It’s the week before Halloween, and there’s still time to engage in the spookiness of it all. Pick up one of these three horror novels to feel the feminist rage. Maybe the real monsters this October are the social and institutional forces that underpin and uphold patriarchy. Guess you’ll have to read to find out.
“Bunny” by Mona Awad
This is the ultimate campus horror novel about mean girls, and you’ll fall for this relatable and not-so-subtly crafted outsider story.
Samantha isn’t accepted by the rest of her graduate cohort of all women, a first-time occurrence at the prestigious university where she is earning her MFA in creative writing. Her dark stories disturb her more popular classmates who rebuff her harshly in workshops.
Awad is the master of the antihero. Samantha’s peers are simperingly sweet by comparison, always calling each other by the affectionate pet name “Bunny” and conducting seemingly innocuous research in one Bunny’s fancy apartment.
When the Bunnies invite Samantha to join in on one of their “smut salons,” she attends as a joke. Their task: to build the perfect boy. Pick up an apron too when you grab this one because there is a lot of blood splatter. Someone has to dispose of those earlier prototype boys they’ve made after all. Trust the process.
“We Ride Upon Sticks” by Quan Barry
This charming novel about a chronically underperforming girl’s lacrosse team in Salem, Massachusetts is often funnier than it is frightening. If that’s how you prefer your Halloween scaries, this is the novel for you!
The Danvers Lady Falcons do nothing but lose. That is, until one of the girls suggests they try a little witchcraft, and their luck turns around. In fact, their entire lives turn around, and some of the girls get drunk on the sheer witchy power.
But, there’s a price to pay. If only they hadn’t signed their names in that makeshift grimoire, a spiral notebook with ’80s heartthrob Emilio Estevez’s face on the cover.
“We Ride Upon Sticks” is a hilarious ’80s romp with a diverse cast of humorous characters that will have you wanting to pick up a lacrosse stick and chant with the Lady Falcons, “fight fight fight!”
“The Manningtree Witches” by A. K. Blakemore
This novel by English author and poet A. K. Blakemore examines the witch trials that occurred in England in the 1600s while addressing contemporary issues. This is a great read for American audiences more familiar with Salem witch trials who just can’t get enough of the witchiness.
Blakemore deftly exposes the implicit hypocrisy of patriarchy through her subtextual writing. Narrator Rebecca, accused, unfortunately, of witchcraft, knows what’s up. Blakemore writes Rebecca’s voice in wickedly clever prose. Rebecca and her widowed mother are especially at risk for accusation in their social climate because there’s no man in the picture to vouch for them.
Because it’s a witch trial, there has to be a pastor or two. One of these pastors, who is just a smidgen too empowered for the making of an auspicious love story, takes a liking to Rebecca.
This is horror written by a poet, and it’s delicious. For sure, one of my favorites.