7 Novels About Girlbosses and the Dark Side of Social Media

Femininity, power, and privilege wrapped in a millennial pink bow

A woman wearing slacks and high heels lounges in a chair, kicking her feet in the air
Photo by Amanda Vick via Unsplash

It’s the year 2014, and the sounds of “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry echo through your room as you slip on your skinny jeans, inspirational tee shirt, and pink blazer. After a quick spritz of your Viva La Juicy perfume, you reach for your Michael Kors handbag and grab your new Etsy coffee tumbler smiling at the phrase looking back at you, “Girlboss.” 

It’s a model of femininity, power, and privilege wrapped in a millennial pink bow—the Girlboss culture dominated the 2010s and was praised by women for years. It’s been almost a decade since the word was first used, and after pulling back the curtain, the true flaws of this pinkwashed SHE-E-O have been revealed. The #Girlboss movement has evolved through controversy and a general reckoning with work-life “hustle culture” to invoke much more cringe now than confidence in the corporate grind.

When I began writing my novel, Under the Influence, I knew I wanted to give readers a workplace-centric story that revealed parts of the #Girlboss movement that were flawed. The book follows Harper Cruz, a young woman living in New York City who is broke, lonely, and desperate to make a salary that won’t leave her scrambling for rent each month. When she is offered a job by the charismatic self-help influencer Charlotte Green, the offer is simultaneously too-good-to-be-true and too great to pass up. After accepting the job, Harper’s life is turned upside down as she quickly moves to Nashville to work at The Greenhouse, a place where mandatory dance parties, daily intentions, and group bonding activities make up for long hours and Charlotte’s persistent demands for loyalty. The deeper Harper is pulled into Charlotte’s world, the more she realizes that there is a cost to being a #Girlboss. 

Here are 7 novels about Girlbosses and the dark side of social media:

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Zakiya Dalila Harris delivers a compelling story that sheds light on important issues of identity, race, and toxic workplaces. Nella Rogers is an editorial assistant who is ambitious, hardworking, and tired of being the only Black employee – that is, until Hazel is hired. Hazel is everything Nella isn’t. She’s more outgoing, she’s more confident, but most importantly, she’s more liked at the office. While at first, Nella is excited about the prospect of another Black employee and potential friend, that hope is quickly extinguished. After she begins receiving threatening notes, Nella becomes suspicious. Could they be coming from the perfect new employee, Hazel?  As she tries to uncover the truth about these sinister notes, Nella begs the question, “What are Hazel’s motives…and why?” 

A Hundred Other Girls by Iman Hariri-Kia

Aspiring writer and blogger Noora is an Iranian American young woman living in New York City. When she is hired as the assistant to Vinyl’s editor-in-chief, Loretta, it feels like all her dreams are finally coming true. But Noora’s dream quickly turns into a nightmare when she learns that her new boss Loretta is unhinged, over-demanding, and has a nasty penchant for gaslighting. Not to mention the turf war going on between the print and digital teams at Vinyl magazine that Noora soon finds herself in the middle of. With the stakes high and her dream job on the line, Noora will need to either choose a side or form her own.

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd

Set in London, Emmeline Jackson is a successful influencer, a mummy blogger or “mamabare” who has built a beloved brand by showing the world all the struggles and challenges of beinga mom –the good, the bad, and the ugly. Although Emmy has mastered the skill of curating the “perfect life” for her followers, underneath it all there is a dark side to baring it all online. A lurking stalker that is waiting for the moment to pounce is right around the corner and is threatening to ruin Emmy’s picture-perfect life. Lloyd depicts the perfect thrilling story of the dangers of internet fame and the real dangers that can come with social media.

Followers by Megan Angelo

A dynamic story that shows the dark side of influencers and social media. Followers showcases the power of the internet, social media, and technology in our digital age. The story is told in a dual timeline, 2015 and 2055. As the story unfolds, we see how one character controls followers by creating an influencer, and another character is controlled by the government for her followers. Followers bring questions to the surface, like “How has the internet changed us? , “What is the importance of followers?” and “What would you do to gain followers and become famous?”

City of Likes by Jenny Mollen

New mom Megan moves to Manhattan and, after a chance meeting, quickly falls under the spell of Daphne, a mommy influencer. She becomes so wrapped up in her new friendship with Daphne that it soon becomes toxic. Megan becomes fascinated with the NYC scene she is thrust into, but consequences for her marriage, work, and family develop the more she’s consumed with social media. Megan feels like she’s traded her mundane life for the fabulous influencer world that Daphne lives in, but as we peel back the layers, she starts to wonder how much of this “Instagram-perfect” life is real.

Happy For You by Claire Stanford

Evelyn Kumamoto has recently set aside her dissertation to work at “the third-most-popular internet company”. She can’t believe she’s finally making money as a researcher – enough that she can splurge on fancy cheese and flowers on her way home from work. She can finally be the type of woman she’s always admired, “fresh-cut flowers on the dining room table was a real woman”. She hopes to use her knowledge of philosophy to work on the happiness app her company is creating. As she navigates her new role and the tech environment she works in, Evelyn is forced to dive into the intrusiveness of technology and ask the question, “Can happiness be quantified?”. 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Alix Chamberlain is an entitled, upper-class white woman in her 30s who is a blogger and Instagram influencer. Emira is a college-educated black woman in her mid-20s and confused about what she wants to do with her life. In the meantime, gets a part-time babysitting job watching Alix’s two-year-old, Briar. One night when Emira is babysitting Briar, they go to a Market Depot to pass the time by looking at the nuts and smelling teas. Things escalate when a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and a nearby shopper records the incident. Such a Fun Age is a story that touches on themes of race, privilege, and the distortions of social media.

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