“You don’t need flickering lights or doors slamming shut, the parlor tricks of a poltergeist, to be haunted. The true ghosts are made of deed and word and live deep inside the marrow and bone.”
If you need an eerie book to curl up with on a cold winter night, filled with unreliable narrators and lots of flashbacks, check out The Dead Girls Club.
The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters is a multi-faceted ghost story. It very clearly contains a traditional ghost story, centered around the Red Lady, but it also explores the way memories and past experiences can continue to haunt us throughout our lives.
This story flips between two different periods: “then” (the summer of 1991, when our main character, Heather, was a preteen), and “now” (present day). We know right at the beginning of the story that something tragic happened to one of Heather’s friends back in 1991, but we don’t know how exactly the chain of events occurred. Now, as an adult, she’s reliving some of those past memories as they’ve come back to haunt her.
The chapters that take place in 1991 follow Heather and her three friends Becca, Gia, and Rachel. The three of them are thick as thieves, and spend their evenings and weekends hanging out, telling ghost stories, reading true crime books, and having the occasional seance. You know, typical preteen girl stuff. Becca, however, becomes obsessed with a story about the Red Lady, and it’s the only thing she wants to talk about. She’s convinced the Red Lady is real, and wants her to come visit the girls.
Now, I’ve read a lot of horror stories in my day, and while The Dead Girls Club isn’t specifically horror (it’s more of a thriller), this Red Lady sub-story gave me the chills. Maybe it’s because I read a lot of this book at night, or maybe it’s because the Red Lady is a terrifying undead woman who wants revenge. You’ll have to read and decide for yourself.
Of course, as we know from the start of the book, the Red Lady story goes too far and tragedy strikes. In the chapters that take place in the present, we see an adult Heather, working as a child psychologist, struggling to deal with her own past memories. To make things worse, she starts getting mail that contains childhood items, and starts to think that someone may know details about that summer that were supposed to be long forgotten.
While the story flips back and forth, we get more information about what happened in 1991, and also see how adult Heather starts to slip into a panicked, paranoid mindset. Who else knows about what happened to that group of friends? Are they going to report it to the police, more than 20 years later? All of this stress causes Heather to make a lot of really stupid decisions, which only makes her anxiety even worse.
This book is hard to pin down since it’s part thriller, part horror. There are elements of both genres, but not enough of one for it to specifically fall into that category. It also deals with themes of friendship, memories, and mental health. Sure, Heather’s paranoia isn’t technically diagnosed, but it’s easy to see how her stress and anxiety over past events causes her turmoil, which only gets worse as time goes on.
Overall, I really liked this book. It had everything I wanted, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can understand how some readers may not be a fan of this book—it’s confusing at times and the characters are a little unlikable—but that’s alright. Not every book is for everyone.
If you’re looking for a book with some scary elements, a bit of a mystery, and a lot of asking “what the hell is going on here?!”, then check out The Dead Girls Club.
Thank you to the publisher for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. The Dead Girls Club comes out on December 10, 2019, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.