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Feeling Feral? Here’s 17 Novels For The Weird Girls

I love a fucking weirdo narrator — a strange person who’s always on the outside of things, always looking too closely at everything around her, drawing conclusions nobody wants to hear, perpetually unsure of how to be a human. They say wild things with a simple structure, they can have relationships, or be in community, but usually there is a distance there. I think Lorrie Moore was the first writer I read who wrote in that voice, and I’ll read and love every short story she rights forever more. Many of my consequential faves did, too — Mary Gaitskill, of course, and then Miranda July, who perhaps is the most iconic author who traverses in this voice. I read Aimee Bender, Maggie Estep, Banana Yashimoto. Every time I find a new one I get so excited. Anyhow if you can relate you might like these books!


All Fours, by Miranda July (2024)

bisexual 

all fours by miranda july

She embarks on a perimenopausal journey of self-discovery that challenges her own and everyone’s ideas of sexuality, identity, relationships and art.

“My friends are always obliging me with ephemera like this- screenshots of sexts, emails to their mothers- because I’m forever wanting to know what it feels like to be other people. What are we all doing? What the hell was going on here on Earth? Of course none of these artifacts really amounted to anything; it was like trying to grab smoke by its handle. What handle?”


Big Swiss, by Jen Beagin (2023)

bisexual

Big Swiss novel

A wayward woman living in a very strange house falls for the client of the sex therapist she transcribes for.

“She reminded Greta of one of those exotic vegetables she was drawn to at the farmer’s market but didn’t know how to cook. Kohlrabi, maybe, or a Jerusalem artichoke. Not very approachable. Not sweet or overly familiar. Not easily boiled down or buttered up.”

Read Big Swiss Review: On the Queer Age Gap Novel Set in a House Full of Bees


Two Girls, Fat and Thin, by Mary Gaitskill (1991)

queer in a way i can’t really describe

two girls fat and thin by mary gaitskill

Two women seem like opposites but they are united over a shared obsession with a controversial philosopher, thrust together to confront their past traumas and forge an unlikely connection.

“I watched voyeuristically, knowing I was peeping at people in the middle of a collective dream. I imagined myself among them, part of the regimental dance, the teacher’s rosy heat, the huge mobile hope of happiness and vitality. And as I watched, it suddenly occurred to me I had been merely watching the world all my life.”


Either/Or, by Elif Batuman (2022)

subtextually queer, to both author and reader

either/or by elif batuman

She grapples with questions about an aesthetic life and experiences intellectual and romantic explorations during her sophomore year at Harvard.

“Why was it considered laudable, sociable, and funny to do this thing that made a person feel like they were dying, and did on occasion induce death? Of course, you couldn’t have a party without alcohol. I understood this. I understood the reason. The reason was that people were intolerable. But wasn’t there any way around that?”

Read Life Is Not a Novel: Queering Elif Batuman


You Exist Too Much, by Zaina Arafat (2020)

bisexual

you exist too much by zaina arafat

She is a Palestinian-American girl reckoning with the traumas that have shaped her, growing from a teen into a sought-after Brooklyn DJ and aspiring writer, from the Middle East to New York, as her romantic longings and obsessions grow reckless, harming her first serious girlfriend and landing her eventually in a treatment center where she’s told it’s all “love addiction.”

“I communicated something to my mother as I stood there smiling in a pair of men’s pants, a message I didn’t know I was sending her. She has always known first what I have yet to discover, has always seen it before I could.”

Read Queer Arabs Taking Up Space: An Interview With Zaina Arafat


Animals Eat Each Other, by Elle Nash (2017)

bisexual

Animals Eat Each Other by elle nash

She embarks on a fraught and eventually extremely toxic three-way relationship with new mom Frances and Frances’s boyfriend, Matt, a tattoo artist and a Satanist.

A part of me was opening up, and while I could see the end of the road and knew that it would lead to pain, instead of retreating, I wanted to walk directly into it. Pain is closer to love than indifference, right? I wanted to walk directly into it.

Read 55 Literary Books With Great Lesbian Sex Inside Them


No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood (2021)

straight :-( 

no one is talking about this by patricia lockwood

She travels around the world to meet fans of her social media posts, grapples with existential threats and general fear of the internet and alarming texts from her mother.

“Capitalism! It was important to hate it, even though it was how you got money. Slowly, slowly, she found herself moving toward a position so philosophical even Jesus couldn’t have held it: that she must hate capitalism while at the same time loving film montages set in department stores.”

read Now Is a Good Time To Get Into Patricia Lockwood


Luster, by Raven Leilani (2020)

bisexual

Luster by Raven Leilani

Her life is at a dead-end and then she falls for a white middle-age archivist and somehow finds herself living with his family in the suburbs and his wife who has sort of agreed to this and his adopted Black daughter who doesn’t know anybody who can do her hair and here she is!

“I’m an open book,” I say, thinking of all the men who have found it illegible.”


Music for Torching, by A.M. Homes (1999)

bisexual

music for torching

She is experiencing suburban malaise and seeking out increasingly dysfunctional methods of escaping her suffocating life.

“You are your own beginning. Every day, every hour, every minute, you start again. There is no point wishing you were someone else, you are who you are—start there.”


My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh (2018)

straight

my year of rest and relaxation by ottessa moshfegh

In an attempt to evade her problems and the general problems of life, the narrator aims for a year-long prescription-drug-induced period of sleep.

“The world was out there still, but I hadn’t looked at it in months. It was too much to consider in all, stretching out, a circular planet covered in creatures and things growing, all of it spinning slowly on an axis created by what — some freak accident? It seemed implausible.”


Bunny, by Mona Awad (2019)

some read it as queer and some do not

bunny by mona awad

She’s an outsider in her MFA program until she’s invited to a Smut Salon hosted by a clique of twee rich girls who all call each other Bunny and finds herself drawn into their saccharine yet sinister world, leaving her only friend Ava in the dust. But soon they will experience a deadly collision.

“Samantha Heather Mackey thinks she understands everything, but she fails to understand the depths of the human heart. She fails to understand the depths of our heart. Our heart our heart our heart! We’ve read Jane Eyre too, you cunt, and we’ve read The Waves, and when we read it, you know, we wept for minutes.”


A Good Happy Girl, by Marissa Higgins (2024)

lesbian

A Good Happy Girl by Marissa Higgins

She is a “jittery attorney with a self-destructive streak” reeling from an upsetting crime recently committed by her parents, pursuing an emotionally intense relationship with a married lesbian couple.


Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata

asexual

convenience store woman

She evades the pressure to conform by finding deep contentment and purpose in her unconventional life working at a convenience store.

“When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why. I found that arrogant and infuriating, not to mention a pain in the neck. Sometimes I even wanted to hit them with a shovel to shut them up, like I did that time in elementary school.”


Pizza Girl, by Jean Kyoung Frazier (2020)

bisexual

pizza girl

She’s a pregnant 18-year-old pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles who is deeply lost, grieving her father’s death, evading her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, all while fixated on one of her customers.

I think some people are just born broken. I think about life as one big Laundromat and some people just have one little bag to do—it’ll only take them a quick cycle to get through—but others, they have bags and bags of it, and it’s just so much that it’s overwhelming to even think about starting. Is there even enough laundry detergent to get everything clean?”

Read 7 Brilliant Books About Chaotic Queers


Cecilia, by K-Ming Chang (2024)

queer

cecilia by k ming chang

She works at a chiropractor’s office and one day, Cecelia, a woman she’s been obsessed with nearly all her life, turns up, a chance meeting that sets off a stream of “intensely vivid and corporeal memories.”

“Many times in my life, I had seen someone across the street or out the bus window, scraping plaque off the roots of their kumquat tree or laughing open mouthed at a flippant cloud or frothing from both nostrils while arguing with a stranger, and the way they were moving their hands and arms—with a fledgling’s awkwardness, elbows crooking like wings—disturbed me into indigestion. Only much later would I realize: my sickness was the shock of seeing her shadow appropriated, her behavior plagiarized.”

Read K-Ming Chang on Writing Sex Scenes, Profanity in Myths, and Letting Flash Fiction Be Messy (an interview about her book Gods of Want) and read Hot Cheetos: A Chorus by K-Ming Chang.


Post-Traumatic, by Chantal V Johnson (2022)

straight

Post-Traumatic by Chantal V Johnston

She appears to be a dedicated and successful lawyer who advocates for mentally ill patients at a psychiatric hospital but in fact she’s haunted by trauma and exists in a state of constant anxiety, self-medicating with dating, dieting, dark humor and smoking weed. The Nation says it is: “the deepest literary dive yet into the psychology of the messy Black girl, and perhaps the most complex due to its granular representation of the somatic effects of trauma.”

“No matter how happy you are, Mondays have a way of making you want to end it all.”


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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. I haven’t read these yet so I could be wrong, but here are some books that seem like they might fit this category:

    Kittentits, Holly Wilson
    We Were the Universe, Kimberly King Parsons
    Shmutz, Felicia Berliner
    Sedating Elaine, Dawn Winter
    Exalted, Anna Dorn
    Emily Austin’s works

  2. This is one of my favorite genres; I’ve read so many from this list & just added the others to my to-read list! Would also recommend:
    -Come and Get It
    -Pretend I’m Dead (also by Jen Beagin)
    -Biography of X
    -Anything by Melissa Broder
    -Anything by Kevin Wilson

  3. I love the recommendation of Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman”! I think all of the Sayaka Murata books I’ve read have been incredibly fucked up and weird, too, and I love how refreshing that feels, that a majority of her protagonists are “weird girls/women”.

    Her novel “Earthlings” is about a traumatised asexual woman who, in response to her childhood abuse and the misogynistic standards of the society she lives in, now fully believes she’s an alien and ends up creating a shared psychosis about it. Very shocking and grim in parts, very dark, but also has some great insightful criticisms of modern Japanese society, in a similar way to Convenience Store Woman.

    Her short story collection “Life Ceremony” has a lot of lighter stories in there, but many of them are also very strange (like “what if it was normal to turn your dead relatives into clothes/jewellery/furniture/accessories/etc” or “what if, at funerals/wakes, people cooked and ate the deceased?”) – and often, the narrator is a “weird girl/woman” because of how she rejects these new social norms. One story that I love involves a queer-platonic partnership between an asexual woman and her best friend, a heterosexual woman; they just see each-other as family, having raised their children together as sisters, and they’re bothered by the insistence by other people that it would be “easier” or “less confusing” if they just came out as lesbians.

    I just really like her work, I’m so glad Autostraddle’s bigging it up here.

    • I’m halfway through Convenience Store Woman and god I just adore it, it really nails the experience of being a person who has literally no idea how humans are supposed to behave and just kinda trying to pick up hints and the relief of finding a place where you’re certain you’re doing at least one thing humans are supposed to do. Definitely going to read the books you recommend!

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