10 Books With Unsettling Main Characters That Still Haunt Us

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Books are a way to take a break from reality and step into someone else’s shoes for a little while. However, some protagonists are downright haunting, and you’ll definitely be losing a lot of sleep over them. But what’s life without some adrenaline? Here are ten books with unsettling main characters for those of you looking to indulge in a dark novel.

1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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If you’re into morbid protagonists, then this book should be at the top of your list. It features a sinister 18-year-old orphan whose uncanny thoughts and actions will make you feel weirded out. Mary Katherine Blackwood wishes unholy things upon anyone who causes her any inconvenience, which includes deviant magic to turn their worlds upside down, poisoning people, and inflicting pain upon just about anyone.

2. Perfume by Patrick Süskind

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With quite a bizarre yet intriguing storyline, calling Perfume a unique book is an understatement. The story follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born without any body odor. What makes him incredibly creepy is that he goes on a witch hunt to extract the perfect scent of the bodies of young women, leading to gruesome crimes.

3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

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This book is extremely popular for its morbid narrative and has even been made into a blockbuster movie. American Psycho is about an investment banker named Patrick Bateman who thinks he owns the world because he’s loaded with money.

The novel reveals his sick thoughts, which he eventually ends up executing. The entire book pays homage to the 80s when crime was rampant, and no one would bat an eye on the demise of innocent women and children.

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4. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

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Yellowface is about the Americanization of Asians, highlighting all the nasty parts of the nation in the form of a book. The story highlights the pressing problem: silencing the voices of diverse groups within the writing industry.

It follows a Chinese writer in a strange, toxic friendship with her fellow American counterpart that will leave a pit in your stomach. What’s unsettling about this book isn’t some crazy stalker but the beliefs of the main character that leave you thinking.

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5. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottesa Moshfegh

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A darkly satirical novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is about feeling alienated, disconnected, and lonely, which leads the protagonist to take on an extreme form of self-isolation: hibernation.

But what’s eerie about this storyline is how the main character’s physical and mental health deteriorates, leading to a blurry line between reality and hallucinations. Her apathy towards life leaves you feeling all sorts of emotions.

6. Room by Emma Donaghue

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In the list of horrifying novels, this one would be somewhere at the top. The entire premise of the book takes time to digest. Room follows the life of a mother and her son, but it’s the opposite of wholesome.

At the young age of five, Ma tells Jack that they’ve been living in captivity their whole lives and that there is a word outside the confines of his room. This little boy grows up knowing nothing but a single room where he has to spend his nights locked inside a wardrobe!

7. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

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Natsuki and her cousin are no ordinary people, or at least they don’t seem to think so. They believe that they’re aliens from a different planet, which leads them to seclusion from the world around them.

As Natsuki grows older, she meets someone on the same wavelength as her, and they proceed to live an emotionless life, trying to mirror the people around them. Earthlings has a bizarre yet unique storyline filled with unconventional characters that make you ponder.

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8. Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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A haunting story like no other, Turn of the Screw is a beautifully crafted book that leaves you feeling horrified. Hired to take care of two orphaned kids, a young governess thinks the Bly Manor is haunted by ghosts and demons that are also influencing the kids’ behavior. But the question remains: Is she disturbed, or are the children purposely driving her wild?

9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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If you’re planning on sleeping by yourself today, you might want to skip this one because, boy, will it scare the life out of you. A psychological thriller, Dark Places, follows Libby Day, a young girl who put her brother behind bars when she was only seven.

When she’s contacted by a group convinced of her brother’s innocence, she begins to dive deep into the Day family massacre. Let’s just say things take a disturbing turn.

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10. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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Comically dark, The Wasp Factory is a sinister tale of a man who’s suffered a painful childhood and has found solace in the deepest pits of evil. In order to cope with things outside, 16-year-old Frank Cauldhame develops an unnatural fascination with inflicting pain. This provocative and eccentric novel will leave you feeling hollow inside.

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