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Plain Bad Heroines: A Novel (Hardcover)
“Full of Victorian sapphic romance, metafictional horror, biting misandrist humor, Hollywood intrigue, and multiple timeliness—all replete with evocative illustrations that are icing on a deviously delicious cake.” –O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE
“Brimming from start to finish with sly humor and gothic mischief. Brilliant.” — SARAH WATERS
Named a Most Anticipated Book by O, The Oprah Magazine • Vulture • Parade • Popsugar • Bustle • GoodReads • Autostraddle • Literary Hub • and more!
The award-winning author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post makes her adult debut with this highly imaginative and original horror-comedy centered around a cursed New England boarding school for girls—a wickedly whimsical celebration of the art of storytelling, sapphic love, and the rebellious female spirit
Our story begins in 1902, at the Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it the Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer Merritt Emmons publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period-inspired illustrations, Plain Bad Heroines is a devilishly haunting, modern masterwork of metafiction that manages to combine the ghostly sensibility of Sarah Waters with the dark imagination of Marisha Pessl and the sharp humor and incisive social commentary of Curtis Sittenfeld into one laugh-out-loud funny, spellbinding, and wonderfully luxuriant read.
About the Author
emily m. danforth is the author of the highly acclaimed young adult novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana and a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She lives with her wife and two terrible dogs in Rhode Island. Plain Bad Heroines is her first adult novel.
"Emily Danforth's ingenious, jaw-dropping novel is a time-hopping epic about the history of a cursed New England girls' school, doomed lovers, and an equally cursed modern-day retelling via film, plus yellow jackets. Hell, those yellow jackets! The expertly rendered characters are as heartbreaking as they are written with an integrity of vision that saturates every page. Plain Bad Heroines is a queer roar and it's terrifying and it's a goddamned triumph."
— Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World
“Plain Bad Heroines wears its brilliance lightly and like the Black Oxford apples described in these pages, it's dark, sweet, and addictive. Emily Danforth displays all the gothic wit of Edward Gorey and all the soaring metafictional ambitions of David Mitchell, alongside a generosity and humanity that is uniquely her own. Simply one of the best books I've read in the last decade.”
— Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman
“Brimming from start to finish with sly humor and gothic mischief, Plain Bad Heroines is a brilliant piece of exuberant storytelling by a terrifically talented author.”
— Sarah Waters, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Stranger and Fingersmith
“About as sweeping a plot as one can get . . . the book is very much worthy of a read—and a perfect escape for these times.”
— Entertainment Weekly
“Sumptuous . . . Danforth creates a fantastic sense of dread and champions queer female relationships throughout . . . Even readers who aren’t fans of horror will appreciate this bighearted story.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Full of Victorian sapphic romance, metafictional horror, biting misandrist humor, Hollywood intrigue, and multiple timeliness—all replete with evocative illustrations that are icing on a deviously delicious cake.”
— O, The Oprah Magazine, All the LGBTQ Books That Are Changing the Literary Landscape in 2020
“Stuffed with footnotes, and stories inside stories inside stories, Emily M. Danforth’s follow-up to The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a queer gothic coming-of-age story set at a cursed New England boarding school for girls. There are just a few sequences of words that fire up my pleasure centers the way that description does.”
— Vulture, 19 Books We’re Excited to Read This Fall
“A delicious horror comedy with enough stories within stories to make even Inception seem straightforward. . . . Add in some stunning illustrations, and this book becomes the year's must-read horror novel.”
— Popsugar, Our 35 Picks for the Fall's Most Exciting New Books
“Sapphic love! A cursed New England girls’ boarding school! A story within a story within a story! Behind the scenes Hollywood! Spooky black and white illustrations! Does this not sound amazing?”
— Autostraddle, 65 Queer and Feminist Books Coming Your Way in Fall 2020