Plain Bad Heroines

Plain Bad Heroines

A Novel

Book - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A century after the macabre deaths of several students at a New England girls' boarding school, the release of a sensational book on the school's history inspires a horror film adaptation that renews suspicions of a curse when the cast and crew arrive at the long-abandoned building.
1902, the Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara are obsessed with each other and with Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. The girls establish their own private club and call it the Plain Bad Heroine Society. Their bodies are discovered in a nearby apple orchard, with a copy of Mary's book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. within five years three more people die on the property-- and the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever. The now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when writer Merritt Emmons publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the "haunted and cursed" Gilded Age institution. Her book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again for filming, soon it's impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins. -- adapted from jacket
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2020]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780062942852
Branch Call Number: FIC DANFORTH, EMILY
Characteristics: 623 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
STPL_Kerry Feb 22, 2021

This was a great book, and I think it would also make a fantastic movie (a movie about book where they are making a movie about a book? What??!) The non-linear timelines were executed flawlessly, and I loved how it was written in a manner where you often felt like the author was talking to you. And speaking of the author, her tone is fabulously witty, intelligent and entertaining, as are her characters. You have to commit a bit of time to this book (it's a long one!) but it is entertaining and keeps you wondering what is going to happen next...

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Feb 05, 2021

I almost always enjoy novels with timelines in both the present and the past. Add humor and horror to the mix and you pretty much "have me at 'hello.'" This book was good, creepy fun!

This book drew me in with its striking imagery, witty instagram gothic tone and increasingly dark tale of a cursed girls school, where two teenage lovers besotted with a controversial book met a tragic end in the 1800's, which in turn becomes the subject of a book in the 2010's which is being turned into a movie that is also seemingly cursed. Taking cues from the behind the scenes of cursed movies such as The Exorcist, gothic novels and modern Queer lit, the story jumps between the 1800's girls school and the 2020 film. As the author describes it "like Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Blair Witch Project, with Lesbians"

Jan 08, 2021

I really wanted to love this book, and for a while, I did. Sadly, it is just...way way way too long. It is badly in need of editing and focus, as it is trying to do too many things at one time. The book is 623 pages, and there's a really good 400 page book in there somewhere, but it is at least 200 pages too long and complicated. I loved the charming narrative style, and many of the characters; but it's a mess. The author needed to cut out at least 1 storyline and several characters. The origin story of the curse held so much promise but... blah? Like, it didn't even really make enough sense and comes so late in the story.

Jan 06, 2021

This book has 623 pages. After 3 weeks of trying, the best I could do is get to page 184. I like the style of the writing but everything else about the book is AWFUL!! Story line is boring and disjointed (maybe it would have all come together if I had been interested enough to finish the book), the author is really long winded in describing the characters, etc., etc., etc. Frankly, I'm not even sure what the story line is??? Might try to check out again to finish the book (I hate it when I don't finish a book) but probably won't.

ArapahoeJennieB Dec 03, 2020

This story had so much potential but it got lost in the explanation. The “cause” of the curse was intriguing but it was introduced too late in the story for it to have much impact or to explain all the weird occurrences and hauntings.

Chapel_Hill_RobynW Nov 03, 2020

To say that this book has had a lot of 'buzz' (sorry) about it doesn't really do it justice, and for a book to meet and surpass the expectations of it, and the expectations were super high, is something truly wonderful to behold. This is like Sarah Waters, but sarcastic and cynical and with a biting sense of humor; think 'Tipping the Velvet' but with a world-weary Nan offering a second person narrative with extra footnotes, and you get partway to this Novel's style.

Written in a second person tone that makes Philip Marlowe seem naive and optimistic, it tells the story of 3 girls, 2 of them lovers, who die horribly at their boarding school, and the mysterious goings-on at the Brookhants school and the Headteacher's home after these supernatural deaths. In between this, we discover the very modern story of three women; Harper, Merritt, and Avery, who have been bought together to make the movie of the cult book written about the tragic Brookhants girls. The unease of one era becomes reflected in another, and the parallels of what is happening becomes a spooky case of history repeating itself.

This dual-narrative could have been the book's downfall. I often don't like dual-narrative books as I find one story gets left behind and the other is a stronger tale (such as the switch between the modern-day and post-apocalyptic worlds of Station Eleven), but this has not been the case in this story. Anytime I thought the story was getting tired, or it has lost pace, a twist has come along that has piqued my interest. It is also a intelligent piece of work. It is full of literary allusions and references to LGBTIQ history that I previously didn't know, and am now discovering for myself. This merging of historical fiction and gothic horror is so well done, and so convincing it is sometimes difficult to tell which parts are real in 2020, which parts are historical and which parts came from a fertile imagination. This is a real treat!

STPL_JessH Oct 20, 2020

Warning: please do not come to me for an objective review of this book.

*clears throat* I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love everything about it: the humour, the structure, the style, the manipulation, the power play(s), the characters, the narration, the plain bad heroines . . . Second-person is really, really difficult to execute well. I am delighted to report that Emily Danforth has achieved brilliance with this choice. It has been awhile since I have loved the writing more than the story. That's not to say I find the plot lacking because Danforth is very upfront about this metadrama. It's just that I was absolutely taken by the storytelling. Danforth could tell me about her grocery list and I'd be a fan.

I also believe this book is a great example of the power of #ownvoice narratives. There is a quality that queer writers bring to a novel about queer characters that is difficult to define and yet I know it when I see it. Desire drips throughout this tale and yet there is not a single tawdry reference or scene designed to exploit lesbian attraction. Instead, we have a kind of literature review woven throughout and readers will recognize many a famous line.

I appreciate each and every word of this story which really says a lot in such a long book. I appreciate the movement and motion of the narrative and I appreciate the restraint at the end. In case you can't tell, I highly, highly recommend. Yes, of course the rhyme was on purpose 🙂


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SMPL

To Top