Showtime’s Yellowjackets is one of the buzziest series of the past year, combining a dense dual timeline mystery, a deft exploration of the dark side of female friendship, and a tense survival thriller into something that manages to feel completely brand new. And while book club may not actually exist (sniff!!) In the world of the show, that doesn’t mean that fans can’t embrace some similar reading material to help us get through the wait for Season 2.
Whether you’re looking for stories about complex women, relatable female rage, inexplicable illnesses, or explorations of how dire circumstances bring out the worst in all of us, odds are this list has something for you.
The latest novel from The Wife Upstairs author Rachel Hawkins, Reckless Girls is a cinematic thriller about a group of morally grey twenty-somethings thrown together on a deserted Pacific island that has a dark history of shipwrecks, unexplained disappearances, and, yes, even a bit of cannibalism. Part romance, part mystery, and part survival thriller, this binge-worthy story follows a young woman and her boyfriend who think they’ve finally got their chance to fund the sailing trip of their dreams when two wealthy young women hire them as a charter to the mysterious Meroe Island.
But when they reach this supposed paradise, they’re surprised to find they aren’t alone—and when people start dying, the question becomes who, if anyone, is going to make it home alive. Wickedly entertaining, Reckless Girls will surprise you with its many twists and its ending feels entirely like something onlyYellowjackets itself could pull off.
A dual timeline thriller about 13 women who are tragically stranded in a remote wilderness and the fallout that ensues when not all of them return? Is this Yellowjackets: The Novel? No, it’s Gree Mcacallister’s The Arctic Fury, a thrilling piece of historical fiction that follows a group of extraordinary women sent in search of the lost Franklin Expedition.
A second narrative, set a year and a half later, picks up the story of the murder trial of the group’s leader, and weaves the two together as the secrets of these explorers are slowly revealed on their dangerous trek into the frozen North. Much like Yellowjackets, The Arctic Fury’s central question revolves around what really happened to these women (already marked as different for undertaking this mission in the first place) while they were struggling to survive in unimaginable conditions.
Look, basically, all you probably needed to say to sell me on this book was “supernaturally-tinged retelling of the real-life tragedy of the Donner Party”. Talk about a killer (pardon the pun) premise!
But almost every page of Katsu’s deeply creepy thriller The Hunger is suffused with tension and mistrust, and you’ll find yourself wondering whether the possibility of infection by a dark entity is better or worse than the things we might just be willing to do to one another in the name of survival—without any supernatural interference at all.
The Grace Year is a dystopian YA novel set in a patriarchal culture that believes women harbor a dangerous form of magic, and must be exiled to live in the wilderness for a year when they turn sixteen in order to purge themselves of it.
But, of course, the sanctified so-called “Grace Year” is anything but, as the girls—primed to view other women as threats by a lifetime of competition for male attention—turn on one another and violence predictably ensues. Its young adult status means Liggett’s novel isn’t quite as dark as others in this vein (at the very least it has a slightly more hopeful ending), but the moral collapse at its center is surrounded by the sort of spectacle that even Misty Quigly would enjoy.
From the mind behind The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires comes this fun, feminist reimagining of the horror genre, which follows six “real life” final girls (based on recognizable figures from famous franchises) who are all in therapy to process their various traumatic near-death experiences.
But when one of their own turns up dead, the women will have to join forces to figure out what kind of monster is trying to craft his own sequel. LIke Yellowjackets, this is a story that unabashedly centers female perspectives in a space that has not often considered them in the past, and is darkly funny to boot.
After a hurricane devastates the Florida coast, a group of employees are trapped and isolated at the theme park known as Fantasticland. By the time rescue reaches the survivors five weeks later, the park has devolved into horrific chaos, and it is clear rival gangs have not only formed but violently warred with one another. (At least, if the body parts everywhere are anything to go by.)
How have these people—mostly college-aged kids forced to leave their mobile phones behind for work—become inhuman monsters so quickly?
When a deadly virus strikes an isolated girls’ boarding school, the students are basically left to fend for themselves, Lord of the Flies-style, as the disease rages around them. (And begins to horrifically infect other creatures on their island home.)
Like Yellowjackets, the heart of Wilder Girls revolves around the power of female friendship and a central sapphic romance, as one of the girls breaks quarantine to journey into the Maine wilderness when her BFF goes missing.
This story of a plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants who find themselves stranded on a mysterious island after a disastrous crash, the plot of Beauty Queens will likely feel a bit familiar to Yellowjackets fans. (Even if the quippy dialogue is often more Mean Girls than Reality Bites in tone and aesthetic.) However, Bray ultimately manages to take the story in a completely unexpected and even downright subversive direction, skewering everything from girl boss feminism to corporatism along the way.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.