There are plenty of stories about girls who fall in love with monsters, but what about monster girls themselves? Perhaps not surprisingly, YA fiction is also a great place to find girls who are monstrous in one way or another. Gothic fiction has often used monsters as a metaphor for puberty or sexual awakening — think of Lucy’s transformation into a vampire in Dracula, or Carmilla’s titular character threatening and intriguing the heroine. Many YA supernatural stories have continued this Gothic tradition, creating monster girl heroines who grapple with changes in their lives or bodies, or who show their claws in order to fight back against something wrong in society. Some YA contemporary stories also focus on girls who could be viewed as monsters, metaphorically speaking, portrayed as antiheroines or outright villains who harm others.
In a world where female characters still get criticised for not being “likeable enough,” and where teenage girls are pressured to conform to models of femininity, monster girls in YA fill an interesting niche that explores what happens when girls break out of the boundaries imposed on them by patriarchy and other repressive social systems, and how frightening this can be to people who want to keep girls in this predefined place. Unlike monstrous boys, monster girls in YA are rarely set up as love interests — instead, their roles are complex and often unsettling. Monster girls make for fascinating, nuanced reads because of the way they challenge our notion of what a heroine is “supposed” to be like. Here are some of the most interesting monster girls in YA.
Note to readers: This article contains a major spoiler for The Midnight Game. Read on at your own discretion.
Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Part of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series, Eternal is the story of Miranda, a high school theatre nerd who is transformed into a vampire. As the newly-adopted daughter of the highest figure in vampire royalty, the King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda indulges her monstrous side by feasting on the innocent — until her conscience starts to catch up with her.
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Gu Miyoung, a teenage girl in Seoul, is living a double life. Outwardly, she looks like any other school student but in fact, she is a gumiho, an immortal nine-tailed fox who must eat human energy in order to survive. Miyoung sustains herself by feeding off of evil, predatory men, something that causes more than a little tension with her ruthless mother. However, when she rescues a human boy, Jihoon, her supernatural life crashes into her human existence, with shattering effects for everyone.
The Honeys by Ryan La Sala
The Honeys has the same sun-soaked, creepy horror that made Midsommar so unsettling. Mars, a genderfluid teen who has recently lost his beloved twin sister in a traumatising event, is determined to find out what really happened to her. When Mars travels back to the summer camp that his twin loved, he meets The Honeys, a group of glamorous girls who tend the beehives. While the Honeys initially seem perfect, Mars soon realises that there may be something monstrous lurking below the surface of the whole camp.
The Midnight Game by Cynthia Murphy
While many monster girls in YA are supernatural, some are all too human. In The Midnight Game, a group of six teenagers break into a school to summon “The Midnight Man,” a figure straight out of creepypasta posts who will stalk you and attempt to kill you, but reward you if you survive. However, the real monster of the book is Toni, a teenage girl who, along with her accomplice, has set up the whole scenario in order to live out her thrill-killer dreams.
Afterlove by Tanya Byrne
When Ash Persaud is killed in a car accident, she becomes a Reaper — part of a group of teenage girls who harvest the souls of the recently dead. While the Reapers aren’t traditionally monstrous, they do walk the line between the worlds of the living and the dead, and have to confront the realities of death, including the mortality of their loved ones.
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Liar tells the story of Micah, a teenage girl who is a self-admitted compulsive liar. So when she informs the reader that she’s a werewolf who must take medication in order to suppress the monstrous creature inside her, it’s hard to know whether to believe her. But whether Micah is really a werewolf, or just telling another one of her tall tales, some of her actions over the course of the story veer towards the monstrous.
#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil
Taking reality TV to its darkest extreme, the first book in Gretchen McNeil’s series set in a dystopian future sees the heroine Dee sent to ‘Alcatraz 2.0’ after being convicted of murdering her sister. This prison island is set up like an ordinary town, except everything is constantly livestreamed, and there are no rules against killing inhabitants. Inmates could be murdered at any moment, for the entertainment of the audience — in order to survive the human monsters that inhabit Alcatraz, Dee has to embrace the monster inside herself.
The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
A retelling of the story of Dracula’s wives, The Deathless Girls follows Lil, a girl from a Traveller community, and her twin sister, Kizzy. The girls are captured and forced to work in the kitchens of a nearby castle, where they hear stories of the Dragon, a fearsome warrior and monster whose interest in the twins threatens to draw them into his supernatural world.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
In Namina Forna’s fantasy world, a repressive regime ensures that teenage girls are tested for purity by having their blood spilled. When Deka is tested, she bleeds gold, proof that she is part demon — however, before the other people in her village can kill her, she is offered a place in the Imperial army. The alaki, as they are known, are a military force of part-demon teenage girls — but in defending their country, they risk becoming truly monstrous.