Much to Jeff’s shock, book club doesn’t actually exist, but for fans of Yellowjackets, these reads will fill the void left by one of television’s buzziest shows. This list, much like the show, covers a lot of terrain. Whether you’re looking to survive the rugged wilderness, creepy cults, or the messy minefield of teenage friendship, these books will take you into the dark woods of your own psyche and back again. If you’re craving depraved horror, dark humor, sapphic romance, or even human flesh, get ready to dig in.
Upon turning 16, the girls of Garner County are forced to live together in the woods for a year as a means of ridding themselves of the inherent power and magical allure they supposedly hold over men. Only the survivors are allowed to reenter their totalitarian society straight out of Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Unsurprisingly, the titular time period soon devolves into a psychological-horror show. Having grown up in a world that pits women against women, the girls are primed to be each other’s biggest threat. Throw a water supply tainted with hallucinogens into the mix, and much like the results of Misty’s magic-mushroom stew, the ensuing madness soon devolves into deadly violence. It’s the perfect read if you’re craving more of the show’s bloody spectacle but in the context of a true dystopia.
When a plane of competing teenage pageant contestants crashes on a mysterious island, the struggle to survive is bitter and fierce as anything seen on Yellowjackets. And the humor is just as dark. Libba Bray has written a biting satire of consumerism and girlboss feminism for the young-adult set. With corporate conspiracies reminiscent of Lost and characters straight out of the Mean Girls cafeteria you’d think the rivalries would result in sharp and cutthroat backstabbing, but the plot manages to subvert expectations and social norms in a delightful way. We doubt Yellowjackets will end on such an optimistic note, but this novel fulfills the promise, potential, and hope of extreme genre hybrids.
When an exhausted, stay-at-home mother undergoes a strange physical transformation, she initially questions her sanity but ultimately embraces her feral instincts. With sharp canines and newfound tufts of fur, piercing howls and nightly prowls around the neighborhood, the reader is never quite sure what to make of her wolflike metamorphosis either. Toeing the line between legitimacy and lunacy, this journey is shockingly original, yet remains grounded in real-life anxieties around the expectations of motherhood. It’s a must-read for anyone who can’t get enough of the ever-blurring line between the psychological and supernatural that Yellowjackets exemplifies. And much like Taissa in her fugue state, the protagonist of Nightbitch also becomes an inadvertent threat to the family pet.
When a deadly virus known as “the Tox” strikes an isolated, all-girls boarding school, the students are left to fend for themselves as the infection rages on. However, the determined and steadfast Hetty breaks an 18-month quarantine after her best friend goes missing. She braves the rugged Maine wilderness to uncover the real truth behind the strange disease’s origins. Horror stories are rarely this sapphic, and much like Yellowjackets, part of its appeal lies in the queer love story at its core. Two years into COVID’s reign, pandemic reads might be a tough sell, but Wilder Girls is beyond captivating if you can stomach it.
At first glance a graphic novel geared towards middle-schoolers might not have the broadest appeal, but The Breakaways is a tender and humorous all-ages read (and probably the only book on this list you and your kids can read together). Few stories capture the drama and dysfunction of soccer team dynamics better than this brightly illustrated comic, in which a ragtag bunch of junior-high-schoolers navigate life on and off the field. The Bloodhounds may not have Yellowjackets winning athletic record, but this diverse group of girls are challenged by many of the same issues, albeit in a way lower-stakes environment. From feuding friend groups to racial, sexual, and gender identities explorations, The Breakaways reflects the complicated realities of eighth grade.
When a teenage girl goes missing in an upscale 1980s San Francisco suburb, an entire community is shaken to its core. However, following a major falling out, her best friend Eulabee remains skeptical about her whereabouts, believing it to be another attention-getting ploy. The pair’s constant competition, conflicting views, and seething jealousy mirror Jackie and Shauna’s intensely messy relationship and ultimate betrayal. Another insightful take on the pernicious dynamics of girlhood friendship and the devastation they can wreak well into adulthood.
Alive is a harrowing nonfiction account of the infamous 1972 plane crash, which stranded a Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes mountains and likely serves as the biggest real-life inspiration for Yellowjackets. For over two months, the group endured myriad hardships, including extreme cold, avalanches, and starvation. Some even resorted to cannibalism. Of the 45 passengers, only 15 survived. It’s a classic of the survival genre, as it documents brutal circumstances on a nearly unfathomable scale, freezing them permanently in the cultural imagination.
In 1995, five members of Aum, a doomsday religious cult were arrested following a chemical attack on the Tokyo subway. In this oral history, Murakami explores every aspect of that terrorist act, interviewing survivors and cult members alike. With acute curiosity and sensitivity, Underground plumbs some tough existential quandaries (just what drives someone join a murderous cult in the first place?) and sheds light on the motivations of those who hunger for greater sense of purpose and belonging — even if it leads to nefarious results. Perhaps these insights will be useful to future viewings as we learn more about Lottie and the secretive organization referenced in Yellowjackets’ season finale.
Desperate residents of drought-ridden Peaches, California, turn to creepy religious leader Pastor Vern to end a months-long drought and willingly abide by his progressively appalling methodology. No one is more vulnerable than the teenage girls of his congregation, especially 14-year-old Lacey May, who experiences abuse, abandonment, and pregnancy amidst environmental disaster. Its witchy, gothic tones are sure to appeal to anyone spellbound by Yellowjackets’ battered and bloodied cottage-core aesthetic.
After her cabin burns down, Jess is left stranded alone in the remote Canadian wilderness. But in addition to braving the harsh environment, she’s also on a mission to avenge her father’s death. It’s a tale of survivalist, off-the-grid living in a landscape much like that of the Yellowjackets crash site. However, it’s also a suspenseful thriller, as the protagonist’s motivation for staying alive is literal vengeance.