William Morrow | 20 October 2020 | 640 pgs
Source: Library 
At first glance, Plain Bad Heroines may look a little intimidating with its size (600+ pages) but it eventually won me over with the atmospheric and the Gothic theme. However, the story wasn't what I expected and I'll get to that later. 

The story begins in Year 1902 at the Brookhants School for Girls. Two students, Flo and Clara, are in love with each other and they share an obsession over Mary MacLane's works, in particularly her bestselling memoir comprising her thoughts and issues such as feminism. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls even establish their own club and called it The Plain Bad Heroines Society. Sadly, their sapphic love is cut short not by others' judgemental view but by a swarm of yellow jackets which led them to a macabre death. Even on their death they're seen holding Mary's book. The school eventually closes after more scandal and death involved, sparking some talks and curiosity if the place (or the book?) is cursed. 

At present, the now abandoned Brookhants is back in the spotlight when filmmaker Bo Dhillon decides to use the setting for their new film, which is based on the bestselling book of wunderkind author Merritt Emmons. The Happenings at Brookhants details the history of the real deaths and supposed curse attached to the school though mainly it is more of a horror film adaptation surrounding feminism and the friendship among the characters. This present time introduces the reader to our three main characters - Merritt Emmons (the author herself), Harper Harper (an influencer and aspiring star) and Audrey Wells (former child star and now a B-list actress). As the movie set and the crew move into Brookhants to begin filming, weird things begin to happen as the past seems to entangle with the present, questioning the characters and the reader if it's the Brookhants curse or if it's simply a coincidence. 

I'd mixed feelings about this book. For starters, the story was long and dragging although the writing was unique and entrancing in a way (the narrative style was told in parts by an omnipresent narrator and truth be told, I wasn't sure if I should be annoyed or amused by the voice). All the characters are intriguing and I think that's the strength of this story, but sadly there wasn't much coverage of the two girls from the past; which I felt was a pity considering they were the ones who first started off the story. Our characters of the present time are still interesting to read, but their personalities, narcissism and their emotions took over much of the story, leaving this reader baffled and underwhelmed at the same time. But of course there are still some Gothic moments, such as the yellow jackets (shivers) and the Black Oxford apples which may have you wondering if they're mystical themselves. Another of my disappointment was finding the ending kind of fizzled after all the past and present buildup; and that there wasn't much link between the two timelines except the presence of the yellow jackets (I personally feel they're the real threat here). This review may deem like I didn't enjoy the book, but I did at some parts and overall it was quite a fascinating tale; and not to mention it's a story within a story within a story (this isn't a typo) and featuring black-and-white period illustrations by Sara Lautman. I'd still recommend this to readers who enjoy a bit of queerness in their reading. 
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8 Responses
  1. jenclair Says:

    Even with your reservations, this book sounds intriguing. I don't know that I'll look for it, but I'll keep it in mind.

  2. I have been wondering about this one as it sounds really good on the surface. I tend to be drawn more to the historical aspects of novels like this, and it is too bad the story involving the two girls from the past was not stronger. I'm on the fence whether I want to take the time to read this one.

  3. Lark Says:

    That's a lot of pages to read only to have the end kind of fizzle. All that build up! At least you were still able to enjoy most of it.

  4. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - I'll be curious of your thoughts if you do read it, Jenclair. ;)

  5. Melody Says:

    Wendy - I understand this book has received mixed reviews. While I didn't love it, I didn't regret reading it either. Hopefully the author's next book will be better. :)

  6. Melody Says:

    Lark - I suppose I'd huge expectations of this book. I was hoping to read more of the Gothic stuff especially from the past. ;p Anyways I was glad I read it.

  7. Iliana Says:

    When I first heard about this one it immediately went on my list but I'm not so sure now because I've heard several mixed reviews now. Plus, 600+ pages would give me pause on a book that isn't really wowing me!

  8. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I dived into this book with a different expectation so perhaps it was a so-so read to me. I'd be curious of your thoughts if you do read it, Iliana.

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