The best books about comas

3 authors have picked their favorite books about comas and why they recommend each book.

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The Coma

By Alex Garland,

Book cover of The Coma

A short, eerie, and mysterious fever dream of a novella with a secret you may not realize your first time through--hidden messages in the text! I won't spoil what they are or how to find them here, but I will say that ever since reading this book I may or may not try to crack similar codes in nearly every book I pick up. (I may or may not have also done something similar in my own writing; hat tip to Mr. Garland for the inspiration.)


Who am I?

Stories that break the rules or attempt ambitious stunts have always intrigued me. Characters who break the fourth wall, non-traditional structures, winking nods to pop culture, hidden messages, silly wordplay, or good old-fashioned WTF moments nobody saw coming. My second novel L Extreme turns my favorite album into a fantastical song by song, chapter by chapter origin story for the record starring a fictionalized version of the musician who created it. Asking “what happens if I pretend this album is the soundtrack to a book?” took me on a long, strange trip in the spirit of these other bizarrely brilliant books that broke the mold for the better. 


I wrote...

L Extreme: A Novel Based on the Songs of Benji Hughes

By JL Civi,

Book cover of L Extreme: A Novel Based on the Songs of Benji Hughes

What is my book about?

Benji Hughes is a songwriter with a bad case of writer’s block and a secret past he’s not allowed to talk about—but does anyways. A little woman lives in your brain. She wants to meet the man in your heart. 

These two tales come together salmon-style to create the best double debut album you’ve never heard of—but really should! A novel based on an album is a book with a killer soundtrack.

Violet Black

By Eileen Merriman,

Book cover of Violet Black

Violet Black is the first book in a trilogy set in the near future. Violet Black and Ethan Wright are both in a coma after contracting the lethal M-fever. They have never met:

I couldn’t speak, but I was trying so hard to communicate and then... then... I pushed. And something, someone, pushed back. Her name is Violet. Violet, but she is sunshine-yellow, and I need to find her because I think she might be just like me.

But there is a far more serious reason for Ethan to find Violet: the sinister Foundation is trying to hunt them down.

Violet Black in the first book of a trilogy where Violet must fight for her sanity and her freedom from those who want to control her. It’s always wonderful when you’ve got captured by a story and its characters to know that there are more books to come. I love…


Who am I?

I’m a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand and I’ve always been drawn to stories of struggle, especially where a character fights against outside control. I started writing for the high school students I was teaching and got hooked on the YA genre. I love it partly because it crosses all genres – I can write about a 14-year-old girl trying to live in a repressive religious cult but I can also write about a 15-year-old boy who’s a champion kart driver. Karting at top level takes enormous skill as I discovered, but it also has room for dirty tricks.


I wrote...

Juno of Taris

By Fleur Beale,

Book cover of Juno of Taris

What is my book about?

I visited the Eden Project in the UK and got to wondering what life would be like under a protective dome. In Juno of Taris, Juno is one of 500 who lives under a dome on the island Taris that protects them from the ravages of climate change. The rules are strict and they have to be if the community is to survive – however Juno begins to question whether they need to be as strict as they are. But questions are dangerous on Taris. The first question Juno and her classmates want answered is why they must submit to having their heads shaved regularly. They rebel incurring the wrath of the leaders. Danger lurks.

Dead Girls Can't Tell Secrets

By Chelsea Ichaso,

Book cover of Dead Girls Can't Tell Secrets

Occasionally, there comes a book that is so compelling it demands to be read, breathless, from the very first page to the very last. Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets is one such book. This story contains so many twists it resembles a shockingly mangled slinky I delighted in attempting to untangle. I failed to predict the ending, but had fun guessing with every new bit of information the author revealed. It’s exactly what I look for in a young adult thriller.

Who am I?

Since I was a child, stories steeped in secrets have fascinated me. I spent many hours devouring books about detectives and spies, shadows and deceit. As an adult, it is a rare treat to discover one that is so engaging I must know how it unfolds as soon as possible, and is told in a way that leaves me surprised by how it ends. Each of these books is deliciously tricky, inspiring me to read quickly, before the ghosts between the pages could escape to haunt me. 


I wrote...

Don't Look Behind You

By Emily Kazmierski,

Book cover of Don't Look Behind You

What is my book about?

New school. New friends. New stalker.

Megan Pritchard aches to find safety and security when she starts fresh in a new town. Yet the habits of a chilling past are hard to break. Keep her head down. Never tell them who she is. When someone asks about her scar... lie. For a brief flicker of time, she thought she was safe. That she could find ways to fit into that small town with secrets of its own. Then... the prickle down her spine returns. Someone is watching and waiting—just like before. But this time they won’t settle for shallow cuts. Knives, and secrets, will be buried deep.

Blood-Tied

By Wendy Percival,

Book cover of Blood-Tied

When Esme Quentin’s sister, Elizabeth, is assaulted, Esme discovers that her sister has a secret. Who is the elderly, Mrs Roberts and what is her connection to Elizabeth? Esme’s attempt to unravels the sixty-year-old family mystery becomes a hazardous mission and she has to reassess her perception of blood ties.


Who am I?

I inhabit the past. You may find me lurking in my four-hundred-year-old Devon cottage, or spot me thinly disguised as the formidable Mistress Agnes, a good wife of a certain age who leads a somewhat chaotic life during the mid-seventeenth century. I write, I read, I research, I share my passion, I write some more. My life revolves around reading, writing and researching history. Having spent the past forty-five years unravelling my own family’s story and loving both historical and crime novels, what could be better than a book that combines all these elements. I have to say that if genealogy was as dangerous a career as some of these books imply, no one would be advised to take it up!


I wrote...

Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil

By Janet Few,

Book cover of Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil

What is my book about?

Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war, and of religious dissent. The novel sheds new light on the true story of three impoverished women who were condemned to death in 1682 for the crime of witchcraft.

I particularly wanted to draw modern parallels, so in the novel, we also meet Martha, who is living in a slightly alternative version of 2020. Sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth-century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

The Secret History of Us

By Jessi Kirby,

Book cover of The Secret History of Us

I’ve always been deeply fascinated with any amnesia-related plot. A teenager who survives a near-death experience and cannot remember the last several years of her life? And, despite this being YA novel, as an older reader, I could not put this book down. It kept me guessing, constantly deducing as everything unfolded, and though the main characters are young, their emotional processes are so raw and beautiful. I’ve reread this one many a time. For any Nancy Drew gamers out there, The Secret History of Us is like a ND game/Nicholas Sparks’ novel hybrid.


Who am I?

I love studying the ins/outs of humanity and our interactions, but especially, EI (emotional intelligence). A lot of emphasis is put on being “smart” and analytical (think IQ), but EI is largely ignored. Relationships thrive (and die) on EI! In the novels I write, I explore the emotional side of relationships and how, if we pay attention to this other side of intelligence, beautiful interactions happen. Typically, I don’t find riveting EI in books—and so when I do, I gobble the book up once, then twice, and possibly a third time, then tell everyone I know to GO READ THAT BOOK!


I wrote...

Fallout

By Ashley Nikole,

Book cover of Fallout

What is my book about?

Four months of torture in an undisclosed location. Four months of silence. Four months of praying she won’t lose her mind and give away secrets she’s fought so hard to keep.

Avery Kent escapes with her life, but she is pursued deep into the heart of the British Columbia wilderness by the men who almost took her life—and shattered her mind. After wandering for two days in the mountains, she stumbles upon a cabin—but little does she know that the man inside is not the sheltering protector he claims to be.

If I Stay

By Gayle Forman,

Book cover of If I Stay

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, observing her broken body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces—to figure out what she’s lost and what she has left. If I Stay carefully walks the line on being an afterlife story because Mia is suspended--caught between life and death. But we’re suspended too, waiting for her to decide. I love books with tough choices, stories where there are no right or wrong answers, just decisions. This one is perfectly imperfect.

“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”


Who am I?

My father passed away in early 2005, but it wasn’t until after I finished drafting Touching the Surface, that I became consciously aware of how my writing was deeply connected to the thoughts I had about losing my Dad. The realization only added to my fascination with stories about the afterlife. Simultaneously it also expanded my intrigue with the themes of bad things happening to good people and life-altering mistakes being meant to alter lives. The more I explored the stories I loved and dug deeper into my own writing, the more I realized these themes overlapped like carefully folded origami. Complicated choices are intriguing.


I wrote...

Touching the Surface

By Kimberly Sabatini,

Book cover of Touching the Surface

What is my book about?

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she can't remember her past, is getting the cold shoulder from her best friend, and has no idea why she keeps repeating the same mistakes from her previous lives. What she does know is this is her last chance to get things right.

She will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of the people she’s hurt, people she's betrayed…and the person she’s killed. As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her previous lives, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most and reveal the truth about herself to her best friend and the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them forever.

Unbury Carol

By Josh Malerman,

Book cover of Unbury Carol

I loved BirdBox, but then I read Unbury Carol and discovered Josh Malerman had managed to peer directly into my brain and write a book just for me. I don’t know how he did it, and I don’t really want to know because it’s possibly more than a little freaky, but there you go.

This is not your typical horror novel. I’m not sure if it’s even horror, but who cares? It feels like a real olde-worlde adventure yarn where steampunk meets western and they have a scrap to decide who is best, and the only winner is the reader.


Who am I?

In case it isn’t obvious, I have a thing about graveyards. Maybe it’s being Irish-Catholic – it must be infused into my blood. It’s a rare family holiday that doesn’t involve a visit to the local cemetery. I think it’s the combination of gothic architecture with the sense of a social history collected. I have my own favourites (of course!) from Rock Cemetery in Nottingham to Pere Lachaise in Paris where the family spent an afternoon dodging the most unusual tour guide I have ever come across.


I wrote...

Twenty Years Dead

By Richard Farren Barber, Crystal Lake Publishing,

Book cover of Twenty Years Dead

What is my book about?

Six feet is not deep enough in this Mystery Thriller…

After twenty years in the ground, the dead briefly rise. At his father’s grave, this is Dave’s last opportunity to discover why a man would abandon his wife and young son. Against the protests of his mother and his girlfriend, Dave is determined to learn what happened all those years ago. Sometimes you have to risk everything, but the dead don’t give up their secrets so easily.

Silent to the Bone

By E.L. Konigsburg,

Book cover of Silent to the Bone

This book is a complex mystery revolving around a boy accused of a terrible crime, a boy who is currently unable to speak. It is solvable, as the protagonist is the detective character, though not every detail may be known until the explanation. What I love about this book are the difficult issues handled well for young readers, the excellent friendship between the protagonist and his sister, and the wisdom about interpersonal relationships and emotions that carries this novel into depths not usually seen in a young reader’s mystery. One observation about shame and anger continues to ring in my mind, reminding me that emotions seen on the surface often have deeper roots.


Who am I?

I am a fan and a creator of puzzles. As a child, I created twisty scavenger hunts for my younger siblings, full of codes and clues. As a reader, I get frustrated with mysteries that hide clues or use knowledge that no reader would have so no one reading can possibly solve the story before the truth comes out. So, today, as a writer, I create stories that can be solved by the reader before the end. I entertain myself by solving puzzles and researching codes in my free time. I wish you the best of luck solving these books!


I wrote...

The Explorer's Code

By Allison K. Hymas,

Book cover of The Explorer's Code

What is my book about?

Math whiz Charlie won admission in a puzzle contest―and he’s intrigued by the strange numbers he finds on Idlewood’s walls. His restless sister Anna had to be dragged to the house―but then she discovers its hidden floor. Emily’s parents brought her to the mansion on a secret mission―and she’s determined to prove herself to them.

All three kids soon unlock clues to Idlewood’s mysterious past and the famous female explorer who’s connected to it―and the secret treasure she left behind. But the adults around them are also hunting for treasure. Charlie, Anna, and Emily will have to overcome their differences and work as a team to solve Idlewood’s puzzles before it’s too late, in Allison K. Hymas's The Explorer's Code.

The Ice Garden

By Guy Jones,

Book cover of The Ice Garden

This is an absolute heartstopper of a novel. The protagonist, Jess, has a rare skin condition that means she is allergic to sunlight. Even the tiniest exposure can cause her serious injury and pain. She lives her life in a world of loneliness and shadows, but is desperate for an adventure. When she sneaks out one night she discovers a garden of ice that will change her life forever. Not only did I love the magic of this novel, I loved Jess’s humour and I was weeping for her towards the end. A wonderful book that really touched my heart.


Who am I?

Whatever story I’m telling, I try to write female characters who are smart, funny, kind, and ultimately empowering; characters that drive the narrative, not the other way around. It is really important for me that my female characters have agency – that they actively move the story forward, make decisions and step up. Those are the kind of stories I like to read too. The books on this list are some of my favourites and all contain strong female protagonists. I hope you enjoy.


I wrote...

Girl (in Real Life)

By Tamsin Winter,

Book cover of Girl (in Real Life)

What is my book about?

Girl (in Real Life) is a funny and heartfelt novel exploring the highs and lows of online fame from award-winning author Tamsin Winter. Eva's parents run a hugely successful YouTube channel, and Eva is the star of the show. But she is getting sick of being made to pose in stupid mum-and-daughter matching outfits for sponsored posts. The freebies aren't worth the teasing at school. And when an intensely humiliating "period party" post goes viral, Eva is outraged. She's going to find a way to stop the channel, even if she has to sabotage it herself.

“Winter's funny and thought-provoking third novel vividly evokes the sense of powerlessness and exposure on the flip side of viral fame.” The Guardian

The Painting

By Charis Cotter,

Book cover of The Painting

My vocabulary for analyzing any piece of art is through storytelling; I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked at a painting and wishing I could step inside at that very moment. It’s a lot of the inspiration behind my own book. But in The Painting, Charis Cotter turns this idea on its head, leaving us wondering if stepping inside a painting would be all we think it would be. This story of suspense and fear and loss is a page-turner!


Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with art since I was a kid. When I look at art, I see stories, not just about what I’m seeing, but about what it was like when the painting was created: was the artist tired, grumpy, frustrated? Why’d they paint it the way they did? Sadly, my artistic talent is limited, but fortunately, I can tell stories. After visiting William Orpen’s painting of Mona Dunn at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, I couldn’t help wondering why he made her look so pensive. The only way I could answer that question was by writing my own story about Mona and the other paintings in the gallery!


I wrote...

The Frame-Up

By Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Ian Schoenherr (illustrator),

Book cover of The Frame-Up

What is my book about?

There’s one important rule at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery—don’t let anyone know the paintings are alive. Mona Dunn, forever frozen at thirteen when her portrait was painted by William Orpen, has just broken that rule. Luckily twelve-year-old Sargent Singer, an aspiring artist himself, is more interested in learning about the world behind the frame than in sharing her secret. When Mona and Sargent suspect shady dealings behind the scenes at the gallery, they set out to uncover the culprit and find a way to save the gallery—and each other—before they’re lost forever. 

Booklist said, “This chapter book’s most memorable element is also its most unusual: the imaginative conviction that art is alive.” Includes images of the real paintings featured in the book.

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