Three books with messy women at the center of them that we also understand their morally grey decisions. Images: Blackstone Publishing, Del Rey Books, and Henry Holt & Company.

Best 2022 Book Releases to Read When You Want to Support Women’s Wrongs

In the last few months, in various forms, there’s been a consistent conversation about women and femme characters in fiction doing (by many markers) terrible things, but we applaud them anyways. Some examples include the Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange And The Multiverse of Madness to the way the “they’re a 10, but” meme has bled into book displays. In the horror genre, this theme has garnered the moniker “Good For Her.” Most interesting characters are going to have flaws, but sometimes we really are cheering on theft and violence (on the offense and not defense) in the name of little wins. Some of the most interesting discourse around people’s love or hate from some novels in 2021 has come down to this, too.

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In honor of this, I’ve put together a list of 2022 releases with messy, complicated women. Because I framed this around main characters, there will be more empathy given than, say, if they were the protagonists, but you just might find yourself cheering them on, too. For many of the actions by these women, it’ll be easy to see why they’re included, but others are subjective to my ideas of what makes a woman or her actions complicated. For example, as someone who values honesty, there are some beloved tropes I automatically side-eye even if I actually love the book, like fake dating or an unreliable narrator.

Most of these titles are also books that didn’t quite make The Mary Sue Book Club this year but were on the long list, and I wanted to share anyways!

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen Image: William Morrow & Company
(William Morrow & Company)

Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy a decent fake.

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home–she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success?

Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business–someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson Image: Del Rey Books
(Del Rey Books)

They call it The Violence: a strange epidemic that causes the infected to experience sudden bursts of animalistic rage, with no provocation and no memory of their crimes. While it tears the nation apart, one woman sees something unlikely in the chaos–an opportunity.

Chelsea Martin has been a prisoner in her own home for too long. Her controlling husband has manipulated her for years, cutting her off from all support. Her narcissistic mother is no help, and her teen daughter is realizing she might be falling into the same trap when her once adoring boyfriend shows a dark side.But when the Violence erupts, Chelsea creates a plan to liberate herself and her daughters once and for all.

What follows is a shocking and thrilling journey as three generations of women navigate a world in which they are finally empowered to fight back. Somewhere along the journey from her magazine-ready Tampa home to the professional wrestling ring, Chelsea becomes her own liberator, an avatar of revenge and hope, and a new heroine for a new world.

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma Image: Avon Books
(Avon Books)

Hi! I’m Kareena Mann. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m looking for my soulmate. In four months. And he must gain the approval of my meddling aunties. Kareena dreams of having a perfect love story like her parents did. That’s why on the morning of her thirtieth birthday, she’s decided to suit up and enter the dating arena. When her widowed father announces he’s retiring and selling their home after her sister’s engagement party, Kareena makes a deal with him. If she can find her soulmate by the date of the party, he’ll gift her the house, and she’ll be able to keep her mother’s legacy alive.

Hi, I’m Dr. Prem Verma, host of the Dr. Dil Show. Prem means love, Dil means heart, and I’m a cardiologist. Don’t let my name fool you. I only fix broken hearts in the literal sense. Prem doesn’t have time for romance, which is why it’s no surprise when his first meeting with Kareena goes awry. Their second encounter is worse when their on-air debate about love goes viral. Now Prem’s largest community center donor is backing out because Prem’s reputation as a heart-health expert is at risk. To get back in his donor’s good graces, he needs to fix his image fast, and dating Kareena is his only option.

Even though they have warring interests, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he thinks she’s might actually be the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. In this Taming of the Shrew re-imagination, for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.

The Forty Elephants by Erin Bledsoe

The Forty Elephants by Erin Bledsoe Image: Blackstone Publishing
(Blackstone Publishing)

London in the 1920s is no place for a woman with a mind of her own. Gang wars, violence, and an unforgiving world have left pickpocket Alice Diamond scrambling to survive in the Mint, the gritty neighborhood her family has run for generations. When her father goes to jail yet again and her scam artist brother finds himself in debt to the dangerous McDonald crime syndicate, Alice takes over. Fighting for power at every turn, she struggles to protect her father’s territory and keep the people she loves safe from some of London’s most dangerous criminals.

Recruited by the enigmatic Mary Carr, Alice boldly chooses to break her father’s edict against gangs and become part of a group of notorious lady shoplifters, the Forty Elephants. Leaving the Mint behind, she and the other girls steal from the area’s poshest department stores, and for the first time in her life, Alice Diamond tastes success. But it’s not long before she wants more–no matter the cost. And when her past and present collide, there’s no escaping the girl from the Mint.

Patience is a Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji

Patience is a Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji Image: Harpervia
(Harpervia)

For as long as she can remember, Patience Adewale, the eldest daughter of Chief Kolade Adewale, has been waiting for confirmation that she is loved, that there is a place where she truly belongs. Patience lives a sheltered life within the secure walls of the family’s mansion in Ibadan, but finds no comfort from her distant father and stepmother Modupe. Her only ally is her younger sister, yet even Margaret’s love and support cannot overcome Patience’s insecurity and uncertainty.

More than anything, Patience wants to know why her father and uncle banished her mother from their compound years ago–and whether her mother is even alive. Determined to discover the truth, Patience embarks on a desperate search to find her mother. Answers begin to surface when she moves to Lagos for university and unexpectedly reconnects with her cousin Kash.

Kash and his friend Emeka are petty thieves with an opportunity to make a big score. To pull it off they need help–and enlist Patience and Emeka’s straight-arrow brother, Chike, to become partners in their scheme. The thieves’ plan is to quit after this job. But unforeseen events lead to unexpected consequences–and demand a price from Patience that may be too steep to pay.

Lord of the Fly Fest by Goldy Moldavsky

Lord of the Fly Fest by Goldy Moldavsky Image: Henry Holt & Company
(Henry Holt & Company)

Rafi Francisco needs a splashy case to put her true crime podcast on the map. She sets her sights on River Stone, the heartthrob musician who rose to stardom after the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend. Rafi somehow scores a ticket to the exclusive Fly Fest, where River will be the headliner—and her star-making interview.

But when Rafi arrives on the Caribbean island location of Fly Fest with hundreds of other influencers, they quickly discover that the promised dream getaway is more of a nightmare. Soon, Rafi goes from fighting for an interview to fighting for her life as she has to confront beauty gurus–gone–wild and spotty WiFi. And, as she gets closer to River, she discovers that he might be hiding even darker secrets than she suspected.

(featured image: Blackstone Publishing, Del Rey Books, and Henry Holt & Company.)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.