I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.
Well, I started this blog post with three recent titles, then I kept finding more. I’ll try to keep it to these three, because their inclusion in the novels felt more important to the plot than some of the other fictional titles.
All read in December 2016-January 2017
The premise of Melanie Raabe’s The Trap includes a mention of the fictional book right on the cover blurb: “I know who killed my sister. I wrote this book for him.” The narrator, an author, writes a book called Blood Sisters about her sister’s murder in an effort to lure the murderer, a journalist, to her secluded house, where she plans to get him to confess. There are chapters from the fictional book, which later one wonders how closely these chapters actually follow the truth.
A fictional book called The Bubblegum Reaper brings together two teens in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing. The fictional novel involves a teenage boy who falls in love with a twin who talks to turtles, only he isn’t sure which of the identical twins he’s in love with. The characters, in their obsession with this book, discover that the author lives nearby and after striking up a friendship with him, also discover that The Bubblegum Reaper seems to be a thinly veiled story of his own life. Every Exquisite Thing reminded me a LOT of The Fault in Our Stars, which has its own fictional novel, An Imperial Affliction. Still no idea why the book is called The Bubblegum Reaper.
Finally, and you knew I’d be back to talk about this one, A List of Cages features an entire SERIES of fictional novels: the Elian Mariner books, which sound suspiciously like The Little Prince to me (and I just finished reading Everything, Everything, in which the main character reads and re-reads The Little Prince). I haven’t actually read that book, so I could be way off, but basically Julian uses these books both to remind him of Adam, and to escape into the stars much like Elian Mariner does.
I often find that characters in books read other books, and most of the time they are real books that exist. Obviously, authors are readers and they want to pay homage to the books that inspire them. The use of a fictional book gives the characters the ability to interact with the authors’ lives – obviously, The Trap wouldn’t have worked with a real novel, because it’s all about the author, and the same for Every Exquisite Thing (and The Fault in Our Stars). For A List of Cages, I think the reason for using a fictional series is largely for one scene, in which one of Julian’s classmates asks what he’s reading, and he gets excited to talk about his favorite books, and we as the reader don’t know what level these books are until the classmate makes a terrible comment, and suddenly we realize that high school freshman Julian is reading books meant for elementary school children. In that way, The Little Prince wouldn’t have worked, because many adults read it.
Lots and lots of other books include fictional works. Probably the coolest example of this is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (it bears close resemblance to Harry Potter). So many people were writing fanfiction for this fictional series that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote the fic Cath was working on, and it was published as Carry On Simon. Doesn’t always happen, but I sure would like to read The Bubblegum Reaper!
Addition, 3/10/17: Found another one! Currently reading The Man in the High Castle, wherein there is a book titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. I keep getting the feeling that there is a parallel universe where people read the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which refers to a fictional book called The Man in the High Castle.