Unfortunately, when people hear that my favorite movie is “Midsommar,” I start to sound like a red flag. However, I can’t help but beam with joy at the ending, and in my opinion, the main protagonist, Dani, played by our lord and savior Florence Pugh, could never be wrong in my eyes. As we begin Women’s History Month, we shouldn’t narrow our focus on the “perfect” female characters. Rather, let’s see every aspect of women: rage, sadness and the imperfect, bittersweet endings women often get both in literature and in real life. I want to read books about the faults of women rather than just their perfections. Here are my favorite books about flawed women who make questionable choices. 

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

TW: blood depiction, rape mentioned, domestic violence mentioned

My tattered copy of “Gone Girl” proves how toxic my reading taste may be, but that doesn’t deter me from consuming female manipulator novels. Protagonist Amy Dunne was also known as “Amazing Amy” who could do anything, but when her marriage crumbles and her parents’ expectations go through the roof, the pressure consumes her. On her fifth anniversary with her husband, Nick, Amy has disappeared and Nick is acting suspicious, leading some to believe he killed her. Reading “Gone Girl” was my first dip into the sphere of unhinged female-led books. There is something about Dunne that feels so relatable. Yes, she has her flaws, but she also shows raw anger and pain, which is refreshing compared to the Rolodex of prim and proper leading ladies found in most written media. Flynn’s ability to tap into feminine rage and what it means to not be enough creates a teeth-sinking novel that I couldn’t put down. I was up for hours, sitting with my reading light devouring “Gone Girl” because despite Amy’s decisions, I still understood her and supported her. 

“House of Hollow” by Krystal Sutherland 

TW: sexual assault, suicide, kidnapping/abduction

The combination of creepiness and femininity in a folk horror novel is a recipe that undoubtedly creates my perfect book. “House of Hollow” became an instant favorite of mine the second I picked it up. Following the troublesome life of the ethereal Hollow sisters, Sutherland’s luscious urban horror is narrated by middle child Iris. When Iris’ older sister, Grey, goes missing, the past of the Hollow sisters reveals the gruesome and ugly tale Iris worked so hard to forget. The blurred morality of each character had me questioning every Hollow sister’s decisions until the last page. The Hollow sisters are the definition of anti-heroines, yet I rooted for them anyways. After finishing the novel, I sat in disbelief at Sutherland’s ability to keep me on my toes and leave me shaken up at the conclusion. Even in a Goodreads review, the author says, “I apologize in advance for any nightmares/strong feelings of betrayal you experience while reading.” I was floored with the ending, and I sat in silence after what Sutherland put me through during “House of Hollow.” Sutherland spun a beautiful tale overflowing with darkness, and I fell deeply in love with the horrors of the Hollow sisters. 

“Luster” by Raven Leilani 

TW: miscarriage, racism, abortion, police brutality, drug addiction

Leilani’s debut novel unravels the tale of Edie, a 23-year-old Black woman stumbling through life. Edie meets Eric, who she begins dating, and after a while, she is invited into his New Jersey home by his wife to be a part of their open marriage. In Eric’s home, Edie is the only Black role model for the couple’s adopted daughter, Akila. Leilani wove a story of racism, sexism and classism with Edie at the center. Edie also makes it known early on that she enjoyed Eric’s company because he was a father substitute. Daddy issues seem to be a common theme among female manipulators, and Edie is no exception. The themes of familial trauma and fleeing from loneliness spoke to me. Nothing about this story is easy to read — it wrenches at the soul and makes you question what it means to read literary fiction. After finishing “Luster,” I realized that I don’t read novels for well-liked, “perfect” characters. I want to consume a novel with flawed women because that is what all of us are. We are not the perfectly molded character, but instead we are covered in cracks and scars. Leilani’s sharp and raw writing reveals the deepest desires of humans: to be seen. 

“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh 

TW: abortion, addiction, drug use, eating disorder, racism, sexual assault, suicide

What I love about Moshfegh is that she does not shy away from writing the unlikable aspects of a woman. When scrolling through Goodreads reviews, I noticed a common theme where reviewers said they didn’t like the main character, which is one of the reasons I devoured this novel. I am tired of reading about the impeccable female. Particularly in middle school level novels, I set myself up for unrealistic expectations by wanting to be just like Hermione Granger or Annabeth Chase, who never had deep enough character explorations to find their flaws. Moshfegh’s sardonic and sophisticated writing style held my attention for the novel’s approximate 300 pages. The unnamed narrator of the story believes she should be happy, yet there is a vacant hole in her heart. After a tumultuous series of events, the narrator finds herself fired and left to find meaning in her life, so she takes it upon herself to start over through a year of drug-induced hibernation. Obviously, there are bumps in the road to her year of peaceful sleep, and through satirical writing from Moshfegh, the reader dives into the psyche of our unnamed narrator to find reasoning for her poor choices. 

“Animal” by Lisa Taddeo 

TW: rape, miscarriage, murder, abortion

The experience of reading Taddeo’s “Animal” left me with unhinged rage and the anger of a woman wronged. If I could describe “Animal” with a song, it would be “mad woman” by Taylor Swift. Taddeo redefines what it means to be the predator and the prey in regards to human violence and revenge through the lens of Joan, who fled New York City to Los Angeles in search of Alice, a mysterious figure who understands Joan’s tumultuous past. When Joan finally arrives in Los Angeles, she unravels her past and remembers the gruesome events of her childhood. Reviews of Joan’s unlikable narration flood Goodreads, however, I think some readers are looking for something easy and free of complexity, and that is nowhere to be found in this book. The nature of female rage towards male exploitation is not meant to be a beach read. Joan’s amorality spilled across the pages, but I rooted for her. I followed Joan into the darkest of realms while reading “Animal,” and I lived for every second of it. 

The complicated tales of these anti-heroines provided a real glimpse into the psyche of the female mind. Women in novels are often depicted with perfect bodies and attitudes, but beyond the surface authors disregard the humanity of their female characters. The good, bad and ugly portrayal of women in novels has been shoved to the wayside, and I am tired of reading about a woman who makes all of the right choices. Instead, during this fine Women’s History Month, I’ll stick to supporting women’s rights and wrongs through these tantalizing and complex books.