The thing about my new kick of trying to read thrillers is that they're frequently populated by unlikeable characters and tense moments, and damn if I don't need to find some balance for myself in here. For a long time there, I was jumping back and forth between Gone Girl and John Dies at the End, and while both are really great books, they did not make the best combination for me emotionally.
In some ways, they do balance each other, though. Gone Girl is all about slowly building tension, while John Dies is about being slammed over the head with crazy. The only problem is, there's barely a likeable character between them.
Gone Girl is a standard Gillian Flynn story of twists, turns, reveals, and doubts. Nick comes home to find his wife missing and signs of a fight. There are police, and Nick is kind of a jerk, and there are entries from Amy's diary, and secrets are revealed one by one, and nothing is what it appears to be, and it's all very creepy and dreadful. It's incredibly compelling, but almost every single character in the book ranges from irritating to horrible to sociopath. There are maybe three characters I don't actively dislike, and honestly, I'm not convinced I'm not going to find out some nasty stuff about them any minute now.
John Dies at the End, on the other hand, is hilarious and gruesome. A bunch of post-high school losers are milling aimlessly around a Midwestern town when our narrator finds himself accidentally dosed with a strange drug. Everything that happens ranges from impossible to nightmarish, with levels of gross out somewhere between poking a bratwurst with mustard in your ear and being slowly digested by a man-sized worm-slug. It's like Bill and Ted's Most Bogus Journey EVER. The characters aren't hateworthy--they're kind of losers, but mostly just dim and overwhelmed. But there is such a pervasive sense of Evil in here, with pretty much no capital-G Good to balance it out.
This can kind of get to you after a while. I went for YA to try to solve the problem, but The Tragedy Paper ended up not helping that much, due to being boring (see last week's review). Instead, I'm going for Terry Pratchett. If you need to find a nice protagonist who's doing his or her best to do the right thing in this crazy world and for whom it mostly works out in the end, he's your guy. It helps that the books aren't just funny, but also thoughtful, intelligent, and well-plotted. Next on my list was Mort, mostly because the Death books are some of my favorites, but also because isn't that thematic with the rest of the line up right now?
In sum: Gone Girl, John Dies at the End, and Mort are all highly recommended. But if you're going to read one of those first two, I suggest some puppies and kittens to balance out your mood.