5 New Female Authors and Their Dark, Thrilling Novels You Should Read

by Amaris Pollinger
new female authors

There’s nothing like curling up with a good book during the winter months. (If you live somewhere like Southern California, and you’ve never experienced snow, then nevermind.) Sure, classics are cool, but why not try something new by these five new female authors that are killing it? They’ll make you writhe (in a good way), laugh out loud, ugly cry, and question the seedier sides of society.

These ladies have no fear when it comes to making the reader productively uncomfortable, and that’s all the more reason you should be reading them. Here are five new female authors and their dark, thrilling novels you should read.

1. Luster by Raven Leilani

Photo via Macmillan Publishers

Raven Leilani’s “Luster” is making waves among critics this year. Her debut novel follows the journey of a 25-year-old editorial assistant and aspiring artist, Edie, who falls into a relationship with an older white man in an open marriage. Things get complicated and heady when his wife finds out and asks Edie to come to live with them.

A graduate of New York University, Leilani’s novel is full of social analyses steeped in a reevaluation of the self and the harsh growing pains many experience in their 20’s. As Leilani put it: “I started writing a story about systematic barriers, but also private barriers. . . the one that’s just you.”

* “Luster” is set for release in January 2021 

2. Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

Photo via Amazon / Cover art by Ruben Ireland

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, but Amelie Wen Zhao probably would have preferred if her debut novel, “Blood Heir,” wasn’t shut out for misunderstood plot lines and misconceived inspirational material. Referred to as the “most controversial young adult novel” in 2019, Zhao pushed her publication date back, revised the novel, and explained how the harsh realities of human suffering emboldened the book’s dark, dystopian universe, highlighting the unsavory parts of society, like human trafficking. Remember that almost all literature draws inspiration from reality. We only have to look at “Game of Thrones,” “Star Wars,” and “Lord of the Rings,” in which their creators turned to the more calamitous aspects of human history to bring their fictitious worlds to life.

When it comes to referencing history for literature, Zhao isn’t doing anything new. Besides, everyone loves a good revenge story, and “Blood Heir,” (the first installment of a series), is about Princess Anastacya, who has been raised in isolation thanks to a dark curse that ultimately sets her up to be framed for her father’s murder, making her a fugitive. In order to find the true murderer and clear her name, Anastacya seeks the help of an infamous crime boss.

Zhao grew up in a multi-cultural community in Beijing and immigrated to the United States. She has been ostracized in the young adult community for “doing something new” by pushing the cross-cultural boundaries. She is a fresh voice in the Young Adult genre and the taboo makes her novel all the more enticing.

*The sequel in Zhao’s Blood Heir series, “The Red Tigress”is set for release in 2021.

3. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Photo via Amazon / Cover art courtesy of William Morrow

For some readers, Elisabeth Thomas’ debut novel, “Catherine House,” is a gloomy, twisting, complex read. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Thomas returned to Brooklyn after graduating from Yale University and wrote her gothic novel, which has become one of the most sought-after reads of 2020.

Set in the Pennsylvania woodlands, an elite, mysterious university consumes the curiosity of Ines Murrillo, an undergraduate with an insatiable appetite for frolicking at college parties. In the process, she uncovers a poignant mystery that involves the school’s most prestigious students. Think “Ares” on Netflix, but with more twists.

4. Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

New Female Authors 2021

Photo via Simon & Schuster

Caitlin Mullen grew up in both upstate New York and the Jersey Shore, which no doubt influenced the setting of her debut novel, “Please See Us,” where a string of murders unfold in Atlantic City.

Along the infamous boardwalk, as the bodies of Jane Does sweeps up faster than the high tide, a would-be psychic, Clara, begins having frightful, recurring visions that she feels are related to the murders. She enlists the help of a Casino employee, Lily, to help her piece the visions together, before more women end up murdered. Bleek, confrontational, brilliant, and harrowing, Mullen’s debut will capture your heart.

5. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

New Female Authors

Photo via Amazon / Cover art courtesy of William Morrow

Natalie Zina Walschots has written everything from poetry to interviews and now, novels. Walschot’s sci-fi debut, “Hench,” is the opposite of a heroic, super-hero tale and jam-packed with witticisms. With a fresh, innovative voice, “Hench” brings us into a world not unlike our own—except, of course, super-heroes and villains abound.

In the story, a temp named Anna becomes determined to get revenge after being laid-off. When she’s employed by one of the world’s worst super-villains, Anna finds herself in a position where—thanks to her data analysis skills—she is a valuable asset to “villainhood”. . . and ironically, she just might save the world.

There you have it, the 5 new female authors and their dark, thrilling novels! Have you read any of these books? Share your thoughts in the comments! And for other book content on The Digest, you can go to The Best Sci-Fi Books from Each Decade and 10 Mystery Novels That Will Blow Your Mind.

Main image credits: “Hench” cover art courtesy of William Morrow; Leilani headshot by Nina Subin; Mullen headshot by Sylvie Rosokoff; “Blood Heir” cover art by Ruben Ireland and Wen Zhao headshot by Charlotte Yuyin Li; “Catherine House” cover art courtesy of William Morrow and Thomas headshot by Nina Subin.

About the Author/s

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Amaris Pollinger is the Music + Entertainment Editor at the New Jersey Digest. She lives on the fringes of a ghostly battlefield with her husband and their pets.
Addicted to coffee, a lover of wine, music, and history, she just wants to hang out on a cozy porch somewhere.

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