I love thrillers. Once I graduated college and finally had the time and energy to rekindle my love of reading, thrillers were my go-to. A majority of the books I read were classified as thrillers. I love the suspense, the unexpected twists, the dark subject matter, all of it.
Confession: My love for thrillers has waned significantly in the past six months. Part of this could be my own fault for reading so many and burning out on the genre. However, I’m starting to wonder if it’s something deeper than that.
One thing I’m really getting tired of is how thrillers, as a genre, treat women. Alisa from Worlds Within Pages actually did a really great job of talking about this and the gratuitous use of rape as a plot device on her Instagram stories a while back. I find that, more often than not, women are cast as the victim in thrillers. They also tend to rely heavily on violence toward women.
But perhaps my least favorite type of woman in a thriller is the unreliable female narrator who can’t get her ish together. Enter: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.
Let me preface this by saying that I did enjoy reading TWITW. Of all the thrillers I’ve read recently, it had the most interesting storyline, and the multiple twists were all well-timed and surprised me. Plus, all the classic movie references throughout were a treat, considering my love for black-and-white movies and Jimmy Stewart.
Here’s the plot synopsis from Amazon:
Anna Fox lives alone – a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble – and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.
I find characters like Anna to be extremely frustrating. I felt the same way about Rachel in The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Both characters are going through their own struggles that basically cause them to drink and/or abuse prescription drugs enough to make them hallucinate and question what is real.
Let me be perfectly clear: It is not my intention to bash either of these books because the truth is, they were both thrilling and entertaining reads. Both authors wrote taught stories full of suspense and carefully woven plots, which is extremely difficult to do.
I guess what I’m trying to advocate for is books with more badass women who aren’t victims. Could I get a story about a woman who is sober, sees something shady and then tries like hell to figure things out? And if the author wants to cast doubt on the female character’s word, can’t the general (albeit extremely unfair and ridiculous) tendency in male-dominated society to doubt the word of women serve the story just as well? I would even argue it could be better because it would honestly be more realistic.
I don’t plan on swearing off thrillers because they are valuable and interesting reads. I’m going to try to be more discerning in my selections, though. I don’t need female characters to be perfect or superhuman. I don’t need them to be likable. I need them to be fierce, powerful and capable of withstanding a great deal without compromising their mental acuity, much like many of women I personally know and love.
Am I reading too much into this? Do you have any recommendations on thrillers with powerful female characters I should read? Let’s discuss in the comments.