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Cover of Dora: A Headcase

Lidia Yuknavitch

Dora: A Headcase

  • Introduction by Chuck Palahniuk
  • fiction
  • ISBN 978-0-9834775-7-0

Ida needs a shrink; or so her philandering father thinks, and he sends her to a Seattle psychiatrist. Immediately wise to the head games of her new shrink, who she nicknames Siggy or Sig, Ida begins a coming-of-age journey. At the beginning of her therapy Ida, whose alter ego is Dora, and her small posse of pals—Little Teena, Ave Maria, and Obsidian—engage in what they call “art attacks” for teen fun and mayhem. Ida has a secret: she is in love with Obsidian. What’s more, whenever she gets close to intimacy or the crisis of deep emotions, Ida faints or loses her voice. Ida and her friends hatch a plan to secretly record and film Siggy and Ida intends to make an experimental art film in which he figures. Sig becomes the target of her teen rage and angst, but something goes terribly wrong at a crucial moment of filming Siggy at a nearby hospital when Ida finds her father in the emergency room having suffered an acute heart attack. Ida loses her voice and experiences more trauma—a rough cut of her experimental film has gone underground viral and unethical media agents are trying to hunt her down to buy the material. A chase ensues in which everyone wants what Ida’s got.

Dora: A Headcaseis a contemporary coming-of-age story based on Freud’s famous case study—retold and revamped through Dora’s point of view, with shotgun blasts of dark humor and sexual play. It’s a ballsy book. Some have called it the femaleFight Club.



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Praise for Dora: A Headcase

Hold a basketball under water, take your hand away, and it’ll surface with the powerhouse force of the suppressed. Welcome to Lidia Yuknavitch’s world. In Dora: A Headcase, Yuknavitch re-imagines the girl, the woman, at the heart of Sigmund Freud’s breakthrough case study and unleashes this character’s fury against a backdrop of hypocritical adulthood. Yuknavitch is talking back to a hundred years, to the founding of psychoanalysis. I’d like to think she wrote parts of this novel just for me, but so many readers will feel that way. Yuknavitch has wrestled with the force of her own convictions and given a powerful voice to a bad-ass character born on the literary landscape.

Monica Drake
Author of Clown Girl

Dora is too much for Sigmund Freud but she’s just right for us – raunchy, sharp and so funny it hurts.

Katherine Dunn
Author of Geek Love

In these times there’s no reason for a novel to exist unless it’s dangerous, provocative and not like anything that’s come before. Dora: A Headcase is that kind of novel. It’s dirty, sexy, rude, smart, soulful, fresh and risky. Think of your favorite out-there genius writer; multiply by ten, add a big heart, a poet’s ear, and a bad girl’s courage, and you’ve got Lidia Yuknavitch.

Karen Karbo
Author of How Georgia Became O'Keeffe

Dora: A Headcase is first and foremost an irreverent portrait of a smart seventeen year old trying to survive. It channels Sigmund Freud and his young patient Dora and is both a hilarious critique and an oddly touching homage. With an unerring ear and a very keen eye, Lidia Yuknavitch casts a very special slant of light on our centuries and our lives. Put simply, the book is needed.

Carole Maso
Author of Defiance and The Art Lover

Snappy and fun. I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t met a character quite l like Ida before.

Blake Nelson
Author of Girl and Paranoid Park

In Dora, [Yuknavitch] takes the most classic model of Thera-tainment, personal-crisis-as-content, and she re-imagines it wonderfully reversed. The world of Dora is not just possible, it’s inevitable. It’s revenge as the ultimate therapy.

Chuck Palahniuk
(from the introduction), author of Damned

When about to plummet to our deaths or fly we speak in a language all our own. Dora: A Headcase is a feminist retelling of Freud’s famous case study Dora. But the novel constantly transcends this conceit in beautiful and surprising ways. Sure there’s literary discourse and feminist asides, feats of craft and vision, but in the end Yuknavitch drives narrative the way rednecks drive muscle cars. Right across your lawn without respect to boundaries. If Ida is a little scary to some readers, it’s only because we’ve forgotten that nothing is scarier than a teenage girl. They whisper things we don’t want to hear – that sometimes cutting is an act of freedom, like meditating without sleep, or starving yourself for the parallel bars. Also, that it’s damn hard to do the right thing when you’re in a dangerous conversation with the universe, one meant for god’s ears alone.

As someone whose teen years were hellish, I was floored by the softness and raw sorrow in Ida’s voice, which Yuknavitch braided in with the anger. It felt more real, more like the girls I knew and was, than any other coming of age narrator. Put simply, Yuknavitch has written the best portrait of teen girlhood I have ever read. I loved this book – it’s like a smart, fast chick Fight Club. In twenty years, I hope to wake up in a world where Dora: A Headcase has replaced Catcher in the Rye on high school reading lists for the alienated. I’m pretty sure that world would be a better one.

Vanessa Veselka
Author of Zazen

Ida’s narration is a blast of obscenity-laden adolescent sarcasm (“there is this gigantoid mahogany man-desk,” she says of Freud’s office. “Can we say over-compensating?”). It’s a convincing voice…

Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

It’s a bildungsroman, but this is no Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Judith Pullman, Art Watch

The sustained voice of Ida is a narrative tour de force. It’s angry, lonely, stomach-churningly ugly, and rings unwaveringly, perfectly true. But it takes a talented writer to make that kind of story palatable, much less amazing. Lidia Yuknavitch is that writer.

Joseph Thompson, ForeWord Reviews

Dora: A Headcase is a book for us—we lovelorn and clit-throbbing, we the bullied and bruised, we who kiss a picture of Kim Deal with our cherry lipgloss mouths, we, the punkettes with yellow caution tape wrapped around our wrists, our Rorschach blood spilling, we, the beautiful, the howling, the cuntgushing.

Tasha Matsumoto, Quarterly West

Dora: A Headcase takes a page from Chuck Palahniuk…-4 boob rating DAMN GOOD

Shannon Carlin, Bust

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Clearly, Yuknavitch possesses a great well of empathy for misfits and a great passion for radical art. This has resulted in an enthusiastic, sometimes vexing novel that nevertheless will win over even the grumpiest lefty.

Eugenia Williamson, The Boston Globe

It’s a kind of fairy tale where history is given an opportunity to be set right, not unlike Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Paul Constant, The Stranger

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“I want to create new girl myths,” Yuknavitch said of the book. It’s about damn time someone did.

Emily Temple, Flavorwire

Dr. Freud silenced Dora and stole her narrative. Yuknavitch brings her back her back to life. The plot zooms along like a roller coaster. But it doesn’t make you roller coaster upchuck sick because the tale is satisfying. It’s satisfying in a satirical, farcical, fuckoffical kind of way. Totally bloody amazing. On par with Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

Lidia Yuknavitch’s Dora: A Headcase is a fight for our time. Read it.

Renée E. D'Aoust, The Collagist

Like Salinger’s Holden and Chbosky’s Charlie and de la Pena’s Sticky Boy and Green / Levithan’s Will Graysons, Yuknavitch has written a frightfully insightful voice of youth, mimicking the language of our texters and status-updaters but with an angst and propensity for violence so explosive it puts Holden to shame.

J.A. Tyler, The Rumpus

Simply stated: She is important. Read. Her. Now.

Margaret Elysia Garcia, The Plumas Weekly

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I want to create new girl myths,” Yuknavitch said of the book. We think everyone should read them.

Emily Temple, Flavorwire

A Declaration: Lidia Yuknavitch has done more for “the body as art form” than anyone in recent memory. Read Dora, and if you haven’t already, read The Chronology of Water.

Sara Habein,Persephone Magazine

My first reaction upon finishing the book: if this had been published by one of the Big Three publishers such as Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and the publisher of Ellen Hopkin’s wildly popular YA novels Crank (2004) Glass (2007, ETC.) it could have easily have become a runaway bestseller, describable as a contemporary female version of The Catcher in the Rye (1951). And as I will explain, I can imagine the movie adaptation being similarly popular…For me, the narrator’s voice marks the greatest strengths of the book…And perhaps most importantly, it offers a much needed female counterpoint to the dominant masculine identity connected with teenage rebellion and dissatisfaction…With linear storytelling so conventionally rendered, it reads like a treatment for a screenplay. A scene begins, builds, and ends.

Christopher Higgs, American Book Review

An irreverent remake of a renowned case, the new novel Dora: a Headcase delivers a gritty take on girlhood. [Dora’s] at war with the conventional girl script—not unlike Yuknavitch herself.

Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones

Yuknavitch has emerged as a trailblazing literary voice that spans genres and dives deep into themes of gender, sexuality, art, violence, and transcendence. Her work is a refreshing alternative to the hero’s journey, offering instead what she calls the “misfit’s journey.”

Suleika Jaouad, Lenny