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Female Rage Novels that Demand to Be Read

Photo taken by Madison McGill


 


“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer,” Jane Eyre wrote in her iconic novel, Charlotte Bronte.


 


Generations of literary women have held in their anger, which begs the question: Does that translate to the real world? Do women feel like they have to hide and dismiss their own rage because that’s what they’ve been taught to do? 


 


There’s a long overdue renaissance, which is mostly run by female authors and readers demanding more room for angry women, whether their rage is justified or not. In fact, it’s even better if their rage isn’t justified because everyone feels the raw emotion of anger. The red-hot vision, clouding up reason and freeing people of all their inhibitions, is crucial to the human experience. 


 


If we don’t celebrate the vengeful, violent and typically “unlikable” women in novels, we’re missing necessary gazes into the human psyche and our own preconceived notions. To start, you can read the three books below, which spin tales about angry women capable of wrongdoings and (gasp) leaning into their unlikeability to enact revenge.      


 


1. A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers


 


This 2020 debut novel does not apologize for the volatile, boastful and psychopathic food writer, Dorothy Daniels. Daniels is a unique take on the “femme fatale,” if only for the fact that she knows she’s a psychopath and she proudly displays it like a trophy. Perhaps the fact that she’s sitting in prison within the first page, complaining about the institutional and bland food that she never would’ve eaten before, makes her one of the most intriguing, yet sinister female perspectives I’ve read in a long time. 


 


If you can’t tell by the cover of the novel, which depicts a woman squeezing a heart in her hand as blood gushes out of it, Daniels is a serial killer. She kills boyfriends and men who have wronged her, even if they haven’t necessarily done anything wrong yet. They meet untimely and grotesque deaths at her hand, and yet, she’s more concerned about what she’ll eat for dinner.


 


Everything in this book comes down to her appetite, whether it’s sexual, edible or violent in nature. She wants rich men and rich foods, or maybe she, quite literally, wants to “eat the rich.” But among the horrors, Summers presents a feminist argument about the way violent women are treated by society and the media through Daniels, who doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities.  


 


“We can forgive any number of men murdering their wives and girlfriends,” Summers wrote in Daniels’ perspective. “But we have a hard time extending the same compassion to women who kill their husbands and boyfriends, even though women have many more reasons to be driven to it. Culture refuses to see violence in women, and the law nurtures a special loathing for violent women.”


 


I’ll be honest. I didn’t like the villainous protagonist that Summers illuminated in the novel, and maybe that’s the whole point. Of course, that’s the reason why you have to read it.   


 


 


2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn  


 


Gillian Flynn wrote two critically acclaimed novels about confusing female protagonists, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, before turning to a new story about a woman who disappears on her fifth anniversary in what appears to be a murder. The bestselling novel was adapted into a feature film starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in 2014, which garnered high praise and a cult following.


 


Co-narrators Amy and Nick Dunne are strange from the start. While Amy weaves their love story together with diary entries, Nick paints himself as prime suspect No. 1 in her disappearance. He refers to her in the past tense, tells himself that he’s enacting the “concerned husband,” and ultimately doesn’t care enough about the fact that his wife vanished in thin air. 


 


You’ll truly be thinking to yourself, “Does this fit the female rage category? Or is this just another story about a horrible husband who ruined their relationship, and then killed her when she was unhappy?”  


 


And right when you’re totally confused and looking back to the list, questioning your sanity and my dignity as a writer, you’ll get to it. The moment you realize Amy is a mastermind, and the “cool girl” monologue describes everything that women are told to be, you’ll know Flynn crafted the perfect female rage novel. 


 


“I often don't say things out loud, even when I should,” Amy Dunne’s narration reads. “I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you'd never guess from looking at me.”  


 


 


3. The Cruel Prince trilogy by Holly Black 


 


If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse,” Holly Black wrote in the 2018 novel. 


 


The young adult subsection does not typically employ female rage in its content, much less in young adult fantasy, which sanctions women into heroic roles without any true faults or moral complications. However, The Cruel Prince’s Jude Duarte is pressed for time, power hungry and she’s not afraid to get dirty for it. 


 


Duarte and her two sisters are taken by her parents’ murderer, a feared general, to a place where immortal creatures and mythical beings reside called Elfhame. As her time there grows, Duarte faces prejudice, cruelty and punishment for her humanity, especially from the beautiful fae who bully her at every possible moment. 


 


Duarte and her two sisters, Vivi and Taryn, invent themselves into whatever they need to be to survive there — but Jude is certainly the bold one, determined to take her place in the military and showcase her strengths, even if it means fooling everyone in her quest for victory. 


 


Duarte is a walking paradox, in a way, by pulling strings to peel back political scandals and strategies, all while always on the lookout for tricks. But the most intriguing part of her rage is the simultaneous love she feels toward her sisters and youngest brother, who actually isn’t related by blood at all, and how her vulnerability impacts her choices. 


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