In the end I settled on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I picked from a list of books written by authors under the age of thirty. It was one of the first ones that I found as a free download and it's also available on Project Gutenberg (therefore ticking the 'don't spend a fortune on books' box).
It's a pretty well known story, but for those of you who haven't read it, it tells the story of the titular scientist's monster which he creates. The story is complicated, following the narratives of three different characters; starting with Captain Walton writing to his sister about a man named Victor Frankenstein who his crew picked up on the journey; Frankenstein then takes over the story explain about his childhood and scientific pursuits prior to creating his monster, he goes on to explain how he created and rejected the monster; the monster also gets in on the narrating action, describing his time in the wild observing a poor family. All the monster really wants is to be wanted (and to get a girlfriend), unfortunately he's a little too murderous to get a happily ever after.
I am glad that I read this book, but I don't think it's ever going to be one of my favourites. I just couldn't get into it even though I kept on telling myself it was a classic and must have been classed as one for some reason. That said, it was a fairly quick ready (less than 130 pages). You could almost read it in one sitting; perfect for a Halloween reading session.
I was surprised at the fact that the monster didn't come into the story until about halfway through. In the past I've made the mistake of thinking the monster was named Frankenstein and assumed that it was going to be all about the creature. Instead a lot of the book is about Frankenstein before he even made the creature.
I also found it surprising at how articulate the monster became simply from spying on a family. He was able to tell all of his story perfectly for someone who had such limited human interaction. I know it's a really silly think to nitpick but it still really bugged me.
The different voices telling the story didn't really sound different to my ear, so I struggled to remember who it was that was speaking at any given time. I found them quite confusing and I think that was something else that pulled me out of the story and affected my enjoyment of it. I would've liked the voices to feel more individual. Perhaps if I was reading a print copy the different narration threads would have been formatted differently to make it appear more clear.
I also was expecting it to be a scary story and it wasn't really. It was more of a depressing story. I'm pleased I've read it, but I'm not going to go out of my way to revisit it again.