11 Touching Novels You Won’t Put Down if You Love Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Conversations with Friends, and Beautiful World, Where Are You are exhilarating and relatable novels that touch on the power of friendship, the beauty of human connection, adolescent and adult anxieties, and love as it relates to day-to-day life. So if you’ve read (and re-read) the Irish author’s current collection and you’re hungry for more, why not do the next best thing: find similar novels that tackle all of these themes. If that sounds exciting, we’ve compiled a list of novels reminiscent of Rooney’s work.
Writers & Lovers
Part of Sally Rooney’s trademark is examining about the growing pains of becoming an adult through introspective protagonists in her novels. Lily King does this too, particularly in her novel Writers & Lovers. This contemporary novel follows Casey, a wannabe writer in her thirties who’s dating two men, dealing with her mother’s death, and trying hard to make her writing career happen
The Marriage Plot
In the same vein as Conversations with Friends and Beautiful World, Where Are You, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides follows a witty and self-aware university girl named Madeleine with multiple love interests. Despite the focus on romance, that storyline is paralleled with themes of self-discovery, and touches on the the struggles students face when they transition into the real, working world.
Such a Fun Age
Similar to Beautiful World, Where Are You, Such a Fun Age examines relationships across social class, but takes it much deeper than Sally Rooney’s novel did. This novel by Kiley Reid follows Emira, a young, Black female who is wrongly accused of kidnapping a white child she’s babysitting. Although this novel is darker than Rooney’s work, it does shares themes of blossoming love connections and the intersection of class and status.
The Summer List
Just like Sally Rooney’s work, The Summer List includes introspective female characters and touches on the transition between adolescence to adulthood. This coming-of-age novel by Amy Mason Doan follows two childhood friends, Laura and Casey, who reignite their friendship after seventeen years. It includes themes of nostalgia, emotional vulnerability, and honesty about long-time secrets.
Despite their differences, Catherine and James become fast and intimate friends after meeting at college. Tender is reminiscent of Conversations with Friends and Normal People due to how it deals with adolescent vulnerability and how impactful early love can be in one’s life. The only slight difference is that this novel examines these themes with explicit emphasis on deep desire and obsession.
The sequel to Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, Still Me follows Louisa as she explores her self-love and self-worth while working for a well-to-do New York couple. As she boldly finds her footing in the city, Louisa strikes up an impactful connection with Joshua. Just like Rooney, Moyes explores how human relationships can spark personal growth in this novel.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler follows Tess, a young woman in her 20’s who makes the solo move to New York to pursue work at a well-known restaurant. While learning the ropes at her job and exploring her independence, Tess sparks a connection with two other restaurant staffers. This love triangle laced with self-discovery may remind you of Sally Rooney’s work.
One Day by David Nicholls follows the twenty year friendship that eventually became a romantic connection between two very different individuals: Emma and Dexter. Much like Rooney’s Normal People, the relationship between the two main characters started in a school setting, and feels relatable as we follow the highs and lows of this genuine, yet tortured love.
Similar to Beautiful World, Where Are You, Ordinary People invites readers into the imperfect lives of two couples. The story highlights how each couples’ relationships have evolved over the years, while also shining a light on the fear of aging. Set in the modern day, this novel by Diana Evans touches on present day social issues and nuances, making it relatable and comforting.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld will remind readers of Normal People due to its quirky coming-of-age story that highlights character differences in status and upbringing. Prep follows Lee, a newcomer to a distinguished boarding school who must navigate fitting in, the complexities of economic differences, impressionable friendships, and heart-aching first love. This is an easy read with relatable, angsty characters, that explore the world of privilege and alienation.
Exciting Times is about Ava, an Irish teacher who lives and works in Hong Kong. In Sally Rooney fashion, Exciting Times author Naoise Dolan places Ava in a love triangle. Forced to choose between her glamorous, non-committal lust with banker Julian, and her exciting, new interest in lawyer Edith, Ava has to really think about who she is, and what she wants. This light but captivating novel infuses glamour into love stories, and has original takes on class and power commentary.