2013: A Year of Pushing Boundaries

2013 has been a strange year for fiction. The books haven’t been as good as in previous years, but the boundaries of acceptability have been stretched further than before and many taboos have been broken. Here’s a quick guide to the way literature has confronted difficult subjects in 2013:


EL James made graphic sex more acceptable in mainstream fiction and its inclusion is becoming increasingly common. 


The most controversial book of the year has to be Tampa by Alissa Nutting, with its explicit descriptions of a female paedophile preying on teenage boys. It’s hard to see how this genre could be stretched further. 


Suicide has been mentioned in fiction for many years, but I haven’t seen it take centre stage to the same extent before.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

It also seems that assisted suicide has become an accepted topic and the wonderfully entertaining The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence probably did the best job of tackling the subject in 2013. Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach also brought new dimensions to the argument, successfully showing what a complex and emotive subject it is.


My Notorious Life by Madame X

We also saw abortion being tackled more directly than before. My Notorious Life by Kate Manning and Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston both confronted the topic head-on. I read both books together and I recommend doing the same as they compliment each other well.

Mental Health

Mental health is finally being talked about, mainly thanks to a few high-profile celebrities revealing their problems.

The View on the Way Down

It has been mentioned in fiction many times before, but The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait describes depression with such sensitivity and realism. It has definitely brought the topic to a whole new level.

Canabalism/Bizarre butchery

For some reason canabalism also seems to be on the rise. To say which books would spoil things, but several 2013 releases have resulted in one character eating another. This trend looks set to continue in 2014 with Season to Taste by Natalie Young, a book which doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it involves people eating each other!

Have you noticed fiction pushing any other boundaries in 2013? 





12 replies on “2013: A Year of Pushing Boundaries”

A very thought-provoking post, Jackie!

I recently read your Tampa review and ordered a copy as it appeared to break new ground and I was curious. I now await delivery as the festive season mail volume has hit the maximum I think.

Re abortion, I read an interesting book this year and to say too much would certainly spoil it. But the book impressed me on the second count that it was a man who written – with great sensitivity and empathy – of a woman’s choices when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. That novel is Tom Vowler’s What Lies Within.

Thanks for highlighting The View on the Way Down. I originally gave this one a pass, but as a sufferer myself I will take another look.

Ah. Season to Taste. I thought it was possibly sensationalist rubbish but then noticed it was published by Headline’s literary arm, Tinder Press. So I gave it a go when a proof arrived. I so wanted to like it but gave up as, surprisingly, I was bored. Simply bored. I suspect this will be the Marmite book for 2014.

Wishing you a lovely Christmas and all the very best for 2014.

crimeficreader, Thank you for the wonderful comment! I hadn’t heard of What Lies Within before, but I’ve just reserved a copy from my library and look forward to trying it in the New Year.

Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy Season to Taste. I don’t have a copy yet, but still plan to try it next year. Hopfully I’ll have more luck than you did.

Thanks for the good wishes. I hope you have a wonderful 2014 too!

Andi, It is nice to hear that you liked my list. I don’t normally enjoy short stories, but I love anything capable of evoking such strong emotions. I’m going to have to give it a try.

This is a great list, I’m a huge fan of confronting books. If I had to add anything to the list, I might of mentioned Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas but then again he is always pushing boundaries. I can’t wait to read Season to Taste by Natalie Young in the new year.

Michael, Yes, I loved the confronting writing of Tsiolkas in The Slap. Barracuda isn’t released in the UK until next month, but I’m very excited about trying it.

Each of these titles, and their descriptions, make my stomach ache. I don’t read for horrors, and I can’t imagine subjecting myself to what is now becoming acceptable. It sounds like I’m such a prude as I reread those sentences I’ve just typed, it’s only that I can think of so much more I’d rather read.

I’m currently enjoying the View on the Way Down. But ever since I read your review, I thought the cover was odd – why did it have an upside-down flying witch!?

Only recently did a see a big version and realise it was a girl on a swing!

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