Showtime had a surprising and bloody hit last winter—and it wasn’t the new season of Dexter. Clever, original, and creepy as hell, Yellowjackets is the latest obsession of thriller fans and paranormal conspiracy theorists everywhere. When a private plane carrying a high school girls’ soccer team crashes in the Canadian Rockies in 1996, the team must do anything and everything to survive. Twenty-five years later, we know that some of the team made it back to civilization, but the mystery and trauma around what happened in the wilderness returns to as the women reckon with how the accident derailed their lives.
It’s Lost with a hefty dose of 90s riot grrl rage, which makes sense coming from executive producer Karyn Kusama, who gifted us with the modern horror classic Jennifer’s Body.
And while the Yellowjackets had to wait nineteen hungry months for their rescue (not a spoiler, we are told this right away), viewers should see the second season of Yellowjackets this March. But there’s only so many Reddit threads one can fill the hours with, so why not use the hiatus to read some books that would be perfect for Shauna’s book club?
You know, if she actually had one.
Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson
This 1996 cult novel had a recent, stylish adaptation. If you love the music of Yellowjackets, you’ll likely love the PJ Harvey-heavy soundtrack for Netflix’s show, too, but you’d be better served reading Grimson’s book. Lisa Nova directs the kinds of artsy horror films you could see teen goth Natalie and her friends passing around on a well-loved VHS. With a mysterious and violent past (and a love of black eyeliner), Lisa is poised to become the toast of Hollywood, but runs afoul of sleazy studio heads, biker gangs, and witchcraft. Moving beyond its L.A. beginnings, Brand New Cherry Flavor spirals out into a bigger conspiracy with more dangerous secrets waiting to be revealed… and a second season of this show isn’t guaranteed, so the novel is the only surefire way to get the rest of Lisa’s twisted story.
Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
Here’s a book for Lottie, who likes things a little more ethereal.
A modern folk-horror classic, Hand’s stunning, award-winning novella follows a band’s infamous album recording in an isolated English manor and the disappearance of lead singer Julian Blake. Written as an oral history, the surviving band members reflect on their past with regret and recriminations. There’s lots of relationship drama, frenemies, and people losing their shit in terrifying fashion as Wyldling Hall, a place out of time and reality, leaves its mark on everyone who enters.
The Return by Rachel Harrison
Want your complicated female friendships with a heavy dose of body terror and the uncanny? Rachel Harrison’s debut novel is a compulsively readable story of denial and grief. Two years ago, Julie disappeared on a hiking trip… or did she? When she returns after her mysterious absence, her friends suspect she isn’t really Julie at all. The more they try to pretend everything’s going to be okay, well, it really, really won’t be. Especially when they go on an ill-advised girls’ trip to the woods.
This taut thriller would be just the kind of novel Shauna should be reading instead of getting romantically involved with adorable but suspicious strangers.
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Yellowjackets weren’t the first group of schoolgirls to go missing on a field trip, after all. While Jackie and company may end up more like that other real-life stranded sports team, this 1965 classic (made even more so by its haunting Peter Weir film adaptation) focuses on young women at an Australian boarding school realizing their sexuality and finding themselves up against a landscape that seems to want nothing more than their innocence, like sacrificial virgins. It’s a haunting read full of spooky atmosphere and deep, secret longings among young women confronting the strict confines of their society. The Canadian Rockies are no picnic (just ask poor Van), but literally everything in Australia wants you dead.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
No other tragically dead teen girl transfixed 90s pop culture like Twin Peaks’ most famous resident. A popular, straight-A student by day—much like Yellowjackets’ Jackie—Laura’s nights become a sordid nightmare of sex, drugs, and an increasing fear that she is becoming something monstrous and unrecognizable to herself. Written by David Lynch’s own daughter, this is an impossibly dark and empathetic horror story told in a claustrophobic voice that centers the trauma of what could be, in lesser hands, another fridged female trope. The younger Lynch gives voice to a victim of sexual assault that’s upsetting and unforgettable while drawing out the weirdness hiding within every sleepy suburb.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Here’s a novel after Taissa’s messy heart. But animal lovers might want to avoid. (Sorry, Biscuit!)
As if being a new mom wasn’t stressful enough, no one told this vicious novel’s protagonist what to expect after she was expecting. Sure, there’s the lack of sleep, the mood swings, the… elongated canine teeth? The hair sprouting in unexpected places? We’ve seen werewolf-as-puberty metaphor before (hi, Ginger Snaps,) but Nightbitch ages its beastly transformation up. Much like Taissa, this night-version creature has an appetite that doesn’t care about career goals and family obligation. It just wants to feed.
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
- The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugeniedies (Travis, in particular, might like this one)
- The Hunger by Alma Katsu
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power
- Alive: The Stories of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Reid, for a harrowing true account of survival
Yellowjackets just aired its first season on Showtime.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. Her fiction has appeared in Weird Horror, Strange Horizons, and is forthcoming in Lightspeed. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about pop culture for Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. She keeps the dream of the 90s alive on Twitter.