In a bleak tale, simply and eloquently told, five girls form a Vancouver street gang.
Tired of turning tricks for the Vipers, teenage Mac decides to start the Black Roses and recruits her friend Mercy. Three more join them: Kayos, a rich girl famous in their elementary school for “[a]lways beating the shit out of people for no reason,” Sly Girl, a 13-year-old who has been clean for six weeks but knows her way around the drug scene, and Z, a graffiti artist ostracized by her family as much for her sexual orientation as for preferring street art over a traditional career path. Together, the Black Roses become a family of sorts, looking out for each other as they sell drugs, steal cars, defend their territory and cover their mistakes. Brutal acts committed both against and by the gang are described in graphic sensory detail—most intensely in a scene in which the girls kidnap and torture two boys who have sexually assaulted one of their crew. Each girl narrates a share of the short chapters in her own distinct voice (Z’s is especially idiosyncratic, a sort of Joycean textspeak), and a few chapters are told in the lyrical, evocative voice of Vancouver itself. The result is a tight, grim portrait with deep empathy for characters capable of horrific deeds.
Both gripping and moving, for those who can stomach the violence. (Fiction. 15-18)