Bright Young Women: A Novel (Hardcover)
When I started reading Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll, I was unaware of the subject matter. After the first chapter, however, I immediately did a Google search to find out that, in fact, this book is a fictionalized retelling of the Ted Bundy murders in the late 1970’s. Specifically the book follows Pamela Schumacher who is the president of the sorority at Florida State University the night of Bundy’s deadly attack. Not normally a reader of true crime, I was captivated with the book immediately. What I most appreciated about the novel is that the focus remains on the women impacted by Bundy’s killings and not Bundy himself. The lack of support the survivors received from the university, the police force and even their families is astounding. Through their eyes we see the flawed system that allowed Bundy to avoid imprisonment for so long. The novel takes us on the terrifying and frustrating journey with Pamela as she desperately tries to put her best friend’s killer behind bars. This fresh, distinctly female retelling places the Bundy murders in a wider context of the United States in the 1970s exposing the sexism that existed and how it contributed to these hideous crimes.
-Danielle— From Neat November Staff Picks
October 2023 Indie Next List
“We all know the names of serial killers, but not the victims. Jessica Knoll tells their stories with compassion and respect. You’ll be shocked by the multiple miscarriages of justice that cut short the lives of so many bright young women.”
— Susan Kehoe, Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach, DE
New York Times Editors’ Choice
Instant New York Times Bestseller
The ultimate gift for crime and suspense readers this holiday season! Don’t miss this “breakneck thriller based on Ted Bundy’s heinous crimes [following] two women with connections to the murders and their search for justice…a sharp examination of our culture’s obsession with serial killers and true crime” (Harper’s Bazaar, Best Books of 2023).
Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll—author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis—delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer—and that he’s struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation.
Blisteringly paced, Bright Young Women is “Jessica Knoll at her best—an unflinching and evocative novel about the tabloid fascination with evil and the dynamic and brilliant women who have the real stories to tell” (Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me); and “a compelling, almost hypnotic read and I loved it with a passion” (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of None of This Is True).
About the Author
Jessica Knoll is the New York Times bestselling author of The Favorite Sister and Luckiest Girl Alive—now a major motion picture from Netflix starring Mila Kunis. She has been a senior editor at Cosmopolitan and the articles editor at Self. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their bulldog, Franklin.
"Bright Young Women doesn’t put its focus on the murderer. It’s more interested in his victims—and the survivors who are on a mission to catch him before he kills again.”
—TIME Magazine, "Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023"
“After her success with books such as “Luckiest Girl Alive” (now a movie starring Mila Kunis) and “The Favorite Sister,” Jessica Knoll turns to history in her latest novel, specifically Ted Bundy. “Bright Young Women” opens with a powerful — and gory — scene evoking Bundy’s killing spree at a sorority house in the late 70s, which left two young women dead, and another two maimed. Rather than sensationalize violence against women, however, Knoll’s provocative novel focuses on the stories of those affected by the killer’s rampages.” —The Washington Post, The 12 Best Thrillers of 2023
“On one level, Bright Young Women is a breakneck thriller based on Ted Bundy's heinous crimes. It ties together the stories of two women with connections to the murders and their search for justice. On another, it functions as a sharp examination of our culture's obsession with serial killers and true crime.” —Harper's Bazaar, The 45 Best New Books of 2023 You Won’t Put Down
Inspired by the real-life case of the “All-American Sex Killer,” the new novel from Jessica Knoll aims to flip the usual serial killer story upside down. Knoll’s book focuses on the women involved—victims, survivors, and investigators—and turns a bright light on the banality of evil."
--Goodreads, 55 Most Anticipated Books of Fall
"Jessica Knoll is a careful writer, and this, her third novel, is a perfect match for her cold dissection of social mores and her fierce rage at misogyny. Knoll takes on the story of Ted Bundy, told from the perspective of a student who survives a horrific attack on a sorority house... Some may claim that the crime genre is rift with misogyny; those people have not read Jessica Knoll. She tears apart the restrictive world of women’s roles and lays bare the purpose of such hobbles: to keep women from making a scene, to keep them from seeking justice, and most of all, to keep them from seeking their own lives."
CrimeReads/LitHub, Most Anticipated Books of 2023
"Bright Young Women braids the stories of two survivors, Pamela and Tina, and their fervent bond forged through grief and a pursuit of justice."
—Bustle, The 35 Best New Books of Fall 2023
“Something about fall weather begs for a thriller, and Jessica Knoll delivers with her latest.”
“A stunning, engaging subversion of the Bundy myth—and the true-crime genre.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Stunning… By focusing on the women affected by her Ted Bundy stand-in instead of the nuances of his criminal psychology, Knoll movingly reframes an American obsession without stripping it of its intrigue. The results are masterful.”
—Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
"An utterly absorbing, disturbing, and absolutely essential read.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“An unsettling and thrilling page-turner… Knoll’s haunting, must-read account will captivate [readers] until the end.”
—Library Journal (starred Review)
"Bright Young Women is a fearless and intoxicating ride into the aftershocks of a series of brutal murders. Knoll explores in vivid, pointillist prose the effects on the ‘bright young women’ of the title, both the victims snuffed out in their glorious prime, and those left behind in their wake. It's a compelling, almost hypnotic read and I loved it with a passion."
—Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling Author of Then She Was Gone
"Bright Young Women is Jessica Knoll at her best—an unflinching and evocative novel about the tabloid fascination with evil and the dynamic and brilliant women who have the real stories to tell."
–Laura Dave, New York Times Bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me
"Blistering and powerful, Bright Young Women is an almost unbearably vivid story of sisterhood and survival. With razor-sharp skill, Jessica Knoll deconstructs the myth of a criminal mastermind, revealing the women he seeks to destroy as the truly brilliant ones."
—Flynn Berry, New York Times bestselling author of Northern Spy and Under the Harrow
Praise for Luckiest Girl Alive!
"[A] huge summer read . . . one of those great stories that you can’t put down!”—Reese Witherspoon, InStyle
“The perfect page-turner to start your summer.”—People (Book of the Week)
“Dark, twisty . . . razor-sharp writing . . . propulsive prose . . . [The] reveal is a real doozy—a legitimately shocking, completely unputdownable sequence that unfolds like a slow-motion horror film. It instantly elevates Luckiest Girl . . . and that momentum keeps going until its final pages.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Loved Gone Girl? We promise [Luckiest Girl Alive is] just as addictive.”—Good Housekeeping
“A pulse-pounding, jaw-dropping novel about how tragedy twists and shapes lives.”—InTouch (A-)
“When Ani FaNelli wants something, she gets it: the job, the body, the man. What starts as a Mean Girls-seeming story line transforms into something so dark, so plot-twistingly intense that…well, actually, no spoilers here.” —Marie Claire
“A knockout debut novel . . . completely enthralling . . . devilishly dark and fun.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Ani FaNelli is] a cross between Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne. . . . Knoll’s debut truly delivers and will keep readers engaged until the end.”—Library Journal