Movie lovers, culture critics and the doll obsessed have embraced not only the rise of Barbiemania but also the double-fased double feature, Barbenheimer. The viral blend of colorful dystopic identity crisis and grim real-world horror is inspiring readers everywhere to look for books that mimic this strange, but somehow of-the-moment combination. What follows are recommendations that tell stories of dystopian hells, dark secrets and even cannibalistic food critics told with charm, femininity and plenty of pink.
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Imagine Ancient Greek mythology but with celebrity gossip, opulent parties and ambrosia poured in champagne flutes. The overworked lord of the underworld is awakened by the arrival of the goddess of spring at an Olympian bash. But Hades trips over his words, leaving Kore the center of attention. Lore Olympus, like Barbie, is splashed out with bright pinks and blues in the dark but beautiful world of the gods. It’s gloomy but oh-so-shiny. What starts as a Hades-and-Persephone myth turns into a story of mental health, trauma and self love.
A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
A Far Wilder Magic is a YA fantasy that follows an alchemist’s daughter and the ambitious boy who follows her. In an alternate 1920s America, a village holds a contest to hunt a mythological creature. Margaret, holding onto the love of her absent mother, is convinced that the creature will unlock the dark magical secret her mother has been searching for all this time. As much as Margaret inspires his frustration, Weston looks at this gloomy sharpshooter of a girl like Ken looks at Barbie. She’s working to unlock dark alchemical secrets, and he’s just Weston.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon the Ninth gifts readers with a lesbian Barbie alternative set in a gothic space odyssey—a beautiful murder mystery in space. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, and Gideon the Ninth enter a deadly trial of ascension in a plot that includes necromancy, ancient nuns and a fight to the death.
Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
Author Sally Thorne manages to turn classic gothic horror into a Frankenstein-inspired rom-com—an odd mixture of horror and feminism that channels the eccentricities of Barbenheimer. With the pending wedding of her brother, Angelika Frankenstein is determined to quite literally make her own match. There’s horror, comedy and morbid crafting in what will leave you wishing for Frankenbarbie… or maybe Barbiestein?
Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new horror novel draws from Mexican cinematic history to tell a ghost story set in the 1990s. Montserrat Curiel is a punk girl working at a film studio, where a serrated mouth regularly gets her into trouble with the patriarchal gatekeepers. Tristán, her best friend, is a devastatingly handsome soap star down on his luck after a tragic accident. In between references every horror film nerd will appreciate, author Silvia Moreno-Garcia blends occultism with romance.
The Secret Service of Tea and Treason by India Holton
One of the hallmarks of a good India Holton book is absurdism, and The Secret Service of Tea and Treason is quite the Barbenheimerian book. Alice, or Agent A, is a top operative in a secret government intelligence agency assigned to stop an assassination plot with rival spy, Daniel Bixby (Agent B). Posing as a married couple, they infiltrate a pirate house party and their explosive intentions. Charms, tea and heinous crime weave together in an elaborate—and entirely absurdist—romance novel.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
In Ninth House, author Leigh Bardugo serves up a punk detective with a bit of a satanic obsession. In a world of drugs, tragedy and the paranormal, Galaxy “Alex” Stern’s gift for seeing ghosts gets her into the darkly magical halls of the Ivy League elite. Students of the rich and powerful dabble in the occult in between their studies. This book is not only demonic but also beautifully gothic and a rich foray into brutal feminist philosophies.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Samantha Heather Mackey has a dark imagination that clashes with the twee tastes of the rich girls in her MFA program. She receives an invitation from the Bunnies to join the Smut Salon and finds herself in a sinister yet saccharine underworld where conjuring monstrous creatures in a ritualistic Workshop is the in thing to do. Author Mona Awad weaves cool girl group dynamics into a horror novel about power, creativity and wealth, giving Bunny the pink sparkle of Barbie by way of eccentric monstrosity.
Cackle by Rachel Harrison
Predictably, Morticia Addams is the ideal goth Barbie—especially as the spookiest best friend you’ve always wanted. Cackle tells the story of a young woman depressed after separating from her boyfriend and Sophie, who wears long black dresses and always has a friendly spider on her shoulder. A friendship between women becomes a powerful force between the entirely too normal Annie and an immortal witch in the middle of the woods.
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers
Culinary critic Dorothy Danielscan can whip up a meticulously prepared and presented dish on any night of the week but thirsts for a partner that satisfies her terrifying hunger in the bedroom. She’s also a serial killer. Having resisted that dark hunger for far too long, Dorothy tells us the story of forbidden meals. A Certain Hunger is an insightful critique of gender, desire and comically dark feminism packaged as a short horror story.
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
Tender is the Flesh is a slaughterhouse dystopia that asks the question: ‘What if the fallout from a zoonotic pandemic forced us to eat human meat?’ And so we enter author Agustina Bazterrica’s cannibalistic world. Marcos works at a processing plant, where humans are slaughtered instead of cows, but when he is given a live specimen of the finest quality, he considers the preciousness of human contact. Smeared with blood and brutal critiques on misogyny, Tender is the Flesh offers a hellish look at the human condition.
Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley
Hilarious and horrifying, author Sloan Crosley’s Cult Classic is a social critique starring a magazine editor who has suddenly stepped into the Twilight Zone version of her own love life. As Lola’s very existence becomes a beta test case for a cult’s product in this satirical feminist novel, men become a mockery.
Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White
Benji is a trans boy on the run from a fundamentalist cult that unleashed Armageddon and hell on Earth. Nick is the gorgeous leader of a group of furious queer teens that take Benji under their wing after a horrifying experience. Author Andrew Joseph White’s book is about queer teens surviving and expressing their anger at living in a world that demands resistance while still finding joy in each other and pushing the boundaries of the dystopia around them.