Soothing books for freaks
September 9, 2018 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of books that would/could be soothing to people who are ostracized and don't fit into society. Whether they look wrong, act wrong, are sick, are a monster, whatever. Recs for self-helpish books on how to be OK with being a freak also welcome, as long as they acknowledge that people can be awful to those who are different. Great YA books super welcome. Game recs welcome as well.

PLEASE NO: books on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, supplements, nutrition, introverts, CBT, DBT, weight loss, etc. Heartbreaking endings not welcome; the goal is to soothe. Absolutely no books by or about tech dudes or sexy vampires. NO victim blaming or stories or advice on how to change yourself to fit in. Also not looking for stories about groups or communities of freaks who are happy together.
posted by Stonkle to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
On second thought, other people may find stories of lonely sexy vampires v. healing and good so let's put that one back in there.
posted by Stonkle at 3:01 PM on September 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Sound and the Fury might work.
posted by Buddy_Boy at 3:08 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
posted by Little Dawn at 3:08 PM on September 9, 2018

The Thing About Jellyfish - kid who doesn’t fit in and has lost her only close friend. Definitely recognizes that people can treat each other horribly. The main character finds a place and new relationships and applies rigorous research goals to her personal project. It’s well written and the science is spot on. I also liked that while the adults in her life don’t always get it right they do always love her.
posted by lepus at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gemini, by Sonya Mukherjee, is about conjoined twins who are considering whether to leave their small town, where people are used to them. Hit hard, very lovely.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:43 PM on September 9, 2018

Libby on Wednesday, Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Libby is a young teen, a smart writer who's always been homeschooled and has no idea how to cope with her new middle school; the school forms a group of kids who like writing, all of whom are misfits in their own way.
posted by huimangm at 3:59 PM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

(sorry, an extra note because you didn't want "groups or communities of freaks who are happy together"; I don't think the book above is what you want to avoid in that sense.)
posted by huimangm at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2018

(the wonderful) Kate Bornstein's Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws:

"A one-of-a-kind guide to staying alive outside the box, Hello, Cruel World is a much-needed unconventional approach to life for those who want to stay on the edge, but alive."
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:05 PM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Outsider, by Colin Wilson
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:11 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. Though I read it years and years ago, I think it fits your requirements.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2018

Great YA books

Well The Catcher in the Rye is the original answer here for outsiders but something tells me the OP has already rejected Holden.
posted by Rash at 4:39 PM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amanda Davis's Wonder When You'll Miss Me. About a teen girl who experiences trauma and runs away to the circus.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 4:48 PM on September 9, 2018

You should buy all the YA books by William Sleator.
posted by xammerboy at 5:53 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Daniel Pinkwater would be good too.
posted by xammerboy at 5:55 PM on September 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

These are all YA novels, mostly about young women.

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates (it is a little bit about friendship but far from a community of freaks)
The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (from 1974 but worth tracking down)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (not sure if soothing is right but I liked it)
The earth, my butt, and other big round things by Carolyn Mackler
Not sure if this fits since it is a little along the lines of "communities of freaks" but they exist in a world that haaaaaates them: All Rights Reserved by Greg Katsoulis (and the sequel)

(on preview, Pinkwater and Sleator YES, I'd also add Paul Zindel, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and other stuff)
posted by jessamyn at 6:00 PM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

xammerboy beat me to it - but the Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death is all about not fitting in, in the coolest of ways.
posted by rdn at 6:02 PM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

If science fiction is of interest, Rainbows End might be worth a try. The freak aspect is subtle, but it's there.
posted by eotvos at 6:29 PM on September 9, 2018

The Night Circus is incredibly soothing, especially in Audiobook form.
posted by erst at 6:36 PM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Among Others by Jo Walton, especially if they're a scifi/fantasy reader.
posted by bridgebury at 6:47 PM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler might fit the bill.
posted by stellaluna at 7:13 PM on September 9, 2018

You might try Winter Tide and Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys.
posted by darchildre at 8:17 PM on September 9, 2018

My first thought is Charles Bukowski. Ham on Rye is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story. Tales of Ordinary Madness, a book of short stories, was also memorable to me. Warning: probably not appropriate for teenagers (though I was 16 or 17 I when I read my first Bukowski book myself.) Your particular interest in YA fiction makes me think you are gathering book suggestions for a young one. His characters are not exactly role models (drinking, drugs, sexism), but it was strangely comforting for me to read various novels about another (even worse-off) outcast at that time in my life. Somehow, Bukowski helped me feel okay with being a weirdo.
posted by sevenofspades at 10:17 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. It's about a woman perceived as the "office weirdo" who is treated very unkindly by almost everyone. It is well written, funny, moving, and very realistic but with a hopeful ending. I think it would fit what you're looking for.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:55 PM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

In YA, the Wayward Children series (starting with Every Heart a Doorway) by Seanan McGuire is built around the idea of not fitting in, with really good representation. They are full of feels, but decidedly NOT heartbreaking endings. Also all pretty short.

eta: Might be too "communities of freaks" for you, but, even that...not really
posted by DebetEsse at 12:01 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

re Catcher in the Rye, any story really about the Glass family - Franny and Zooey, Raise high the roof beams, Nine stories!
posted by speakeasy at 12:04 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

My high school students seem to love Paper Towns by John Green.

And whatever you do, don't watch Grease because that is 100% changing yourself to fit some weird ideal. A teacher coworker played it for some students a few weeks ago and I was dying. Just sayin'.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:00 AM on September 10, 2018

The Thing About Jellyfish is so, so good and I heartily second it. I found it to be a tear-jerker though, so “soothing” is relative.

I love Autobiography of a Face; it’s extraordinary well-written and concludes in a way that is cautiously optimistic, but still realistic and not corny or sentimental. I think it’s especially relatable for anyone who deals with not fitting in by turning to their own inner world.

I read California Dreamin’ fairly recently and it also fits. I think it strikes a good balance between Cass Elliot’s confidence and her insecurities - despite her success she still struggles with fitting in and being accepted; sometimes she manages to power through it, sometimes not. It’s a graphic novel (with beautiful sketchy-doodly art) and a quick read.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:53 AM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

This Is How, by Augusten Burroughs. I read this and I felt so much less like an alien in an all too human body. His memoirs are filled with horrors, but this is self help, sort of, and lifted me up. You also might enjoy Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal, Jeanette Winterson's memoir.

To Metroid Baby's rec of Autobiography of a Face - there is a companion book, if you read that one do read Truth and Beauty by the wonderful Ann Patchett. Heartbreaking but filled with so much love and humanity.
posted by wellred at 5:07 AM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series - the first book, Every Heart a Doorway, won a Hugo award in 2017 and the whole series is just lovely. It follows the residents of Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, who have gone through portals to other worlds where they fit perfectly, but now have been returned to their old lives, and don't fit into this world anymore. The books are fairly short (around 200 pages). Be forewarned, the series is not yet completed (book 4 comes out next year, and book 5 is scheduled for 2020).
posted by Emmc325 at 6:55 AM on September 10, 2018

Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2018

I love the Xandri Corelel books by Kaia Sønderby. From the description:
As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she's earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won't risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can't bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she's beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.
(Sønderby is autistic, so this is #ownvoices.)
posted by Lexica at 12:03 PM on September 10, 2018

the weetzie bat books
posted by brujita at 1:46 PM on September 10, 2018

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