Tell Me I'm Worthless

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Pub Date 17 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 01 Sep 2024


Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless is a dark, unflinching haunted house story that confronts both supernatural and real-world horrors through the lens of the modern-day trans experience.

“Alison is like the twisted daughter of Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson. Tell Me I’m Worthless is an intense read full of shocks and buckets of gore. It’s brilliant.” —Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author

A Best Horror Book of the Year (Esquire, Book Riot, ) • A Most Anticipated Book of the Year (CrimeReads, Vulture, Goodreads, Paste)

“A triumph of transgressive queer horror.”Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

Three years ago, Alice spent one night in an abandoned house with her friends, Ila and Hannah. Since then, Alice’s life has spiraled. She lives a haunted existence, selling videos of herself for money, going to parties she hates, drinking herself to sleep.

Memories of that night torment Alice, but when Ila asks her to return to the House, to go past the KEEP OUT sign and over the sick earth where teenagers dare each other to venture, Alice knows she must go.

Together, Alice and Ila must face the horrors that happened there, must pull themselves apart from the inside out, put their differences aside, and try to rescue Hannah, whom the House has chosen to make its own.

Cutting, disruptive, and darkly funny, Tell Me I’m Worthless is a vital work of trans fiction that examines the devastating effects of trauma and how fascism makes us destroy ourselves and each other.

“Easily one of the strongest horror debuts in recent memory.” Booklist, STARRED review

Also by Alison Rumfitt:

Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless is a dark, unflinching haunted house story that confronts both supernatural and real-world horrors through the lens of the modern-day trans experience.


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ISBN 9781250866233
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Featured Reviews

This is a stunning, intense AF book. I'm so grateful to the author for the content warning at the beginning, for a sufficient bracing for this VERY disturbing, deeply depressing, but utterly necessary reading experience.

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After hearing so many positive things about this novel, I went in with high expectations that were exceeded tenfold. Tell Me I'm Worthless is a harrowing and promising debut from Alison Rumfit. And I'll be haunted by this novel for days to come. Tell Me I'm Worrthless manages to elevate the horror genre, and shows that true horror lies within real-world issues like trauma and fascism. A must-read for horror and literary fiction lovers alike!

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Incredible gut wrenching, chilling story! This will become one of my favorite books to recommend because it is so chilling and weird and disturbing but with prose that is so real and shifty that makes it hyper real and wrong.

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There was so much going on here. At the core, it is a book about the woman's experience living in a society shaped by fascism. The most successful parts of the book were in how both Ila and Alice became inundated with hatred and how it shaped their actions and behaviors- and taking a deep dive into all of the unsavory, intimate, raw details of their minds. You see how what happened to them negatively shapes who they are, their relationship to one another, and how their experience differs as Cis and Trans Women of different races, socio-economic classes, and religions. What was less successful was the sometimes redundant prose, including stream of consciousness (my least favorite in most writing), and the very direct and in-your-face fascism connection. I would have liked to see a more nuanced allegory.

That being said, I appreciate the work and will look out for Alison Rumfitt in the future. Heads up for anyone interested in reading this text, there is a surplus of rape, slurs, and all-around offensive material. I think all of this is necessary for this story to exist but is definitely hard to consume in some areas.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Netgalley for the ARC.

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Queer horror novel Tell Me I'm Worthless by Alison Rumfitt adroitly positions its haunted house as a literalized source of fascism rooted in British nationalism and xenophobia.

It's been years since Alice and Ila visited The House, a malevolent supernatural force in the form of an abandoned, decaying estate, from which the third wheel of their group, Hannah, didn't return. Damaged by the encounter, trans woman Alice has lost herself in drug party culture, getting by making custom illicit hypno videos for closeted trans and queer folks. Her former partner Ila's shaken response to the same has been to dive into the British anti-trans movement, writing articles, making radio appearances, and feeling exploited by the movement for her brown skin and Jewish heritage. And then there is the house, which seethes with murderous intent, consciously working to draw them back in, and back to the ways it thoroughly traumatized them both with sexual violence. Ultimately, they must return to the house and confront it, their own shared trauma there, and the way the house's influence has affected them if they wish to move on in their lives.

Rumfitt walks an extraordinary line with this book, between the emotional experience of trans and queer folk living amidst greater hostility, and the fantastical connection of the house to rising European, and especially British, fascism in not-even-metaphorical, but explicit terms, in the text. It links this to explicitly violent scenes depicting sexual assault and rape that exemplify the horror rather than exploiting it; this book can be a harrowing read, even if it offers notes of hope.

This is not an apolitical work, and its point of view is strongly communicated directly; this will be a positive for many readers but those reading purely for escapism may wish to look elsewhere. While the house is anything but subtle in what it represents, the traditional gore horror elements are sparse but gruesome: the primary horror of the work is the characters navigating the hostile fascist elements of culture The House embrace and promotes, particularly violent homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny.

Rumfitt's depiction of Ila is particularly well nuanced for a character expressing anti-trans sentiment as a reactionary response to sexual violence; the depiction is empathetic even while it condemns the response itself and the community exploiting Ila for political gain. Similarly effective is her use of voice for Alice, who lives in a state of limited affect, dissociating while suffering from the effects of the House's malevolence. The House continues to haunt her in her apartment through supernatural manifestations of the frontman on a poster of a popular band from the past (never explicitly stated, but through context clues heavily implied to be Morrissey of The Smiths). The House itself proves to be a strong character in its own right, drawing on a narrative of hate and aggression that is both supernatural and locally banal in its efforts to bring about its oppressive, violent ideals both in a larger sense to the nation, and upon the book's lead characters.

I cannot recommend this book without reservation, the explicit sexual violence may simply be too much for many readers, including those from the demographic whose experiences of institutional and personal trauma it depicts both literally and figuratively. That said, for those for whom this material isn't beyond the pale, this is an excellent, timely horror novel that strongly depicts the emotional reality of living under the threat of rising cultural violence as members of marginalized populations. It joins a growing slate of queer & trans horror and speculative fiction with three-dimensionally flawed characters that deftly examine these issues from a mix of the personal and metaphorical.

Opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the institution I work for.

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Chilling, enthralling, engrossing! Really enjoyed the book and spending time in the world of the story.

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Where to begin? Has this ever been done before?! I am floored. All of the content warnings for this book.

I could not look away or shake the deeply upsetting images and ideas. You will feel repulsed. You will feel heartbroken. You will feel angry. You will feel sick. You will feel scared. You will feel worried for the main characters, warts and all. You will be haunted. It's sickening and vile, but for a horror story about trauma and fascism, it really needed to be—and god, does it deliver on that. This story feels deeply relevant and personal, especially reading it as a queer person. The writing is gripping, unique, incisive, and fearless. Passages that felt stream-of-consciousness, for lack of a better descriptor, had my eyes darting quickly, chaotically (whereas I am normally a more careful, methodical reader) to keep up with the tidal wave of evil cleverly and putridly rendered. "Tell Me I'm Worthless" left me a certified Alison Rumfitt fan. I can't wait to see what she does next.

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