Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Plain Bad Heroines” as Want to Read:
Plain Bad Heroines
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Plain Bad Heroines

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  9,717 ratings  ·  2,461 reviews
Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a ...more
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published October 20th 2020 by William Morrow
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Plain Bad Heroines, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Sarah Dillistin I did not lose interest at all. To me, it felt like every part of this book was important to building the backdrop and drop hints. Reading some other …moreI did not lose interest at all. To me, it felt like every part of this book was important to building the backdrop and drop hints. Reading some other reviews, it seems some people think it does drag. But personally, I loved every page of this and would love if there had been even more. Honestly, I read it as an arc on my netgalley app and I did not even realize how long it was until I came to review it on goodreads.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,717 ratings  ·  2,461 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Plain Bad Heroines
Melissa ~ Bantering Books
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

3.5 stars

This is a tricky review to write.

Emily Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines has been one of my most anticipated Fall reads. And it would be a severe understatement to say I was merely thrilled to receive the ARC. “Joyfully ecstatic” may be a more accurate descriptor. I may have even done a little happy dance upon its receipt. (Don’t judge.)

But now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m a bit uncertain as to how I truly feel about the b
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best horror 2020! what will happen?




when i first heard about this book; that it was a gothic-toned victorian private school story set in RHODE ISLAND with lesbians and mysterious deaths and stories-within-stories, i knew it was a must-read for me.

and once i got my hands on it, i fell into it like

it was everything i was told it was gonna be, but also more, becoming bi
Lex Kent
This is such an oddball book. I think enjoyment wise I’m around a 3.50 star rating, but the imagination Danforth has to even come up with this story is so impressive that I have to give it the full 4 stars. This book is weird but it is also completely different and unlike anything else I have read before which I always appreciate it. The book is also super gay which really helps.

First of all, I was surprised that this book was not what I thought it would be about. I thought this was going to be
Apr 13, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i'm bi and i'm ready for murder



That cover? Sexy. Unbelievably so. Incredible. Emily M. Danforth I would commit a minor crime to receive an arc copy of this. Please respond.

2nd Edit:

Katie B
This might not have been a 5 star read for me but the author definitely has writing talent. A unique storyteller for sure. However, the pace was a little slow in my opinion and I do think the 600+ page count could have been trimmed down.

The story is told in an interesting way as you are being talked to and referred to as the reader throughout. (I'm not explaining that very well, but you'll understand what I mean if you read the book) The Brookhants School for Girls closed for good in the early 1
Nilufer Ozmekik
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh holly hell!Claustrophobic haunted school theme dances with queer gothic! This is one of the best unique, heart pounding and addictive concept!
But I honestly have to admit as soon as I saw the page numbers of the book, I want to drop the book and run. Don’t get me wrong: normally long paged books are great challenge for a person for me who read Stephen King’s Stand three times which weights more than a bundle of encyclopedias!

Actually my main problem was about working too hard lately and my
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

2 ½ stars

Readers, I am disappointed.

Plain Bad Heroines was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases...maybe I should have not ‘hyped’ it so much. This is certainly an ambitious novel, one that is a few hundred pages too long. There were elements that I liked, but these were ultimately outweighed by my frustration toward the tone of the narrative, the dual storylines, and the characters.
Plain Bad Heroines begins at Brookhants School in 1902 when two stud
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
this was actually not the dark academia story I expected upon starting, but it was something even better: the spooky sapphic story of my dreams (or nightmares, you choose).

full review to come - there's so much to discuss within this solid 600 page tome. also thank you to this book for filling the gaping black hole left by the haunting of bly manor . . . by providing me with more horror and bucketloads of sapphic content

> 4.5 stars

this was a buddy read with Kelsea but she betrayed me and read
Apr 28, 2021 rated it really liked it

I feel like I want to read it again. Is that crazy? I just finished it last month, but already feel like I need to be reunited with these characters and Danforth's captivating writing style.


Plain Bad Heroines is admittedly weird, but I love weird if it's done right. This was pretty damn well done!!!

Yesss, Emily M. Danforth! I see you.

I need to let this sit in my brain for a little bit before I even attempt to write about it.

Full review to come...
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Even now, even with the book written, she’s still embarrassed by how messy and fleshy it is when I forget to keep it only in the past for her. The stink of it has her wrinkling her nose. That’s history for you, my darlings. When you dig it up, it always carries a whiff of rot.”
That version, as with so many of the stories we tell about our history, erased a woman—a plain, bad heroine—in favor of a less messy and more palatable yarn about two feuding brothers from New England.
Dear Reader, I’ve
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Full. Body. Chills.
Nomadic Reader (Baba Yaga)
If someone had told me that this sapphic horror-comedy set in a cursed boarding school would have turned out to be one my most disappointing reads of the year, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. But after all, this is 2020, and there is no limit to how much the world can let you down.

Plain Bad Heroines is a very ambitious novel, and in true dark academia fashion, its ambition also constitutes its fatal flaw. Right from the beginning the writing struck me as self-indulgent and pretentious, a
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant dual stories of doomed girls haunted by an ancient curse

Emily Danforth has a huge imagination to come up with this story revolving around a girls' school in Rhode Island. Beginning with the tragic death of two girls who were lovers and were about to be broken apart by the prejudice and small minded ideas of the early 1900s, the story then jumps to the present day and the making of a film about said girls.

The author of the book about the girls and their haunted school, Merritt, and the
monica kim
Jan 10, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-releases
3.5 💫 “but the truth was: she could see a shiny version of her future, without having any clue how to get there. she only knew that how not to get there was to let herself sink into the easier life.”

plain bad heroines was a delightful gothic novel where the entire cast of women are queer. the dual storylines take us both through modern young hollywood and an early 1900s girls boarding school. the writing was stunning, characters brilliant, and the atmosphere and feeling of unease the danforth cr
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
When your protagonists are this kind of wrong, do you even want to be right? 🤔
Sep 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: arc, dnf
I DNF at 50%.

I couldn't do it anymore. This needed some serious editing. For this being labelled as a sapphic tale of hauntings, the "dark atmosphere" and full cast of characters did not hold my interest long enough to want to keep reading. Maybe it gets better in the second half, I won't know.

Told in two time periods about two sets of girls, who are all lesbians (maybe bi? I'm not sure about Audrey to be honest), there is a something sinister going on and it's all tied to this boarding school a
Jenny Lawson
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable and creepy and meta. It was like reading a season of American Horror Story, but one of the seasons that was just good rather than great. I expected more of the end to tie up the storylines and I'm not sure that happened, or if it happened and I just missed it because it was subtle? Still, I like it. ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, giveaways, arcs
I received an ARC of this novel from a Goodreads Giveaway hosted by William Morrow. All opinions are my own.

Plain Bad Heroines is Emily M. Danforth’s adult debut. I had not heard of this book before finding it listed for a Goodreads giveaway. The description sounded right up my alley, so I decided to try my luck at entering for an ARC. I was so shocked when I won, but it was really exciting, especially since it would only be my second time winning a physical ARC. When I say this book had hooked
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4 crazy unique haunted stars

I hardly know where to start with this one! You should first know that it is long, 608 pages! Once I got into the story, it did read quickly, but I was daunted by the size at first. There are some interesting black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout too.

There is a haunted school and grounds at the center of this one, set in Rhode Island – The Brookhants School for Girls – and this part of the story starts in 1902. We get to know Clara and Flo and their obses
Ron Charles
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
For the past two weeks, I’ve been haunted by a lesbian ghost story, and I hope its ectoplasm hangs around for a long time.

“Plain Bad Heroines” is a shapeshifting novel by Emily M. Danforth. A hot amalgamation of gothic horror and Hollywood satire, it’s draped with death but bursting with life.

The book opens by calling forth the restless spirit of Mary MacLane. Though now largely forgotten, MacLane electrified America in 1902 when, at the age of 19, she published a shocking memoir originally titl
Jessica Woodbury
This book left my brain buzzing so much it's hard to know where to start. It is a big fat doorstop of a novel with multiple storylines spanning over a century, a horror novel about a curse that follows a certain kind of independent-minded woman, a Hollywood novel with a behind-the-scenes feel, and a book where almost every single character is queer.

A big doorstop of a horror novel should have a few plots and several characters to help drive the momentum and this book mostly does the trick. It st
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I spent my quiet Halloween night finishing this novel, which has been such fun! 1900s girls' school /gothic /contemporary Hollywood shenanigans, queer representation at every turn, fun black and white illustrations and occasional footnote to the reader. I can't think of the last time I raced through a novel like I did with this one. I probably would have finished it in 2 days instead of 3 but my power was out and I had to put it aside when I was only down to candlelight.

There are a few scary th
Aug 28, 2020 marked it as on-hold
EDIT: Upon closer inspection, I have to say... This ARC edition is GORGEOUS! It came with a sleeve that wraps around the book itself, covering a bit less than half the cover; to boot it is BEAUTIFULLY designed and says that “KEEP AWAY from Impressionable Female Readers” on the front. 😂

The back states— “From books with smiling heroines, chivalrous young men, and happy endings, oh Kind Devil, deliver me.”

Yeah; pretty positive this is going to be fantastic AF. 😏

Bring on this gothic, cleve
Katie Colson
Jun 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pride-favs

Reading Vlog:

I adored this. It is so long and I kept entertained and committed the whole way through which I was not anticipating.

The queer representation in this book blew me away. I swear every single character that got a name was queer in this book in some capacity.
And it's POLY??? Yes! You heard that right. Polyamory. We truly love to see it.

The illustrations in the book are stunning. The prose are stunning. The narrator is so quirky and intelligent and f
Eric Anderson
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I've been reading more 19th century fiction in the past year I have been hungering for a contemporary writer to utilize the particular kind of authorial voice often found in these classic books. I'm sure this has been done in other recent novels but going into Emily M Danforth's “Plain Bad Heroines” I was thrilled to find it includes a narrative voice that self-consciously interjects and steers the story. It only shows up occasionally so as not to be intrusive but it does add another dimen ...more
I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

Yet another one of those books from this year about which I cannot fathom the hype. What this has going for it is that it's incredibly queer, but unfortunately there isn't much more to the plot beyond that. First of all, if I was into facetious content warnings, here is where I would give one for yellow jackets; if you dislike or god forbid despise yellow jackets as I do, beware, swarms of this predatory social wasp that is the ba
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Plain Bad Heroines is like a labyrinthine wasps nest- intricate, patterned, with moments that will fly out and sting you. (also wasps are a heavy motif throughout the book, so it only seems appropriate) It is unabashedly sapphic with creeping horror and interweaving plots and characters. In some ways it is a love letter to unlikeable "bad" women, to women who love other women (now and throughout history), and to storytelling. (It is, after all, a story within a story, within a story.) It also in ...more
The orchard was a place that, before Flo, Clara had visited only once or twice in her previous years of Brookhants education. But then came black-apple-eating, soft-kissing/hard-kissing, well-travelled, sure-of-foot-and-voice, fluent-in-Italian-and-adequate-in-French, and just generally delirious-making Glo. And came Mary MacLane's book. And everything changed.
(Though not in that order. The book came first.)

What a book! Plain Bad Heroines knocked me right off my feet, wrapped me up with it's mag
Patty (IheartYA311)
Sep 11, 2020 marked it as abandoned
I may finish this book in the future but I doubt it, which is a shame for my personal goal of DNFing less this year. A book should be enjoyable and not feel like a chore to read. The writing style is over-the-top and feels very forced, and I don't like the abrupt change of characters. The writing feels like walking through thick, gooey mud with one limp leg. If this book was less than 400 pages I might trudge on for the time being, but at 600 pages, I don't want to force myself to continue. I'm ...more
Dannii Elle
Brookhants School for Girls has a troubled past littered with myriad unfortunate ends that befall the females who dwell there. Over one-hundred years later and both the horror and allure of this eerie spot still holds it sway. This is especially true for Merritt, who has penned a fictional account of all that historically transpired, and the actresses, Harper and Audrey, who are to star in her movie adaptation, both set and filmed upon this doomed spot.

Whilst the initial story-line was intriguin
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • On Course, Study Skills Plus Edition
  • One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying, #2)
  • In Five Years
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha, #2)
  • A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)
  • Don't You Forget About Me
  • Ethel and Ernest
  • If I Never Met You
  • What Lies Between Us
  • The Topeka School
  • Yes No Maybe So
  • Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered, #2)
  • Where the Watermelons Grow
  • Clean Getaway
  • Stoner
  • On Course Study Skills Plus Edition
  • On Course, Study Skills: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life
  • On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life
See similar books…
See top shelves…
emily m. danforth's first novel--The Miseducation of Cameron Post-- is a coming of GAYge story set largely in Miles City, Montana, the cattle ranching town where she was born and raised. It was made into a feature film of the same name in 2018.

emily's second novel is a sapphic-gothic-comedy titled Plain Bad Heroines. Plain Bad Heroines is set largely in Rhode Island, the state where she's lived fo

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
39 likes · 16 comments
“Eleanor Faderman knew many books. But never before had she read a book that seemed to know her.” 12 likes
“Too much had happened that night, too much had happened before that night, and so too much climbed into bed with them, sat heavily upon them, and kept them up and thinking, even if they did not say the things they were thinking to each other.” 9 likes
More quotes…