5 books that explore second-person narration in unique ways

As a reader, there is no better experience than being immersed in the plot and feeling like you’re living the story alongside the characters. Which is why second-person perspectives excel at creating this feeling. The use of “you” invites readers into the story and heightens emotional intensity by creating intimacy with the characters.

This perspective is rarely used as it can be quite tricky to implement. However, in this article, we bring to you 5 books that skillfully used this narrative technique to involve us, the readers, as an omniscient presence.


  • Nine-chambered Heart Janice Pariat


This novel threads together the story of a young woman told through the eyes of nine people who crossed paths with her at some point in their lives. It directly addresses the protagonist and feels like walking down somebody else’s memory lane. Nothing is known about the protagonist other than the versions of her that exist in the memories of the people who had fleeting love affairs with her. The expert incorporation of the second-person narration makes the reader feel like an intruder who stumbled upon some intimate journal entries, putting us in the memories of the people who knew her.


  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid


This book depicts how the American public sentiment drastically changed course post 9/11. In this thought-provoking book by Mohsin Hamid, Changez is the protagonist- a Pakistani whose life in America is affected by the change in the air in the treatment towards his countrymen. Set in a cafe in Lahore, the narration is a monologue spoken to an American, whose response is known to the reader only through Changez’s verbal observations of him, such as ‘Ah, I see I have alarmed you’. Here, the reader is a silent presence in what is an increasingly unnerving conversation between Changez and the American that takes place in the course of a single day.


  • Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson


This powerful book by Caleb Azumah Nelson unpacks identity, being black in a white-dominated space, and how it affects the protagonist’s relationship with a lover, built and torn apart by all the implications of race and masculinity. In this book, the “you” is used as the protagonist’s internal speech. It detaches the narrator from himself and lets him reflect on his own feelings and actions from an outsider’s perspective. The reader resides in this vulnerable space, eavesdropping on the narrator’s innermost thoughts. This is a book that allows you to fully embody the narrator’s experience of the world as a black man.


  • All Men Are Worshippers by Dinesh Prasad


Indian author Dinesh Prasad explores intricate, tangled relationships and complicated family dynamics in his latest novel. The story is centered around Frieda who lives with her husband Alfie, her lover Mahesh, and her seven sons. While Frieda lies in a coma, the story is carried by Mahesh who reminisces about their lives as if he is directly talking to Frieda. The book takes the reader by the hand and leads us through Mahesh’s memories, showing us glimpses of all the people in their lives and the nuances of navigating unconventional relationships. Through his recollections, the reader becomes a firsthand witness to the unconditional love Mahesh carries for Frieda, making himself a prime example of what the title claims.


  • Push by Ashley Audrain


This book by Ashley Audrain explores motherhood with its constant stress and the nagging fear of- what if you don’t connect with your child? Paced like a thriller, the book touches upon themes of loss and trauma, with an overarching sense of impending doom. The book is written almost like a long confessional addressed to the narrator’s husband. It blurs the boundaries between the narrator and the reader, making us intensely feel everything the narrator feels.


Check out these books to experience stories that challenge norms and your reading patterns.