Plain Bad Heroines Review

I got a copy of Plain Bad Heroines from Netgalley to review.

Plain Bad Heroines had me hooked from the first page. The writing style grabbed me immediately, as I love an omniscient narrator who hints at future disaster. I especially loved the recurring motif of yellow jackets and the disaster and menace they bring. It reminded me of the theme of bees in The Starless Sea but perilous instead of wholesome.

This book has a narrator, which is easy to make cheesy and hard to make compelling, but Danforth makes it work. The narrator is clever and sometimes funny — the same vibe as Janet from The Good Place. The writing style suited the story and the characters and I am now interested in reading Danforth’s other works. I had not realized, previous to reading Plain Bad Heroines that she had also written The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I now also want to read that — so many books, so little time.

The story follows two timelines: the first in the early 1900s where a girls’ school seems cursed with repeated tragedies; the second in the present day where a group of young actresses is making a movie about the school and similar tragedies start to befall them. I found the early timeline more compelling, especially since it had a Picnic at Hanging Rock vibe to it. This could be dark academia if you squint.

What I found most compelling about this book was its depth of female characters. The story has almost exclusively female characters and they all feel authentically individual. I am always in awe of writers who can create multiple characters like this, but Danforth is writing at a new level. Their internal struggles and interpersonal connections are complicated and feel realistic. I enjoyed this book so much and would absolutely like a finished copy so I can reread it and enjoy the fantastic illustrations in full.



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