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Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,808 ratings  ·  601 reviews
A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.

In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didi
ebook, 288 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Not Sarah Connor Writes Sadly she only talks about the dead girl trope in her first essay, the rest is L.A. and Joan Didion. Though she does have a good essay on girls and wi…moreSadly she only talks about the dead girl trope in her first essay, the rest is L.A. and Joan Didion. Though she does have a good essay on girls and witchcraft and the horror movie "Ginger Snaps."(less)

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Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Mispackaged and mismarketed, Dead Girls is at its most interesting when author Alice Bolin strays from her essay collection's ostensible theme. The pieces on representations of white girlhood and womanhood in popular culture stand out as highlights, from Bolin's analysis of Britney Spears's music videos to her discussion of MTV reality shows. By contrast, the essays on the trope of the so-called Dead Girl are intellectually lazy, in that the author raises several promising claims but fails to de ...more
I wanted to read Dead Girls based off the part of its blurb that said: "From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story."

Unfortunately, only about 25% of the book is actually about that. And that's being generous.

The other three quarters of the book is about the author's experience o
I received this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (TLC Book Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.

Despite the title, this isn’t really a book about dead girls. It’s more a book about girls in pop culture, but also a book about the author’s experiences in LA. However, even that doesn’t seem to adequately describe this book. It’s kind of just a collection of essays that are very loosely connected.

Basically, I felt a bit confused by this collection. The essays themselves were some
Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

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DNF @ 10%

Someone else pointed out the irony of Alice Bolin writing about how dead girls are used to titillate, and then doing it to sell copies of her own book. It's the obvious criticism, and yet, I'm going to second it because like Rebecca Solnit's MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME, the title of this book is somewhat misleading as to what this book is going to be about.

Like MEN EXPLAIN THINGS, only the first essay really has a lot of relevance
Aug 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
I thought this would be a convicting critique of a genre I really like, but the real reasons I had to stop reading was:

a.) she appeared to have watched/read at least two of the subjects she was critiquing maybe one time and her analysis shows it. She talks about Twin Peaks’ typical centering of the male narrative and she’s totally right. But she didn’t bring in the panned, unpopular film follow-up Fire Walk with Me, which tells the story of Laura Palmer’s death entirely from her POV. The fact t
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though this book didn’t examine the dead girl trope as much as I wanted it to, it’s still an incredible examination of the forces that create an environment that allows the dead girl trope to thrive. She also looks at the ways white women and white feminism are both trapped by, perpetuators, and by-products of the male gaze. Honestly, it’s one of the most critically interrogative essay collections I’ve read in a while. She even points out and examines the inherent problems of the personal e ...more
3.5/5. Alice Bolin is undoubtedly a very talented literary critic and writer and I enjoyed reading this overall, but I can’t help but feel misled by the marketing of this book. The subtitle and blurb promise a thorough exploration of the Dead Girl trope so prevalent in (pop) culture, but only a couple of essays actually focus on this. Most of the other texts are about Los Angeles and depictions of L.A. (and the lifestyle it suggests) in literature (most predominantly, Joan Didion’s writing – she ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i don't understand how she ended up with the title of this book. i'd say about 40 pages are dedicated to the american obsession of the "dead girl" trope and then the rest segues into bolin's self indulgent memoir that truly has no direction. she writes about her father, then her move to LA, her boring white girl problems, AND THEN throws in basically every piece joan didion has every written, seeming to idolize her, then drags her for being classist, which actually made me laugh out loud because ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The blurb on the back of the book explains that the book will take you through dead women in fiction and the larger problems of living women. And I suppose it does, kind of, do that, starting by dipping its toes in the waters of “Dead Girl Shows” like True Detective and Twin Peaks, then devolving into dissections of books, movies, and songs where women have some sort of troubling presence--all loosely tied to the writer’s life/background--then devolving into anecdotes of the writer’s loneliness ...more
This isn’t quite the meditation on dead girls and women as a particular obsession of our culture that I wanted. There are a handful of essays that touch on it, but this is mostly the navel-gazing of a privileged white girl who read too much Joan Didion, moved to Los Angeles on a whim, and how it made her Very Sad.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
The essays on the female body in American film, literature and television, or “The Dead Girl”, were very insightful. As someone who often analyzes (too much according to more than one annoyed friend) the images and words that flicker in front of my eyes, I had never really thought about what the author writes here about why the “dead girl” plot device is so popular. She argues that it is because it becomes a tableau for predominately men to work out their own issues:

“There can be no redemption
Oct 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
First of all, I want to say that Bolin is quite a talented writer. My review is in no way a condemnation of how she's written but rather what she has written.

That disclaimer out of the way, this book is boldly, ingeniously mismarketed. To people browsing Goodreads reviews before picking this up (as I sadly did not), this is NOT a book about faddish obsession with true crime and how that reflects back on our society when we covet the crime but ignore or, worse, fetishize the victims. These are es
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I have mixed feelings about Dead Girls - it starts amazing but sadly I had trouble getting all the way to the end.

I do want to be clear - the first part, about the titular women American culture obsesses over, is incredible. Bolin talks about "Dead Girl Shows" that use the memory of women-who-were to tell stories about the men who killed them or seek to revenge their deaths. Instead of looking at the impulse some men have to prey on young women the narrative of these shows concentrates on the ki
This is a frustrating book. It really is.

IN the beginning, as the title suggest, it is a look at the use of the dead girl in various media. But the bulk of the book are personal essays, mostly about California, that are somewhat interesting, but not all that interesting. In short, you wish it had more media driven and less personal.

Her reading of Joan Didion is sound, but if the book is being marketed about the use of Dead girls in the media, there should be more about the dead girls in the me
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2018; William Morrow Paperbacks/HarperCollins Canada
(Review Not on Blog)

I was expecting more of feminism in true crime than just feminism and memoir-style in these essays. The essays were okay, but as it was not what I expected I was a bit disappointed. I enjoy feminist writing, and agree with some of what Bolin says in the book I would recommend you read other reviews as they may be better at saying if this book is for you because I was expecting something different.

***I receive
Britta Böhler
Pretentious and uninteresting.
1.5* rounded up because I'm feeling generous today.
Rebecca Renner
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed reading this book. Bolin is great at personal essays and cultural criticism. She left some questions unanswered though. My review for Broadly digs into that:

Claudia Cortese
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
This is the best essay collection I have read in years. It's true, as others have noted, that the dead girl trope is addressed most directly in the first few essays, but the trope threads throughout the entire collection. The reader will think that they are reading an essay about Britney Spears, and there the dead girl is. Or the reader will think that they are reading an essay about Los Angeles, or Joan Didion, or female friendships, or reality TV, and there the dead girl is again. I love how d ...more
~Theresa Kennedy~
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So, this is one of the few times I'm SUPER excited about a book. "Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession." There's just something about her lyrical, elegant prose, filled with popular culture references, dark humor, and truth that really resonates with me. I grew up in NW Portland in the early 1970's and the specter of forest park and all the dead girls found there was a constant reminder of my place in the world. I lived in fear, I grew up in fear, learning early to fight for mys ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
To put it bluntly, this needs more Dead Girls. The opening essay on our obsession with the dead girl trope is great. The rest of the essays are in strong need of an editor.

This was the quote that caused me to throw in the towel: “Paul texted me ‘do you ever feel that your level of intelligence dooms you to be alone.’ My reply began, “My answer is I think sort of obviously yes.” PUUUUH-LEASE.

So ⭐️⭐️⭐️ for Dead Girls essay but -⭐️ for remaining #MillennialSadness
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of Joan Didion
So approximately 50 pages of this 288 page book dealt with Dead Girls--and the author made some excellent points and gave me a lot to consider as I consume pop culture. Those chapters read like the best essays from Bitch Magazine. Consume your pop culture, but be very aware of what we're actually hearing/watching/reading.


Everything else was disappointing. If I wanted to read a book about how someone moved to LA and didn't like it, or loved to talk about Joan Didion's take on California,
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018, women
all my obsessions are, indeed, inside this book.

- a collection of favorites:

"the woods are shadowy, uncertain places, sympathetic to secrets, magic, transformations, and cruelty." (takes me back to an essay i wrote about cecelia condit, meditating on the geographical transcendence of the woods and how 'the psychological realms of our minds are very much linked' through art that embodies nature as a perverse homely place)

"growing up with such bizarre splendor and danger implanted in me a kind of
Kimberly Dawn
Based on the title and first few chapters, I assumed the essays in the book were all related to the media’s obsession with the victimization of real life, true crime, crime fiction, or crime series on TV.
Instead, the essays became random, veering off into unrelated territory, making the book feel disjointed, without a clear theme.
Rachel Davies
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this book knocked me out. i can't wait for everyone to read it
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
My favourites in this collection were definitely "Toward a Theory of a Dead Girl Show," "The Husband Did It," and "A Teen Witch's Guide to Staying Alive." I also loved Bolin's writing about general pop culture, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Twin Peaks, and Lana Del Rey, and I fell particularly in love with her musings about LA and her focus on Joan Didion. This book is somewhat falsely marketed as most of it past the first essay strays from a cultural criticism of the "dead girl" trope, altho ...more
Alison Hardtmann
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
Dead Girls is a book of essays with the subtitle Essays on Surviving an American Obsession and rarely have a title and subtitle served a book less well. Alice Bolin's book opens with an introduction about the fetishization of pretty dead young women and the first essays are fantastic, taking on the way dead girls are used in both fiction and in the media as special objects of fascination. She looks at a journalist from Spokane, WA's work about a serial killer targeting prostitutes and how that p ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful, insightful book! Dead Girls is an original first person coming-of-age story rooted in essays that reckon with pop culture's obsession with girls (white ones, primarily, which Bolin examines) and what all this means for the self— that vulnerable, fleshy material that is forced to see itself as both an object of adoration and an object to be destroyed, when all it's trying to do is get a good job with benefits and a taco truck burrito for dinner. The book is not so much exclusive ...more
One of my GR friends complained about books that infantilize women and call them girls, girls who, though talented, focus on their lipstick and romances. Alice Bolin uses the word "girls" in an ironic way, documenting the tropes that our culture uses to keep girls women in their place.

Dead Girls is one part feminist critique of pop culture and literature and one part memoir. She looks at crime TV, pop music, teen witch books, werewolf movies, and, incessantly, at her naval, which is NOT the sou
I am abandoning this unfortunately. There is nothing wrong with the book, it just isn't what I thought it would be. Also it is kind of boring and she jumps from topic to topic too much. I would probably enjoy her essays in a magazine or anthology, but reading these back to back is too much for me.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
one star dropped purely bc a couple of the essays were on subjects i'm not that interested in, but every essay which piqued my interest was fabulous, and the whole thing is superbly written. personal highlight is 'a teen witch's guide to staying alive'.

would kill for an essay on riverdale by alice bolin tbqh
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Articles featuring this book

We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura...
96 likes · 46 comments
“When a cop kills an unarmed man, it is because he senses his power being threatened by fear that he believes he should never have to feel. When a man kills his ex-girlfriend because she leaves him, he is saying the same thing: shame and sadness are feelings I should not have. Honor killings, as it turns out, are as American as apple pie.” 3 likes
“Violent men’s grievances are born out of a conviction of their personal righteousness and innocence: they are never the instigators; they are only righting what has been done to them. This shit-eating innocence is crucial to the fantasy of American masculinity, a bizarre collection of expectations and tropes “so paralytically infantile,” as James Baldwin writes in “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood,” “that it is virtually forbidden—as an unpatriotic act—that the American boy evolve into the complexity of manhood.” 3 likes
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