I can’t say exactly why everyone seems to be captivated by an antihero story, but I can say why I am: antiheroes make shit happen. They’re active and ambitious characters, taking big swings, relentless towards their pursuit of greatness, whatever that means to them, and they’ll stop at nothing to get what they want, nefarious deeds included. That alone always has the makings of great entertainment and I am here for it.
I love thrillers, always have, but I personally craved a story with a wild woman front and center, one who some might say is a villain, where others might say she’s a hero (ahem), but no matter what side of the argument a person falls on, they want to hang out with her because they can’t look away, unable to predict exactly what she’ll do next. So I decided to create this woman myself. (In fiction, relax!)
Enter Bea from Stone Cold Fox, my favorite antihero on planet earth. Yes, I wrote her, so maybe that’s an uncouth statement, but whatever – if you want to hang out with a rock solid villain who will make your jaw drop, but also make you laugh hysterically, she is your girl and Stone Cold Fox is your book.
Of course, I have some other favorite villains from over the years. Amy Dunne, Tom Ripley, Lestat de Lioncourt, Jaws. (Seriously read the book by Peter Benchley! We all love the movie for obvious reasons, but did you know Mrs. Brody has an affair with Matt Hooper in the novel? Salacious!) But I’ve also been captivated by some recent antiheroes that you shouldn’t miss out on:
Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
Who doesn’t love a story about writers wilding out? I adored this novel about a determined young woman, Florence Darrow, who takes a job working for renowned and reclusive author Maud Dixon. When they embark on a madcap trip to Morocco it quickly takes a dark turn where nothing at all is what it seems. Here you get two antiheroes for the price of one and one hell of an ending. The writing is as sharp as the women characters in the book, making it one to really savor, but I still finished it in one day. Big recommend!
Bunny by Mona Awad
I got a real kick out of this weird and wonderful book! Dark academia tinged with bright pink and perky bitches (my favorite), this story about an MFA student’s dark descent into the wacky world of the “bunnies” is completely unforgettable. Honestly, it’s akin to the horror show that is watching a good friend make terrible mistakes, knowing there’s not much you can do about it except hold on for dear life. Some of the super trippy scenes from Bunny are irrevocably etched in my memory, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the kind of book where you end up loving it or hating it, but those are some of my favorites to talk about with friends. Bunny is a really great book club choice for that reason alone!
White Ivy by Susie Yang
Shocker. I loved a book about a conniving social climber. But Susie Yang’s decidedly literary spin on an old favorite feels different than most, centering on Ivy Lin – a girl perhaps you’d least suspect, but also really start to feel for the more you get to know her, even if her methods of ascension are a little “sus” to say the least. It’s definitely a meditation on both becoming a product of how we’re raised, but also how oftentimes we want to push against our roots as well to become someone new. I could relate to Ivy in that regard. I also really enjoyed her grandmother Meifeng. What a pistol! And it must be said, the ending of this book left me reeling. Ivy is messy with a capital M, but boy, does she really go for it and as an antihero, that’s all I could ever want from her.
We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman
This book has everything. New York. Los Angeles. Writers. Directors. Wunderkind playwrights. And of course, teenage girls in a fight club next door. Jen Silverman’s novel about the increasingly blurry lines between art and commerce is one I’ve been recommending to everyone. I love it! The pace is quick and exciting, without ever sacrificing the sterling prose, and the slow burns that Silverman sets up really pay off in super satisfying ways, particularly the reason why the main character Cass fled New York City in the first place. Come for that visceral scene alone – let’s just say I think about it a lot and shudder. God, isn’t that the best?!
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Hoo-boy, that Millicent from Samantha Downing’s first novel is a doozy of a villain! My kind of girl! (Kinda – at least to read about!) She’s a monster beyond belief, but you will be riveted by her increasingly crazy story, alongside her unnamed husband, also the narrator, who is honestly just as bad. Oh my God, these two are so bad. A seemingly normal couple on the outside, they keep their marriage hot by murdering people. Totally normal behavior, right? Come on, if that alone doesn’t make you want to pick this one up, I don’t know how to help you. This is the type of thriller that keeps you up all night reading. With clever twists and a diabolical sense of humor, My Lovely Wife is a wild ride with an antihero to remember – and have nightmares about.