If there’s one thing that makes a novel memorable for me, besides having amazing characters that I’d 100% take a bullet for, IT’S THE ANIMALS. Whether they be mythical creatures in fantasy, dogs in contemporary, or anything in between, I’m so here for it. Animals just make life so much better, am I right?! Whenever I see a doggo on the street, I’m like, THANK YOU FOR BLESSING ME WITH YOUR PRESENCE. It’s truly an honour to live on this planet alongside dogs.
So today I’m going to rank some YA books by how cute the animals in them are! There’s honestly no better way to judge how good a book is, in my opinion. So I hope you can add some more fantastic books to your TBR – but prepare to want to drop everything to adopt a teacup dragon. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
As my dreams for the future mostly consist of living in a tiny apartment overrun by animals and having enough books that I can make furniture out of them, these two things play a major role in my life. Who would have guessed?
But recently, I’ve found a way that I can combine these to loves of mine into one. No, I’m not talking about wielding my dark magic and transfiguring cats into novels or anything. I’m taking about animals playing somewhat of a major role in the books I read. After all, why would anyone settle for reading a book with boring old humans when there are puppies, and kittens, and turtles, and guinea pigs to be written about?
Why books with animals are 157% better than books with only humans:
I would be quite happy to only speak to animals for the rest of my life, thank you very much. First of all, do you know how RUDE humans can be? I work in a bookshop and a cinema, and WOW. PEOPLE CAN BE AWFUL. Like yes, I know you had to wait five minutes in line, but was that my fault? No. Go curse at the woman in front of you who couldn’t decide to get salted or unsalted popcorn, Karen. So naturally, I want to spend the least amount of time around humans in my leisure time as possible. Including in books. (Aliens and monstrous beings are okay though.)
Animals in books are SO MUCH SMARTER than their human counterparts. Did you ever see Hedwig get into a love triangle, or become the Chosen One, or have to kill this dude that had an unhealthy obsession with her? NO. And that’s simply because animals have intuition for this sort of thing, unlike humans that just blunder about this planet with little idea of what they’re doing, or who they really love, or why everything is just so hard as a teenager when no one understands you. I just really want a Harry Potter retelling with just Hedwig, Scabbers, Crookshanks, and Trevor.
My trust issues don’t extend to animals. Here, let me pet that random, slightly mangled cat sitting on the sidewalk! Who cares if it has rabies! Animals are just so much easier to love than humans. You don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re plotting your murder (though my own cat looks like she is 99% of the time), and they probably won’t betray you. But, I mean, if that dog goes to roll over for a belly rub in front of someone who isn’t me, that’s betrayal right there. Although when it comes to reading about animals in books… JUST LET ME LOVE YOU. I WILL PROTECT YOU NO MATTER WHAT.
It’s long been said amongst writers that we must “kill our darlings”. For those that are unaware, this seemingly psychopathic phrase isn’t about killing your babies or your favourite characters (although it is fun to make readers cry); it’s about cutting out elements from your novel that serve no purpose to the work as a whole, even if it’s something we adore. This was one piece of writing advice I got from my writing teacher and inspiration in middle school. The other was this:
“Whatever you do, don’t kill the dog. Killing people in fiction is mostly fine, but touch the animals and readers will hate you.”
And I mean, who hasn’t read a book or watched a movie that involves the death of a dog and cried your eyes out? If you haven’t, you’re clearly not human. Some of us still tear-up at the mention of Marley & Me — “some” including me. But when people die, especially when they go as quickly as on Game of Thrones, I find that I have to be really connected to them in order to shed a tear. But an animal? I don’t even have to know its name to cry my eyes out.
Exhibit A of this post is a new book called The Edge of Everything (if you haven’t heard of it, there’s more information down below). What’s worse than a dog dying in a book? A dog being killed in a book. And what’s even worse than that? Animal abuse. I can’t even think about it without feeling absolutely sick to my stomach. But that was what I found myself reading when I picked up The Edge of Everything. The blatant abuse of animals.