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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

Why every person leaving adolescence should read Sally Rooney’s books

In an alternate reality, the navigation of love, adulthood, sexuality, and politics is articulated by one woman. 31-year-old Irish author Sally Rooney has mastered writing books that not only encapsulate, but divulge how terrifying and sensational the world is. Three of her published novels, Conversations With Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World Where Are You, have made the New York Times bestseller list and received acclaim from people of all ages. These brief summaries explain why everyone entering adulthood should read at least one of these books. 

Rooney’s first novel, Conversations With Friends, was published in 2017. It describes the confusing lives of two girls who are best friends, focusing on their fascinating dynamic as they perform spoken word poetry. Frances and Bobbi find themselves swept quickly into the unknown adult world when a woman notices their talent. This forces the girls to face challenging decisions and their consequences as they grow to learn more about themselves. This novel not only gives readers a fantastic storyline, but provides examples of the scary and exciting parts of adulthood. Rooney beautifully illustrates the challenges of growing up, and the journey of these friends leaves readers with enthusiasm for the future. 

Normal People, published in 2018, has a setting similar to Conversations With Friends, but tells the story of Connell and Marianne, two high school students who have a confusing relationship with one another. The novel follows their journey through university and beyond. The beauty of this story lies in its plot and its depiction of friendships and romantic relationships that change and grow after high school. Truly a life-changing novel to read, Normal People is fascinatingly realistic, often causing the reader to get angry at the characters. From 17 to 22 years old, through changes in location, family situation, and other partners, two people maintain a connection that seems everlasting.

Rooney’s most recent novel, Beautiful World Where Are You, focuses on communication between friends who are in different places, both physically and figuratively. While many aspects of life seem tragic and depressing, the characters gain awareness of beauty in hardships. The novel follows Alice, a rich novelist who meets a man named Felix. 

Rooney examines the struggles faced by a couple who experience life in different socioeconomic classes. Eileen, Alice’s college roommate, is an editorial assistant who thinks deeply about politics and consumerism while pondering the harsh reality of life. She meets an old friend, Simon, and together they unearth how they’ll work into each other’s lives again as they battle different struggles. From the start of this book to the end, through the letters Alice and Eileen write to each other, a theme of friendship and its power prevails. 

What makes Rooney’s books enthralling lies beyond the story; rather, the detail in each character makes them feel so relatable. One can’t help but empathize and understand these fictional people, as any reader can find some aspect of themselves in them. Abandoning adolescence can be frightening, and approaching this new world can be confusing. Watching the mistakes and triumphs of fictional characters in these books gives comfort in the unknown. Although these three books are fictional, Sally Rooney makes it seem like they’re real people by intricately describing their childhoods and the events that take place later on in their lives. People grow closer and farther apart in waves, and relationships with partners, family, and friends change more than anything else. Rooney’s power goes deeper than other authors because it connects to the reader. Everyone should read at least one of these books.

Sophie Hyman

Wisconsin '25

California – University of Wisconsin 2025 English and Anthropology