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Literature / The Dead Queens Club

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The Dead Queens Club is a young adult novel by Hannah Capin published in 2019.

The book is a fictionalized version of the reign of Henry VIII set in a modern high school and written in the style of a murder mystery. It is told from the perspective of Annie Marck (also known as Cleves) who tells the story of her senior year alongside her best friend Henry, a charming, magnetic high school guy whose seemingly only flaw is that he's unlucky in love. However, when Henry's latest girlfriend dies under mysterious circumstances after an explosive cheating scandal (for the second time), Cleves finds herself caught in a web of lies, secrets, and unexpected revelations as she struggles to solve the question of what really happened to Lancaster's dead queens.


The book features many a Shout-Out to Actual History, lots of humor, and an underlying message of friendship and girl power.

This book provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Anna Boleyn has virtually no one on her side during her tenure as Henry's paramour, since she's seen as stealing Henry from the popular Lina Aragon.
    Anna: Come to Hampton Court some morning when Henry's not there and you'll see. They hate me ten times as much as you do.
  • Abusive Parents: Henry's father, big time. When his oldest son dies in a car crash, what does he do? Practically straight-out tells his remaining son it should've been him. This is a big part of Henry's Freudian Excuse.
  • The Ace: Henry is Lancaster High School's star quarterback, an overachieving student, a musician and composer, and The Prankster all in one.
    • Similarly, Lina is a lacrosse player who can kick ass on the football field. She also makes excellent grades and does charity work in Guatemala.
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    • Cat Parr manages to take five AP classes, run the school newspaper, and date a murderer without doing anything to set him off.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Since the source material being adapted here is Actual History, there's quite a lot. Many important historical figures from the Tudor era have been omitted and the timeline of events is hugely simplified, since there's no way to include a lot of the things that actually happened in a high school setting.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Plenty. Justified, since in the 16th century names tended to get reused a lot and it would be a source of confusion if half the characters had the same name. A couple particularly creative instances are Parker Rochford (Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford) and Erin Willoughby (Catherine Willoughby Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk).
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Anne of Cleves, historically a sweet, conflict-averse, fairly naive woman, is now a snarky, irreverent feminist rebel.
    • Though this version of Anne of Cleves is still pretty non-confrontational, especially when it comes to people she likes or is intimidated by.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Cleves's list of grievances against Cat Parr includes Cat making out with Henry barely a month after Katie's death, ignoring Cleves's texts, vetoing an anti-slut-shaming article, and . . . spelling her nickname with a C when her full name is spelled with a K.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Anna's journal account of the week before her death.
  • Bad Liar: Cleves is a terrible actress.
  • Berserk Button: Do not so much as imply to Henry that one of his girlfriends might be cheating. Weaponized in the finale, when the girls lure him to an isolated location with the idea that Cat is meeting a potential love interest there in order to get him to confess his crimes.
    • Cleves has a very strong reaction to any kind of sexism/Slut-Shaming.
    Cleves: Even I've heard the Katie-was-a-slut-at-York rumors, and anyone who's exchanged two sentences with me knows that saying that type of thing to my face is going to earn them a War and Peace—length lecture.
    • Don't talk shit about the Boleyns when Parker Rochford is within earshot.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Cleves is generally a friendly, goodhearted person who wants to find peaceful solutions to everything. But if you piss her off, no one will be able to save you. Henry finds this out the hard way.
    • Lina is pretty much universally well-liked, and it's easy to see why, but when her wrath is incurred, it's terrifying to behold.
  • Big Man on Campus: This fits Henry to a T.
  • Break the Cutie: Katie's final scene is heartbreaking. In a few minutes, her entire world comes crumbling down around her, and she's reduced to running after Henry trying desperately to explain. It doesn't help that she dies about two seconds later.
  • Break the Haughty: Anna is pretty damn broken in the hours before her death.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Anna and George form one of these.
  • The Bus Came Back: Jane in a major way.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Cleves sees Parker as this when Parker accuses Henry of killing Anna and Katie. Subverted when it turns out she's right.
  • Deadly Prank: Cleves thinks the Tower explosion was this.
  • The Determinator: Parker never stops trying to protect her friends, even when they themselves are fighting against her.
  • Drama Queen: Parker comes off as this; justified, since she's been through some pretty traumatic events and her perceptions of reality are often much more accurate than those of her more level-headed compatriots.
  • Extreme Doormat: Jane Seymour seems to be this, but she's a lot feistier than most give her credit for (she just knows how to be covert about it).
    • Cleves will do pretty much anything to avoid conflict. When she's not starting fights in the name of friendship, that is.
  • First Girl Wins: Soundly averted with Lina and Henry, as in Actual History.
  • First-Person Smartass: Cleves practically defines this trope.
  • Hypocrite: After complaining for a week about Henry's new relationship with Cat being disrespectful to Katie's memory and being generally anti-cheating, Cleves ends up making out with Henry while they're alone together in his house. To be fair, she calls herself on it almost immediately and feels pretty terrible afterward.

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