The best novels with uncommon female voices (and a mysterious, mystical, or sci-fi twist)

Who am I?

My imagination knows little bounds. Yes, I was that weird kid who could entertain herself in the backyard with just a couple of sticks. I have since learned that language is what we use to build and make sense of our own realities. As a young woman, it is my hope to expand the feminine imagination – how we perceive femininity and the diversity of its voice. As a writer and human in general, my interest lies in how writing can care for human experience with honesty, humor, and empathy. And bonus points if something magical or mysterious happens along the way. 

I wrote...

Nowhere Where the Honeybees Live

By Caroline Wood,

Book cover of Nowhere Where the Honeybees Live

What is my book about?

Charlie doesn't sleep. She makes shadow puppets instead, so she doesn't dream of honeybees. Her summer plans are set: delivering tomatoes, taking walks with Fynn, and avoiding the room in her house that doesn't exist. Her plans come crashing down when clues about past mysteries return, and when her older brother, Elliot, goes snooping around the biggest mystery of all - their mom's disappearance. Scared of losing him, she'll force herself to follow his pursuit, even when they're pushed beyond Banks, Oregon and plunge somewhere dark, deep, and buried. Nowhere where there's sunlight. Nowhere where the honeybees live.

The books I picked & why

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Turtles All the Way Down

By John Green,

Book cover of Turtles All the Way Down

Why this book?

Green is a master at handling character-driven plots and complex interior spaces. Turtles All the Way Down is a spectacle of that skill, centralizing a teenage girl tangled up in some spiraling intrusive thoughts. This complicates typical YA things like dating, friendships, school, and some not-so-typical YA things like a case of a missing billionaire. Green’s mix of sobriety and hope for mental health is glacial water in a sweltering pressure for an immoral smile (especially from young women).

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

By A.S. King,

Book cover of Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Why this book?

Another great handling of mental health, femininity, and adolescence is Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King. Her mother’s suicide has left the protagonist with some pretty big questions about her own nature and destiny. And when she gets the unprompted, magical power of seeing visions of both infinite past and future, things only get more complicated. Despite the ambitious bite of dark weight, the novel’s voice remains witty, casual, and auspicious. It’s a glimpse into the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, especially when it's cut dismally short.

Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys,

Book cover of Wide Sargasso Sea

Why this book?

Rhys reimagines Brontё’s classic Jane Eyre in a post-colonial, feminist light with this prequel. With this reimagination comes a deeper dive into Antoinette (aka Bertha) and her backstory. A metamorphosing sociopoliticial landscape makes the identity conflicts of her mixed-race more acute, and these paired with the pressures of pleasing her husband (Rochester) take a toll on her mental health. All the while, Rhys integrates elements of obeah spiritual practice to create an underlying, expanding enchantment in the novel. Wide Sargasso Sea deconstructs the “madwoman in the attic” trope and returns her humanity by giving her voice. We get something richer and realer than another hysterical, overemotional, unvalidated woman.

Three Things about Elsie

By Joanna Cannon,

Book cover of Three Things about Elsie

Why this book?

Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie is so funny, warm, and a downright pleasure to read. The novel follows an elderly woman in a retirement home, somewhat struggling with memory. When an unexpected and potentially-dangerous visitor arrives who she’s sure is from her past (despite everyone else telling her she’s crazy), she must untangle the timeline of her own life with her life-long best friend at her side. Cannon’s novel emphasizes the durability and care of female friendship while exploring the relationship between femininity and age in a balance of humor, sincerity, and mystery.

Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Klara and the Sun

Why this book?

Klara and the Sun is narrated from the perspective of a female AI in a close future. Explicitly, the novel tackles the responsibilities of loving someone and an unreachable core of “humanness.” But not-so-explicitly, its peculiar and endearing voice detaches the female identity from a biological body. It pushes the boundaries of femininity beyond visual signs and appearances. All the while, the protagonist is continually making sense of human nature, finding the worth of ourselves in the way we love who’s around us. The novel redefines not just what it is to be female, but what it is to be human.

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