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Unusual Fictional Narrators Who Bring Me Delight

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Steph Auteri

Senior Contributor

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, "The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart," published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

As a Squirrel Girl superfan, I was cautiously intrigued by Shannon and Dean Hale’s middle grade novel The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets WorldI had fallen in love with this plucky comics superhero, as depicted by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, but I didn’t know if I would enjoy her story as much without that graphic component, and I didn’t know how anyone could possibly pull off North’s perfectly-pitched sense of humor. Then a friend bought me a copy for Christmas and, as soon as I made it to Chapter 3, which was narrated by Tippy-Toe, I was all in.

It’s not just that I adore Tippy-Toe, Squirrel Girl’s partner-in-nut-fueled-heroism (who is a squirrel, by the way, for those not in the know). Rather, I loved the way that the Hales gave voice and dimension to a character whose communications I’d only ever seen interpreted by others. The result? Delightful!

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | Squirrel Meets World

When I thought about it, I realized this wasn’t the first time I’d been charmed by an offbeat and unconventional narrator. Here are several other quirky protagonists I’ve enjoyed, plus a few more books that seem worth picking up solely based upon the unorthodox narrator(s).

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

When I tried to remember the last time I’d experienced a one-of-a-kind narrator, this was the first book to enter my mind. Though the narrator is a human, she’s also deceased. This book sees her spirit grappling with the fact of her demise. Full story aside, it’s the way she opens the narrative that makes readers realize immediately that this won’t be your average suspense novel.

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | The Lovely Bones

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

People repeatedly recommended this book to me and I repeatedly ignored them because I thought it sounded schmaltzy, it seemed overhyped, and besides, I’m a cat person. (The narrator is a dog.) But then someone passed their copy along to me, so I had no choice but to read it, and I ended up getting very emotional about this story of a dog and the owner for whom he cares very deeply. Moral of the story: I should stop being such a presumptuous snot.

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | The Art of Racing in the Rain

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

While searching for new books I might read that feature offbeat narrators, I came upon this one, which contains a collection of the most bizarre narrators I’ve ever heard of, including a coin, a dog, the corpse of a murdered man, and even the color red. This mystery is told based upon what each of these objects witnessed.

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | My Name Is Red

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

This book is described as the story of a mother, her son, and the drug that threatened to destroy them, which is almost too neat. That Hannaham chooses to have crack cocaine narrate part of this heartbreaking story—even going so far as to give it a name (Scotty)—is brilliant, and makes the drug’s hold on the dependent protagonist that much more visceral.

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | Delicious Foods

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

When you start a conversation about offbeat narrators, it seems everyone points to McEwan’s most recent novel. Nutshell is narrated by the unborn baby of a woman who—along with her lover—formulates a plan to murder her fetus’s father.

Offbeat Narrators from Fiction | Nutshell

Which narrators have you come across that have totally boggled and blown your mind?