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4 Thrilling Female-Led Reads You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

    Female Leads In Psychological Thrillers 

    If you’ve been a long-time reader and follower of this blog, then you’re probably a fan of female leads in novels, just like me!  In recent years Hollywood has finally caught up with the phenomenon too. This means female-lead novels can be a great go-to for book-to-screen adaptations.

    This was the case with horror sci-fi book The Girl With All The Gifts from M. R. Carey. In our previous Book Vs. Film case study, , we highlighted Carey’s take on the seemingly overdone zombie genre and how it all translated to the big screen.

    While seemingly a familiar genre to many horror fans, The Girl With All The Gifts still managed to stand out for its fresh perspective, taking on a ten-year-old girl’s view of her world and peppering the narrative with Greek mythology references.

    By taking Melanie’s point of view to tell the story, the book prevents the story from being plagued by male gaze problems. This Women’s Web piece on the impact of male gaze on women characters in thrillers highlights how they can still be rather tropey or stereotypical in their arc.

    Still, while the male gaze remains an issue in some thrillers, there are many that, like The Girl With All The Gifts, feature women fighting larger battles beyond domestic horror and personal safety. Below, we’ll be sharing four thrilling female-led reads to captivate your weekend. Let’s go!

    1) Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

    Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the year 2049, Camp Zero tells the story of codename Rose, a woman hired to secretly monitor a building project led by a sinister and mysterious collective of researchers.

    An acclaimed debut by writer Michelle Min Sterling, Camp Zero is an atmospheric page-turner about survival, love, community, and a world ravaged by climate destruction.

    While the topic of climate change certainly isn’t new to many, Min Sterling uses this setting as narrative fuel for extraordinary world-building as much as commentary. The result is a feminist climate sci-fi with countless twists and turns.

    2) The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Gray Tedrowe

    More grounded in reality, The Talented Miss Farwell is a clear nod to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mister Ripley.

    Aside from the obvious gender swap in protagonist, the book’s antihero, Rita Crundwell, may be familiar to those who are into true crime, like that of Anna Delvey or Elizabeth Holmes.

    In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer Emily Gray Tedrowe affirms her homage to the charming Tom Ripley character, stating that she wanted to explore the idea of a female con artist who isn’t afflicted by domestic or relationship troubles.

    3) The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

    Slightly older but no less gripping, The Driver’s Seat is a novella by Muriel Spark published in 1970. At a mere 101 pages long, The Driver’s Seat is an intense and horrifying read about Lise, a chaotic and slightly manic 34-year-old woman and a contradictory, subsequently, unreliable narrator.

    As the title suggests, the book takes the reader on a trip as Lise embarks on her journey. However, neither the reader nor Lise necessarily feels like they are on the driver’s seat. What ensues is a psychological exploration of control – and it’s gripping AF!

    4) The Vegetarian by Han Kang

    Finally, The Vegetarian differs from others on this list on account for being a translated work. However, South Korean author Han Kang excels in this psychological thriller.

    A three-part story following the baffling decline of housewife Young-hye, it translates well into English. The story follows Young-hye’s psychological transformation as she aims to live a “plant-like” life (no spoilers!).

    Kang was recently awarded the Prix Medicis for foreign literature in France — a first for any South Korean author — and received the International Booker Prize for The Vegetarian in 2016.

    Last Points

    So, there you have it! If you’re not into female characters who have to deal with seemingly overdone domestic or ‘women in peril’ tropes, never fear: there are just as many titles that take women on larger, often more complex journeys — whether physically or psychologically. Whichever book you choose, just be prepared to get comfortable and lose hours to these characters’ exploits!

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