25 March 2020

Review || Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology




For fans of American Horror Story, Shirley Jackson, and Creepshow.

You know them. Those girls that aren't quite like everyone else. Those girls who stand out in the crowd. Those girls that dare to be different. Those girls are dangerous.

In Strange Girls, twenty-one authors dare to tackle what makes the girls in this collection different. Vampires, selkies, murderous mermaids, succubus, and possessed dolls take center stage in these short stories that are sure to invoke feelings of quiet terror and uneasiness in the reader. 

Following the successful debut of Women in Horror anthology with My American Nightmare, Strange Girls is the sophomore effort to showcase these talented women in a genre that is often dominated by the male gaze.

Dare to take a walk on the dark side.







 


Anthologies are usually a lot of fun for me. I love that authors can create within the confines of the short story. I was expecting Strange Girls to be similar to Betty Bites Back, a female-centric feminist anthology that I recently read. Betty Bites Back featured women who were fed up with the misogyny of the system and were "biting back". Azzurra Nox, who selected all the stories in Strange Girls, also had a story featured in Betty Bites Back. 

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed all of the stories in Betty Bites Back—albeit some more than others—I did not find the stories in Strange Girls to be equal to the task. While the stories did all feature girls or women and did all have elements of horror, they appeared a bit disjointed and didn't follow any other common theme. 

It almost seemed, in most, that the main character was male, and the female character took more of a backseat. In 24 Hour Diner by Charlotte Platt, the male character lead most of the plot, at least until the very end. In Self-Portrait with Pears, again the male character is the one with the point of view. Too many of the stories also portrayed the female character as the victim, most succinctly The Eyes of the Dead by Danielle R. Bailey with its trigger warnings of violence, not to mention necrophilia. I didn't feel any sense of empowerment in the tone of most of the stories. While Personal Demons, where a high school non-binary person is befriended by a succubus, should have been, the conclusion left me dissatisfied. 

My favorites were Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine and Extinguishing Fireflies by Rebecca Rowland. Night Terrors being remarkable sci-fi horror and well, Extinguishing Fireflies has a very unique kitten. Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox was another fun read built on the legend of the selkie. And yet two out of the three, are still portraying the female character at the mercy of others. 

While there's no denying that all of the stories fit the "Strange Girl" horror needed for the anthology, I was hoping for more.