What are some examples of novels with 2nd person narrative?
One example is A Visit from the Goon Squad, Chapter 10 ("Out of Body"), the only chapter that does this in this book!
An excerpt from it, from the second person POV of Robert Freeman Jr., is the following (I'll analyze it in bold).
You look at Drew through layers of hash smoke floating in the sun. He’s leaning back on the futon couch, his arm around Sasha. He’s got a big, hey-come-on-in face and a head of dark hair, and he’s built— not with weight-room muscle like yours, but in a basic animal way that must come from all that swimming he does.
“Just don’t try and say you didn’t inhale,” you tell him.
Rob comes into a room and sees Drew (smoking) and Sasha. Apparently, Rob works out, and is trying to prove himself better than Drew because he says he has that "weight-room muscle", and Drew is just built from swimming like a "basic animal".
Everyone laughs except Bix, who’s at his computer, and you feel like a funny guy for maybe half a second, until it occurs to you that they probably only laughed because they could see you were trying to be funny, and they’re afraid you’ll jump out the window onto East Seventh Street if you fail, even at something so small.
Sounds like Rob is insecure, because for some reason, he feels he has an obligation to succeed, such as at making people laugh.
Drew takes a long hit. You hear the smoke creak in his chest. He hands the pipe to Sasha, who passes it to Lizzie without smoking any.
“I promise, Rob,” Drew croaks at you, holding in smoke, “if anyone asks, I’ll tell them the hash I smoked with Robert Freeman Jr. was excellent.”
QUICK SUMMARY OF ANALYSIS
Through these contextual clues:
- he’s built— not with weight-room muscle like yours, but in a basic animal way that must come from all that swimming he does
- until it occurs to you that they probably only laughed because they could see you were trying to be funny, and they’re afraid you’ll jump out the window onto East Seventh Street if you fail
We can determine that:
- Rob is insecure for some reason (he actually feels like he disappointed his dad, but that's outside the scope of the excerpt).
- Rob wants to prove himself.
- Rob thinks proving himself means getting the better of Drew.
EXPERIMENT: THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT?
Now imagine if this was somehow in third person omniscient. You would basically replace every instance saying "you [verb]" with "Rob [verb]". In that POV, the narrator is observing all the people in the room, and just giving a glimpse of each person's behavior at a time during each observation. The narrator knows how every person in the room feels, but doesn't explicitly demonstrate their thinking processes.
EXPERIMENT: FIRST PERSON?
Alternatively, what if this was in first-person POV? You would replace "you [verb]" with "I [verb]". In this case, like in the second-person POV, you don't know what other people are thinking, but you (as the reader) would receive the direct thought process of Rob, since the narrator is Rob.
It's very similar in principle to second-person POV, except in the first-person POV, you aren't like an outsider observing Rob and talking for him, interpreting his thoughts fairly accurately, but you are practically "in his shoes".
Second-person POV can be very hard to pull off, and pull off well.
The second-person POV in this chapter puts us (the readers) into the mind of Rob and asks us to try to figure out how Rob feels through a demonstration of his personal responses. When that happens, we should start to question why his personal responses were like that, such as his personal upbringing.
Here, you don't know what other people are thinking, just Rob. It's like you're observing Rob and only Rob. It's as if you are having an "out of body experience" (hence the title), understanding Rob while not actually being Rob.
I find that it's as if you (the reader) were floating above Rob like a devil-on-the-shoulder, observing Rob's behavior with respect to everyone else's, and interpreting to Rob himself how he "should" feel. I think it gives the feeling that Rob is criticizing himself, and furthermore, that Rob feels that painful criticism throughout the chapter.