Our fantastic female characters for this Women’s History Month installment are all smart, tough women caught up in horrific situations. They don’t always make perfect choices–but let’s face it, not many of us would when being stalked by a serial killer or a murderous necromancer!
Jade Daniels of My Heart is a Chainsaw is an angry teen, with plenty to be angry about. Her mother is absent and her father’s abusive, and almost everyone in the town of Proofrock, Idaho treats her as an outcast–partly because she’s half-Native American and poor, partly because she’s dealt with her rough life by becoming absolutely obsessed with horror movies, especially slasher flicks.
Gentrification arrives on the shores of Indian Lake where Proofrock is perched, and at the same time suspicious deaths start piling up. Jade is sure she’s caught in the beginning of a slasher story–but she’s not terrified. She’s exhilarated that her obsession has made her the perfect person to find a “final girl” and prepare that girl to outwit and outlast the killer.
Jade is funny and sad and finally heroic. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher will have you nodding with recognition if you’re a fellow fan–and making a list of movies to watch if this is your first look at the genre!
Lynnette Tarkington of The Final Girl Support Group is in some ways the mirror image of Jade. She’s already survived two massacres, and has absolutely zero interest in getting caught up in another. She and survivors of several other slashers attend a therapy support group, and the author does a wonderful slow reveal of exactly how traumatized she is by her violent past. (Spoiler alert: very traumatized.) In a winking meta touch, the massacres that the group survived are all based on slasher film franchises, from Nightmare on Elm Street to the lesser known Canadian “Black Christmas” series.
Lynette has built what she thinks is the safest possible life–and then one of the group members doesn’t show up for a meeting. Lynette becomes convinced that it’s all starting again–that a killer has found them and wants to eliminate all the Final Girls. She struggles to convince her fellow survivors that they’re all in danger, and mounting violence finally forces them to work together.
Every one of the support group survivors is a memorable character. But Lynette will really stick in your head. She’s damaged, guilt-ridden, and terrified–but she has that all-important Final Girl quality of never giving up.
We learn very quickly that Evelyn Caldwell of The Echo Wife is brilliant, chilly and prickly–and as we progress through the rest of the book we learn that she is capable of some very dark things indeed. But she’s caught in such a strange situation that almost all her actions seem understandable.
Her husband has left her–and she discovers that he’s sleeping with an illegal clone, made with Evelyn’s own cloning technology, AND that the illegal clone is a clone of Evelyn herself. Before long the husband turns up dead, and Evelyn and her clone have to work together or they’ll end up sharing both DNA and a jail cell.
The novel swirls with ethical questions–is a clone a person? What do you owe to someone who was made from you? Does cleaning up after other people’s bad, bad choices entitle you to make a few yourself? How much can you ever really recover from childhood trauma? And at the center of all the questions is Evelyn, grimly carrying on with a checklist of tasks that range from laboratory science to gravedigging.
Gideon Nav of Gideon the Ninth lives in a world of necromancers, who can animate the dead and build anything from bone, and their sworn sword-wielding protectors or “cavaliers.” She’s an astounding swordswoman, but she doesn’t particularly want to protect her necromancer, an enemy since the childhood they both spent on a decaying planet where they were the only surviving children.
She’s drafted into it nonetheless, and she and Harrowhark the necromancer head off to a planet where necromancer-and-cavalier pairs are going to compete to become immortal servants of the emperor. But the planet seems to be haunted and the other contestants keep turning up dead.
Gideon is a wonder of a character–bullheaded and snarky, with a sense of humor almost as sharp as her blade. You’ll root for her in the competition, cheer on an unexpected romance, and sniffle at the ending.
Those are just a few of the terrific heroines you can find at Reynolds libraries. Feel free to drop by and ask us for more recommendations for fierce, fabulous fictional women!