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Plain Bad Heroines: A Novel

Plain Bad Heroines: A Novel

by Emily M. Danforth

Narrated by Xe Sands

Unabridged — 19 hours, 27 minutes

Emily M. Danforth

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Overview

“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.” -OTHE OPRAH MAGAZINE

“Brimming from start to finish with sly humor and gothic mischief. Brilliant.”  - SARAH WATERS

Named a Most Anticipated Book by Entertainment Weekly ¿ O, The Oprah Magazine ¿ Buzzfeed ¿ Harper's Bazaar ¿ 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, 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.

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.



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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An exquisitely plotted, winkingly crafted romp . . . a supersized Slurpee that will satiate you and leave behind a sugar high. . . . [Danforth’s] gifted at braiding characterization, suspenseful plotting and frequent injections of flat-out terror . . . exhilarating.” — Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times 

“A multi-faceted novel, equal parts gothic, sharply funny, sapphic romance, historical, and, of course, spooky.” — Entertainment Weekly

“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.” — OThe Oprah Magazine,

“A delicious Gothic tale . . . a tasty brew of creepy shuttered prep school, creepy reopened prep school, queer feminist legacy and modern adaptation of said legacy . . . will make you crave more of Danforth’s smart, funny prose.” — Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

“A layered, farcical take on the sins of woman . . . [danforth] uses vivid language to capture each time and place, in a narrative that is rare even among lesbian fiction . . . clever quips and striking imagery.” —  New York Times Book Review

“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

"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

“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 short list of things you’ll find in this novel: curses, lesbians, gilded-age society scandals, yellow jackets, a heaping dose of snark, and the nagging sense that the line between what’s real and what isn’t has been blurred. . . . It’s the perfect autumn read for you and your best friend that you’re secretly in love with, trust me.” — Buzzfeed, 38 Great Books to Read This Fall, Recommended by Our Favorite Indie Booksellers 

“[A] freewheeling, ambitious novel . . . The heroines of this story are neither plain nor bad, but human: rebellious, insecure, funny, deep with longing and scars still healing. And, yes, we do feel sympathy for them. Recommended for fans of queer kissing, Victorian romance, ghost stories and Hollywood high jinks.” — The San Francisco Chronicle

A masterfully woven and totally captivating story . . .  Full of fascinating queer characters and twisty storylines, this book is a must-read not only for the many who loved Cameron Post, but for anyone looking for an immersive, haunting, wild story.” — Sarah Neilson, Seattle Times

Plain Bad Heroines is spellbinding. . . . [a] tangled tale of history, desire and intrigue.” — Barbara Theroux, The Missoulian (Montana)

Plain Bad Heroines is a horror novel, a proper one: a big fat doorstep of super-queer terror that never runs out of ways to keep you deliciously disturbed. . . . Danforth braids the layers of narrative together with expertise. She’s clearly a horror buff . . . Another writer might have let the metatext choke the dread, but Danforth uses it to thrillingly corrode the reader’s own sense of reality . . . Her novel is beguilingly clever, very sexy and seriously frightening.” — Guardian (UK)

Sarah Waters

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.

19 Books We’re Excited to Read This Fall Vulture

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.

 The Oprah Magazine O

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.

New York Times Book Review

A layered, farcical take on the sins of woman . . . [danforth] uses vivid language to capture each time and place, in a narrative that is rare even among lesbian fiction . . . clever quips and striking imagery.

Bethanne Patrick

A delicious Gothic tale . . . a tasty brew of creepy shuttered prep school, creepy reopened prep school, queer feminist legacy and modern adaptation of said legacy . . . will make you crave more of Danforth’s smart, funny prose.

38 Great Books to Read This Fall Buzzfeed

A short list of things you’ll find in this novel: curses, lesbians, gilded-age society scandals, yellow jackets, a heaping dose of snark, and the nagging sense that the line between what’s real and what isn’t has been blurred. . . . It’s the perfect autumn read for you and your best friend that you’re secretly in love with, trust me.

Paul Tremblay

"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."

Joe Hill

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.

Entertainment Weekly

A multi-faceted novel, equal parts gothic, sharply funny, sapphic romance, historical, and, of course, spooky.

The San Francisco Chronicle

[A] freewheeling, ambitious novel . . . The heroines of this story are neither plain nor bad, but human: rebellious, insecure, funny, deep with longing and scars still healing. And, yes, we do feel sympathy for them. Recommended for fans of queer kissing, Victorian romance, ghost stories and Hollywood high jinks.

Sarah Neilson

A masterfully woven and totally captivating story . . .  Full of fascinating queer characters and twisty storylines, this book is a must-read not only for the many who loved Cameron Post, but for anyone looking for an immersive, haunting, wild story.

Guardian (UK)

Plain Bad Heroines is a horror novel, a proper one: a big fat doorstep of super-queer terror that never runs out of ways to keep you deliciously disturbed. . . . Danforth braids the layers of narrative together with expertise. She’s clearly a horror buff . . . Another writer might have let the metatext choke the dread, but Danforth uses it to thrillingly corrode the reader’s own sense of reality . . . Her novel is beguilingly clever, very sexy and seriously frightening.

Barbara Theroux

Plain Bad Heroines is spellbinding. . . . [a] tangled tale of history, desire and intrigue.

 New York Times Book Review

A layered, farcical take on the sins of woman . . . [danforth] uses vivid language to capture each time and place, in a narrative that is rare even among lesbian fiction . . . clever quips and striking imagery.

Lena Wilson

A layered, farcical take on the sins of woman . . . [danforth] uses vivid language to capture each time and place, in a narrative that is rare even among lesbian fiction . . . clever quips and striking imagery.

65 Queer and Feminist Books Coming Your Way in Fal Autostraddle

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?

Our 35 Picks for the Fall's Most Exciting New Boo Popsugar

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.

Nancy Garden

This novel is a joy—one of the best and most honest portraits of a young lesbian I’ve read in years. Cameron Post is a bright, brash, funny main character who leaps off the page and into your heart! This is a story that keeps you reading way into the night—an absorbing, suspenseful, and important book.

School Library Review (Starred Review) on The Miseducation of Cameron Post

This finely crafted, sophisticated coming-of-age debut novel is multilayered, finessing such issues as loss, first love, and friendship. An excellent read for both teens and adults.

Booklist (starred review) on The Miseducation of Cameron Post  

[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age.

Jacqueline Woodson

A beautifully told story that is at once engaging and thoughtful. THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST is an important book—one that can change lives.

Curtis Sittenfeld

If Holden Caulfield had been a gay girl from Montana, this is the story he might have told—it’s funny, heartbreaking, and beautifully rendered. Emily Danforth remembers exactly what it’s like to be a teenager, and she has written a new classic.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Cameron is a memorable heroine with an unforgettable and important story to tell, and she does so with wit, emotion, and depth.

Booklist on The Miseducation of Cameron Post  

[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age.

Booklist (starred review)

[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age.

Booklist (starred review)

★ “[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age.

Library Journal

★ 10/01/2020

To say that the Brookhaunts School for Girls has a cursed history would be an understatement of outrageous proportions, but watching that history unfold in Danforth's (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) immersive novel is a creepy pleasure from start to finish. Framed by its fictional place and by the real 1902 memoir of Mary MacLean, a controversial best seller that laid bare her bisexulaity, the novel crafts a tale that follows three linked story lines: the 1902 death of two young lovers at the school, the making of a horror movie about said students in the present, and the backstory of the women who founded the school. While intricately plotted in theory, in practice it is an effortlessly compelling read, anchored by the engaging, unnamed narrator, who speaks directly and conspiratorially to readers. At its heart, this is a novel that asks audiences to contemplate how all stories are told. Which horrors are real, which are imagined, and which are consciously constructed? VERDICT With a pointed female focus, an unease constantly seeping in from the perimeter, spilling fear all over the page at key moments, and characters who leap off the page, this volume will be sure to inspire many fans. Comparisons to Marisha Pessl's Night Film or Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger are spot on, but this will also appeal to fans of dark speculative tales such as Mira Grant's Into the Drowning Deep and Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth.

Kirkus Reviews

2020-11-18
In this sprawling, structurally ambitious novel, the gruesome deaths of two turn-of-the-century boarding school girls haunt generations of women and the women they love.

"It's a terrible story and one way to tell it is this: two girls in love and a fog of wasps cursed the place forever after." Unusual things happen at Brookhants School for Girls, a boarding school situated along the wild, rocky Rhode Island coastline. In 1902, Brookhants pupils become obsessed with Mary MacLane's salacious memoir, I Await the Devil's Coming. Detailing MacLane's lust for "the anemone lady" and her refusal of traditional gender norms, the book gives rise to the Plain Bad Heroine Society. When the club's leaders, Florence Hartshorn and Clara Broward, are found dead in one another's arms, the school's founders struggle to move beyond the tragedy only to be swept up in it themselves. The long, winding story of Brookhants' rise and fall is only one thread that danforth unravels throughout her adult debut. The novel's other major timeline takes place in contemporary Hollywood, where Harper Harper, the "indie-film-darling turned celesbian-megastar-influencer," sets out to produce her first film, a horror flick about Brookhants and its doomed teen lovers. Joining Harper on set are ingenue Audrey Wells, daughter of slasher film royalty, and Merritt Emmons, a wunderkind novelist whose first book inspired the film. The novel switchbacks between past and present, examining the sophisticated subculture of upper-crust Victorian-era lesbians and the Insta-fueled fame of queer icons in contemporary Hollywood. The novel's strength lies in its quiet insistence that queer women have always existed, that their lives deserve bigger, messier containers—even metafictional ones about a horror flick based on a novel based on a true story. Although danforth doggedly pursues the novel's structure over more than 600 pages, the pacing occasionally drags heavy as layers of Victorian silk. Even so, the novel manages to feel like a confection—surprising and honey-sweet on the tongue, to be savored even as it spooks.

Creepy, meta, and a whole lot of fun.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173375360
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/04/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Customer Reviews