort of woman Katherine might have been. I think it would be great to start with this, to look at the general storyline, and then move on to The Boleyn Inheritance straight away.
The Confessions of Katherine Howard stops before the execution, so Gregory will finish the story for you, while also exploring more deeply Katherine’s life at court before she was Queen, in her role as lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. It also has chapters from the points of view of Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, and Anne of Cleves, so will make the world a little more rich than Dunn’s book.