Torture. Slut-shaming. Stalking. Sexualized violence. It is no secret that there can be issues with the way horror depicts women, especially on screen. But despite its questionable track record, horror is not all sexism and misogyny. In fact, there are plenty of
frightening and feminist horror novels that demonstrate how effective the genre can be in telling women's stories and exploring the female experience.
If you are a fan of the horror genre, you know that it has more than one troubling sexist trope: The Final Girl, Death by Sex, The Horny Girl Dies First. These are just a few of the ways horror can shame, exploit, and objectify women, their experiences, and their sexuality. But what happens when those tropes are subverted, when authors use scary fiction stories to explore the terrifying truth about living life as a female?
This is when horror is at its best, when the nightmarish narratives focus on empowered women using their wit, strength, and perseverance to take down whatever monster, ghoul, ghost, or murder might be after them.
Whether you're searching for a scary story to read before Halloween or looking to expand your collection of terrifying tales, here are 9
feminist horror books you might want to consider checking out.
'Mrs. Caliban' by Rachel Ingalls
A genre-defying novel with plenty of horror undertones,
Mrs. Caliban tells the unforgettable love story of a lonely suburban housewife and the amphibian monster who walks out of a research facility one day and straight into her life. Fun, fascinating, and often frightening, this fable-like horror fantasy is one you won't be able to stop thinking about. Click here to buy.
'Riddance' by Shelley Jackson
In this spine-tingling supernatural story, a young girl suffering from a debilitating stutter is brought to the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children, a school that specializes in the field of necrophysics and teaching students to communicate with the dead. But when one of the students disappears, parents and police have questions, and the answers they seek just might change the school and the children that attend it forever.
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'The Silent Companions' by Laura Purcell
In this haunting Victorian ghost story, Elsie, a young, pregnant widow feels trapped, surrounded by villagers who hate her and servants that resent her, in her late husband's grand estate. There, behind a locked door, is a painted wooden figure the other residents are terrified of, one that bears a striking resemblance to the Elsie herself. Though she tries to ignore the superstition at first, Elsie can't help but notice that the figure's eyes are following her — but what exactly are they watching for?
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'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson
In this chilling classic, two sisters are the only two living members of a family haunted by tragedy, death, and possibly murder. When a cousin arrives at their estate expressing his desire to care for the women and their grand house, the young Merricat is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her beloved older sister and herself.
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'The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel' by Alyssa Palombo
If you're a serious horror fan, than you've probably heard more than one version of the Sleepy Hollow story before, but none like this. In Alyssa Palombo's adaptation the classic legend is told through the eyes of the schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel, a woman willing to do anything in order to learn the truth about her lover Ichabod Crane's mysterious disappearance. A terrifying tale of love, passion, female friendship, and the supernatural, this is one horror retelling you don't want to miss.
You can read an excerpt at Bustle now. Click here to buy.
'The Good House' by Tananarive Due
In this haunted house story, a heartbroken mother returns to her hometown and her ancestral dwelling, the Good House, to unearth the truth about her son's mysterious death. Was it related to the supernatural being her grandmother faced decades ago, or could it be connected to the other tragedies the town has seen in recent years? You'll have to read this thrilling tale to find out.
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'Fledgling' by Octavia Butler
While it isn't strictly a horror novel, Octavia Butler's
Fledgling is a vampire book, and a scary one at that. It tells the story of Shori, a 53-year-old Ina, a vampire-like creature whose appearance is that of a 10-year-old African-American girl. After suffering from amnesia, Shuri must do whatever it takes uncover the truth about her past life, including who or what tried to destroy her past and is still working hard to prevent her from having a future. Click here to buy.
'The Doll's Alphabet' by Camilla Grudova
In this strange and startling collection, Camilla Grudova presents a series of spine-tingling stories: one about a woman who learns to "unstitch" herself; another about a society in which men have sex with young girls to avoid the expense of contraception. By turns thought-provoking and truly terrifying,
The Doll's Alphabet will keep you up through the night. Click here to buy.
'The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein' by Kiersten White
New York Times bestseller author Kiersten White reimagines the classic Frankenstein story as seen through the eyes of a young woman who will do whatever it takes to survive. Dark, twisty, and oh-so-fun, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstien will scare and entertain readers of any age. Click here to buy.