Hi there! It’s Sabrina and today I’m recommending you a bunch of books with artistic characters. They’re mostly female and mostly main characters, but there’s a couple I couldn’t help slipping in there that don’t fit those qualifiers. I’ve split the list into two – the first, and shortest, section is books where the art is an integral part of the plot and the second section is where it is less integral, but still present. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and only covers a narrow range of art. Please enjoy 🙂
by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Genre: YA contemporary
Art: The main character draws and paints
🖌 This book follows a half-Japanese teen named Kiko with anxiety and a dream to get into Prism, a top tier art school. A lot of chapters end with Kiko explaining what she has drawn or painted that day which was so interesting to read.
🖌 I related a lot to the main character, particularly with the way she explains her social anxiety.
🖌 Kiko goes through so much in this book, making it a very emotional read – especially when it comes to the way her family abuses her. I would definitely check the trigger warnings for this one because it doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.
🖌 Outside of her family, Kiko has some great relationships, including a really cute romance (though I had some issues with it) and a fantastic mentor.
STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO
by A.S. King
Genre: YA contemporary, fabulism
Art: The main character takes art in high school and has always wanted to be an artist
🖌 This book follows a teen who is struggling with high school, her artistic journey and her life in general. Over the course of the story, she meets several versions of herself at different ages and uncovers things she wanted to forget.
🖌 This is another book that deals with abuse and trauma. The author has a simple way of writing that also manages to pack a massive punch.
🖌 It’s a bit weird, but not too weird, and it will probably stick with you for a while.
by Alice Oseman
Genre: YA contemporary
Art: Fanart and a podcast
🖌 Though this was one of my favourite books I read last year, I devoured it in a single day so my memory of it is not all that clear.
🖌 I do remember that it explores fan culture, the internet and academic pressure in an authentic and meaningful way.
🖌 The book centres around an incredible friendship between two people, both navigating their own struggles with the help of their creative expression.
🖌 I loved all the characters and related to them in some way or another, and the plot itself really resonated with me as well.
by Max Porter
Genre: Adult literary fiction, fabulism
Art: One of the central characters is an artist and is teaching another character
🖌 This is a short little book that I was not expecting to love as much as I did, especially with the strangeness of the first chapter.
🖌 It’s …kind of… about a brilliant young boy named Lanny and Green Man folklore.
🖌 It’s not only heavy on themes explored with beautiful writing but has a strong plot and well-developed characters.
🖌 Another weird but good one.
LETTERS TO THE LOST
by Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA contemporary
Art: One of the main characters is a photographer
🖌 This is my favourite book I’ve read so far this year and you can read all my thoughts about it in my review here.
🖌 At its heart, this is a story about grief and growth. It follows two teens both reeling from loss who unexpectedly connect.
🖌 There are so many things to love about it, but the most significant to me is the way characters work together to change for the better – including all the adult characters.
🖌 It really draws you in and does not let go – not only because of the characters, but the turns the plot takes.
by Taylor Adams
Genre: Adult mystery thriller
Art: I believe the main character is an art student
🖌 The story follows a woman stuck at a rest stop in the snow and the things that go down while she’s there.
🖌 Admittedly, there were a lot of flaws with this book (certain things didn’t make much sense in hindsight) but it was so darn exciting that I didn’t mind at the time, and can’t bring myself to mind now.
🖌 If you are looking for a fast-paced, slightly gory read set in an isolated place, I recommend this one.
by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Classic mystery
Art: Main character apparently likes to sketch
🖌 This classic follows a young bride moving in to her new husband’s house that is pervaded by the memory of his late wife.
🖌 You may know I had a mistake with this book – I somehow listened to the abridged version on audio instead of the unabridged version. I consider the fact that this book was even abridged in the first place to be a crime.
🖌 The writing is beautiful and provides a truly magnificent atmosphere and the main character is easy to relate to.
by Blake Crouch
Genre: Adult sci-fi thriller
Art: The main character’s wife is an artist
🖌 I feel like I’ve talked about this one a lot lately, and it’s one that is best to go into not knowing much about it. But having said that, I have to warn you that now, during the pandemic, is probably not a great time to read it.
🖌 I loved following the twists and turns this novel took, trying and failing to guess what would happen next.
🖌 It’s very fast paced, really intriguing and unique. It gives you a lot to think about.
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN
by Talia Hibbert
Genre: Adult contemporary romance
Art: One of the two main characters is a painter
🖌 This is a cute and also steamy romance between two wonderful people both experiencing big problems. One is trying to get over an abusive relationship and one is making changes in her life after a near death experience whilst also dealing with fibromyalgia.
🖌 The book manages to strike a great balance between fun entertainment and emotional moments.
🖌It’s very British and also includes a cat!
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
by Laini Taylor
Genre: YA portal fantasy
Art: The main character is an art student in Prague
🖌 Follows a girl brought up by monsters from another world – but the doors to the other world are disappearing and she has to do something about it.
🖌 Of course I loved the writing in this trilogy, but the characters, plot and themes also spoke to me.
🖌 This is one of my favourite series ever and, not that this is information you need, but I really have to reread it soon.
THE DARKEST STAR
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: YA paranormal romance
Art: The main character is a photographer
🖌 This story follows a girl living in a post-alien-invasion world who stumbles into something sinister.
🖌 If you are a fan of the Lux series by the same author, I highly recommend checking this one out. Some of the same characters show up and honestly there were times I questioned whether I figured something out on my own or if I was just remembering it.
🖌 The book is a lot of fun, in true YA paranormal romance fashion, but was also fresh and interesting. I’m excited to get around to the sequel sooner rather than later.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
by Iain Reid
Genre: Adult psychological horror
🖌 I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about this one because you need to experience it for yourself.
🖌 It is deeply unsettling in a very entertaining way, and nothing makes sense until it does.
🖌 I don’t want to hype it up too much, because I am a scaredy-cat, but this freaked me out a lot. Plus there’s apparently a movie adaptation coming out on Netflix this year, so maybe you should read this before it’s released!
Bonus suggestions: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager and The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski.
What do you think?
Have you read any of these? Do you have any recommendations that fit this list? Be sure to let me know!