Three summers ago, Gone Girl was the ultimate beach read: a compelling, fast-paced mystery with twists out of nowhere and characters you loved to hate. It quickly became one of the most successful books of the decade, with the popular movie counterpart last year sealing its place in pop culture relevance.
Books with a central mystery and an unreliable female narrator are now regularly touted as the next Gone Girl, and this year there’s been two strong contenders for the title:
The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins and Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll both have plenty of reasons to be considered the new heir to Gone Girl’s throne (aside from similar sounding titles).
The Girl on the Train deals with Rachel Watson, a recently divorced alcoholic whose favorite habit is spying on a perfect couple from her train commute, but finds herself entangled in their lives when the wife she’s obsessed over vanishes.
Luckiest Girl Alive introduces Ani FaNell, a high-powered magazine writer who has wealth, style, clout and the perfect fiancé, but a documentary she agrees to be a part of reveals the horrific high school traumas she’s hiding from.
All three books use flashbacks and nonlinear narratives to slowly reveal the answers to their main mysteries. To complicate matters and keep the twists coming, all three are revealed to have unreliable narrators, causing each revelation and confession to be shrouded in doubt.
Though the biggest trend these books have in common is a prickly, complicated female at the center. Often times these narrators are quite unlikable, like Gone Girl’s cold perfectionist Amy Dunne, The Girl on the Train’s obsessive alcoholic Rachel Watson, and Luckiest Girl Alive’s snarky, manipulative Ani FaNelli. Of course, these books are highly praised for creating multidimensional female characters – girls who aren’t merely strong, good and kind, or bitchy and vain, but something in between and much more realistic.
It’s not just the crazy reveals and quick pace that allows these books to stand out, rather it’s the dark, complex and interesting women at the heart of them that separate them from your standard, run-of-the-mill mystery.
So clear your calendar and toss one of these books in your beach bag – or use it as a great excuse to stay in your air-conditioned room – wherever you read it, we guarantee you won’t forget these characters any time soon.