The Austin Chronicle

Top Fiction of 2020 for the Angry Girls

Rosalind Faires chooses several tales of righteous indignation

By Rosalind Faires, December 18, 2020, Arts

For a year that provided plenty of reasons to scream into a pillow, here are the heroines who lit up their respective genres with righteous indignation and raw hope.

1) HENCH (William Morrow) Natalie Zina Walschots' funny and piercing novel about the costs of superheroics and supervillainy takes Cheryl Strayed's advice about "finding a channel for your love and another for your rage" to heart.

2) HARROW THE NINTH (Tordotcom) Tamsyn Muir's puzzle box of memory, grief, memes, queer desire, and necromancy in space is a thrillingly ambitious follow-up to Gideon the Ninth.

3) PLAIN BAD HEROINES (William Morrow) Vintage sapphics meets Hollywood dyke drama meets meta horror in Emily M. Danforth's novel, with illustrations by Sara Lautman. It's so deliciously gothic, it begs to be read by candlelight.

4) MY DARK VANESSA (William Morrow) Kate Elizabeth Russell's look at a woman reevaluating a relationship she had with her high school teacher is messy and unsparing, but never lacks profound insight and compassion for its title character.

5) SUCH A FUN AGE (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Kiley Reid's debut about a young Black woman and the white mom she babysits for has a keen eye, a devastating wit, and deep feeling.

6) EMPIRE OF WILD (William Morrow) Cherie Dimaline intertwines the story of the Rougarou with the ugly history of Christian colonization in this propulsive tale about a Métis woman searching for her missing husband.

7) THE RETURN (Berkley) The way college friendships morph over time becomes delightfully ominous in Rachel Harrison's novel about a girls' trip to celebrate a woman who had gone missing but now, returned, seems a little off.

8) RIOT BABY (Tordotcom) There's something electric in the anger, mourning, and demand for a better future in Tochi Onyebuchi's novella about two Black siblings, one of whom has emerging superpowers.

9) ONE TO WATCH (The Dial Press) A note-perfect send-up of and love letter to The Bachelor, Kate Stayman-London's romance novel follows a fashion blogger's experience as the first plus-size lead of a reality dating show.

10) THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE (Tordotcom) When winter nights call for an all-in-one-sitting, under-the-covers read, Nghi Vo's canny novella about a handmaiden's life intertwining with that of the emperor's new foreign wife is waiting.

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.