9 Sad Girl Books for Your Sad Girl Autumn

Hot girl summer is over and it's time to embrace the mope

Photo by Milada Vigerova

Hot Girl Summer (™ Megan Thee Stallion) has come and gone, and it’s time to become a 24/7 Sylvia Plath and welcome Sad Girl Autumn to the scene. Dig up your blackest jeans and a sweater that’ll break your barista’s heart because you’ll be looking thoughtful and melancholy in the corner of your favorite coffee shop with one of these #sadgirl books under your arm. Here’s the perfect booklist to settle into the cooling weather while remaining a cool girl yourself. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

When Esther Greenwood moves to New York City for a magazine internship, she is introduced to an adult life of sex and disappointment. Her depression and dissonance slowly worsen when she returns home to live with her mother for the summer. Following a failed suicide attempt, Esther is sent to a mental hospital where she finally begins to improve—at least for a moment. Plath’s masterpiece novel follows Esther as she spirals into darkness.

Hotel Iris

Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa

In a seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, seventeen-year-old Mari, daughter of the hotel owner, becomes obsessed with a middle-aged male guest. After the man is kicked out of the hotel for abusing a sex worker, Mari finds him in the small town they share and begins a dangerous relationship with him. But when rumors swirl through town that the man, a widower, murdered his wife, it becomes harder to keep their relationship secret, especially from Mari’s mother. This haunting novel explores the ways we hurt each other, and ourselves, in the search for intimacy.

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Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

Anna Morgan is painfully alone when she moves to London from the West Indies. She floats through her life like a ghost, trying to make ends meet as a chorus girl, until she meets an older man who offers to support her financially. What begins as a chance encounter becomes a foray into a world of sex and darkness that nearly pushes Anna to the edge.

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

When university student Jo moves from Norway to Australia for school, she decides to reinvent herself. Thus begins a novel that constantly questions the nature of reality as Jo moves into a decaying old brewery with her roommate, an older woman named Carral. As Jo loses touch with reality more and more, the brewery turns into a soggy, psychedelic den of fungus and rot, with Jo and Carral as roots that twine together. Norwegian artist and musician Jenny Hval explores the decay of identity in her debut novel. 

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Ada was born with more than just her own spirit in her body. As Ada grows up in southern Nigeria, the separate selves within her become more powerful. When she moves to America for college and experiences a tragedy, her separate selves begin to take over and Ada’s identity fractures even more. At the whim of her unpredictable selves, Ada’s life is thrown off kilter and into darkness.

Marilou Is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith

Cindy dreams of escaping her life of poverty and maternal abandonment for something more. Her chance comes when Jude, wealthy girl from a better home, goes missing. When Jude’s grieving, alcoholic mother mistakes Cindy for Jude, Cindy slips quietly into her new identity as a girl who has it all: money, a beautiful house, and, most importantly, a mother’s undying love. For once, Cindy feels her life means something—but is it really her life at all? Stark, vivid and emotional, this novel examines what it means to disappear. 

Walking on the Ceiling by Aysegül Savas

Walking on the Ceiling by Ayşegül Savaş

Nunu meets M. shortly after she moves to Paris. Nunu is trying to run away from her past in Istanbul; M. is a British novelist who writes about Turkey. The two strike up an unexpected friendship based on their conversations during long walks through the streets of Paris. Nunu shares her memories of Istanbul to help M. with his new novel, but as their friendship grows deeper, Nunu worries that by sharing her memories, she may be giving integral parts of herself away. 

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Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim, who has embraced a nasty nickname about her plus-size frame, is a Wiccan goth at an all-girls Catholic school. When the popular Katie Matthews’ boyfriend dumps her and then kills himself, the school descends into a chaos of mourning. Skim has to navigate her own depression as well as her peers’ performative grieving, fueled by guidance counselors and grief clubs—while also trying to cope with a confusing, heady crush on a female teacher.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

A young woman in New York City should be happy with her seemingly-perfect life, but there’s something wrong (and it’s not her dead parents, deadbeat boyfriend, or frustrating best friend). So, she decides to hibernate for a year. Using a mix of prescription pills acquired under false pretenses, our narrator pulls away from society through a drug-induced haze of naps that shows how living a traditional life isn’t always satisfying, and isolation isn’t always painful.

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