#ReadWithMC Reviews 'Bright Young Women'

"Thank you, Jessica Knoll, for reminding us that we are warriors..."

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In true spooky season fashion, #ReadWithMC readers picked up a book that was bone-chilling, but not in the ghosts and ghouls way. In October, our book club members read Jessica Knoll's Bright Young Women, based on the very real, very horrific murders of Ted Bundy during the '70s. Rather than give any kind of spotlight to the murderer, Knoll instead tells the story through the perspective of the victims. In fact, Knoll doesn't mention the killer by name even once throughout the novel.

This female-centric point of view is especially what our readers raved about in their reviews. For example, @folklore.and.fiction wrote, "This story has the women at the forefront and I freaking loved the way it focused on raising their voices while erasing his name from the narrative altogether." Additionally, @alishaandbooks_ echoed a similar sentiment the rest of our #ReadWithMC felt, writing, "The way Jessica wrote it in the perspective of the victims was amazing. It truly made the book unputdownable." All in all, it's safe to say this book earned a five-star rating among our readers.

Each month, we gather up the reviews of our virtual book club members so anyone else looking for their next great read has a collection of recommendations. Here's what #ReadWithMC readers had to say about Bright Young Women


Pub day review

Thank you @simon.audio for this complimentary ALC.

Brave, intelligent, and resilient women are at the epicenter of this story. Two of these women, both deeply impacted by Ted Bundy’s unspeakable crimes, who come together to search for truth and justice.

I wouldn’t call this a thriller. It’s more of a slow burn- crime- character study. If you read Luckiest Girl Alive you know how hard it was to catch your breath at extremely intense moments. This one is different. Here, Knoll’s impresses us with her detail oriented and thoroughly researched writing. She grips readers by mixing facts with fiction, all without uttering Ted Bundy’s name. Not even once. She places the spotlight where it belongs- on the harrowing women who deserve to be remembered and the ones who refused to be silenced.

⭐️ 4/5"


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Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

★★★★.75 4.75/5

Bright Young Women was such an unexpected read for me. I had heard of it from a friend, immediately added it to my Goodreads tbr, and then my husband surprised me with a copy like the very next day. So I think I was meant to read this book?? This was my first time reading anything by Jessica Knoll, and I was blown away by the writing style and perspectives used to tell this story. This novel is based on the real life sorority murders by Ted Bundy in 1978, told from the perspective of two different women impacted in different ways.

It's no surprise that there is something alluring surrounding true crime, and it's hard to retell these stories without sounding repetitive. However, this book was told from such a unique angle. We follow the murders, the trial, and the lingering effects of these events through the lens of the women impacted by this devastating tragedy. I can't say enough good things about the way in which this story was told. At times it felt somewhat dreamlike. We drift in and out of present and past, while simultaneously connecting memories and real-time reactions.

This felt so disconnected from the stories we've consumed of Ted Bundy, in fact his name is actually never even mentioned. This story has the women at the forefront and I freaking loved the way it focused on raising their voices while erasing his name from the narrative altogether. One last comment I have is about the title. I closed this book a little confused, because usually I look forward to reading the title in the book and I realized the title was never mentioned. After some thinking, I remembered the judge's closing remarks for Bundy after sentencing him to death. And I'll leave it at that and just say, BRILLIANT."


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"🚨Brilliant Book Alert 🚨

Bright Young Women

By Jessica Knoll

Yes, it is Thriller Thursday and this book is a thriller. But it is SO. MUCH. MORE. I read and enjoyed Knoll’s last book, The Luckiest Girl Alive. This, though, is her masterpiece.

Sure, read Bright Young Women for the true-crime inspired storyline, with its police procedural details. For the skillfully executed alternating points-of-view. The un-put-downable storytelling as it deftly moves back and forth in time. The sharp, crystalline prose. The plot twists. The LGBTQ representation. Even for the serial killer aspect, if that’s your thing.

But more than anything, read this book for its takedown of the men of this world, and all that we women, frankly, have to put up with from them. Via two distinct and very fleshed out female narrators, Knoll drills down into the toxic masculinity that permeates our culture in every way. Demolishing the big stuff—eroticization of violence against women and the elevated serial killer archetype—she also skewers the generalized patriarchy, the sheer mundane misogyny endured by women through the ages. In conversation. Within families. At school and in careers. In romantic partnerships. With law enforcement and within the legal system.

The fix is in, but we women are fighters. The dice may be loaded, but our resiliency runs deep. Thank you, Jessica Knoll, for reminding us that we are warriors, capable of channeling our wealth of feminist rage to propel us through it all and come out on top. And telling a damn good story while doing so."


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"✨Book review✨


This book is one of those books that really makes you think and I’m still processing what I just read.

I loved the dual povs and how they eventually connected. Pamela was such a strong FMC and I loved how she was written.

The premise/plot of this book is so interesting and something that I’m sure everyone has heard about but the way Jessica wrote it in the perspective of the victims was amazing. It truly made the book unputdownable. I loved the name the killer was given and that he diminished in this book. This book was so empowering for us women and I just loved it so much.

What a great way to write about a true crime story in a fictionalized way that still makes it sound good!!

One of the best reads I’ve read this year, a must read!"


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"Bright Young Women, by Jessica Knoll


This is a book that is excellent and subversive, but requires some expectation management going in. It is not a thriller, and it is not a mystery. It is a slow, chilling, victim-centric narrative about a serial killer, the women who are left in his wake, and the society that empowered him.

In the late 1970s, a college sorority is rocked when a gruesome attack leaves two women dead and two more maimed. Sorority president Pamela struggles with the aftermath - managing her own grief and that of those for whom she feels responsible, and the various responses of those around her, from the police to her friends and boyfriend. Pamela soon connects with Tina, who’s investigating the years-earlier disappearance of her close friend, and identifies similarities between the events. The two women team up, and work together to search for the truth.

I thought this book was incredibly well done. It’s clearly based on Ted Bundy, but he is never named (the killer is never named at all); this was a really interesting choice, and was effective in driving home the core focus on his direct and indirect victims. There are strong themes of sexism and the ways women are discounted, underestimated, and held to different standards, by men in positions of authority (e.g. law enforcement) and in the general public, which appear in both subtle and overt ways throughout the book - I found myself raging at this on numerous occasions, including at how relatable much of the conduct still feels today. It feels very real and, though the book is fiction, it often reads like true crime.

I see this as an important story, and a perspective on famous male serial killers that I personally haven’t encountered like this before. This one really seeped in as I read, and will stay with me for a long time. Definitely recommended for true crime fans, and those who enjoy stories with social commentary and chilling themes."


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"✨✨ Book Review ✨✨ 

Title: Bright Young Women

Author: @jessicaknollauthor

Pub: @simonandschuster

Pub Date: 9/19/23

GR Rating: 4.12 ⭐️

MY Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Crime / Historical Fiction

TV/Film Adaptation: Yes! The rights for this book have been acquired to develop a TV series. 

Are you looking for a book that you cannot put down, but also need to put down because it’s so good you need a minute? This is that book. BRIGHT YOUNG WOMEN was one of the easiest 5⭐️ ratings I’ve given in a while. I can already see this being a yearly re-read for me. It’s easily one of my top reads of 2023, if not my actual top pick. 

Obviously, I loved this book. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a true crime/mystery junkie and I’ve consumed too much of this content highlighting the killer. This book did it right highlighting two women who were impacted by the crimes committed. I met with my book club earlier this month to discuss this book and overall, we all loved it. We had such great discussion around this book and I definitely recommend for book clubs! 

Overall, I think this book was incredibly well written and also super disturbing.The chaos at the beginning, highlighted Pamela’s mindset which I thought was a strong way to start the novel. The blatant misogyny throughout the book (don’t even get me started on Sheriff Cruso’s comment of “Denise knew a lot of people” or Tina’s therapist ‘test’) had me so angry and shocked that this was how this case (and others at the time) were handled. Not that we are in much better times now but still…infuriating..."


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"⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️“Why do we know the names of the notorious serial killers and not the names of the victims whose lives were cut short?”

Billed as “an antidote to ‘Dahmer’”, BYW is a slower paced novel that I would classify as literary crime fiction (aka NOT a thriller) and it will surely be a longtime favorite of mine.

The thing I loved most about this book is that while real names of actual victims are used throughout, Knoll never once calls the serial killer by name👏🏼.

We all know who this “handsome”, “charming”, “charismatic” man is… he doesn’t deserve any more attention or notoriety. This book is about the women. It’s about victimhood and sisterhood. It’s about realizing that in paying so much attention to this evil person (described by the New York Times as “terrific-looking” and called a “bright young man” by the judge in Florida) we have glossed over the women affected by him.

BYW proposes that this man was incredibly average and not, in fact, a diabolical genius. He was a “run-of-the-mill incel”, whose grades were in the bottom 5th percentile, and was caught picking his nose in the courtroom multiple times. It’s the women in this story who are the impressive, smart, exceptional ones. And it’s the women whose lives were cut short.

Overall, the writing was great. In all honesty, the pacing and the timeline jumps might have earned this one four stars from me, but my visceral reaction to the plot and storytelling has me bumping it up to five. This is very different from Knoll’s previous work and it left such an impact on me.

I think if you read or watch true crime you need to give this a chance. It would be a great book club pick because I guarantee no matter how you feel about it, you’ll want to discuss it with those close to you.

🎧Sutton Foster is one of the narrators and she is obviously fabulous. I loved the audiobook but I will say there are some parts that were a little hard to keep up with, specifically the timeline jumps. Thanks to @prhaudio for the complimentary listen!

➡️swipe to see the rest of my review. I clearly had a lot to say about this one!"


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Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. She also tackled shopping content as Marie Claire's Editorial Fellow prior to her role as Associate Commerce Editor.

She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.