Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson and The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu
This is a story of two books. Of making bad decisions with good intentions and having to deal with the consequences. Of how two authors have written about girls in a way that is embracing, empowering, and ever so topical.
In Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, a 2018 book following Mila Flores, an amateur witch whose beloved best friend Riley recently died under suspicious circumstances—although everybody seems to think was suicide just like the recent deaths of two other girls, June and Dayton. Mila is 100% convinced that this is not, cannot true. Heartbroken and lonely, Mila decides (against the advice of an old, most experienced Wiccan) to bring Riley temporarily back to life so she can find out the truth. But she didn’t expect 1) the spell to actually work, 2) that June and Dayton would also come back to life and 3) that none of the girls can actually remember what happened to them. Convinced they have all been murdered, the quartet start their investigation—and they only have one week before the girls need to go back to their graves.
In The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu, a 2019 book that came out this week, about twin sisters Iris and Lark—their sisterhood, their closeness and the things they do to take care of each other. Iris is often the more down to Earth sister, the rational one, the one who makes sure Lark, the one who is brilliant and dreamy, is always ok. But now the sisters have been separated for the first time at school and while Lark struggles with a teacher who doesn’t understand her, Iris finds herself lost and unable to pin herself down so easily. In the meantime, objects disappear mysteriously, a magic shop opens in their town and its owner has his eyes on Iris—and then there are the crows and they observe.
There are plenty of differences between the two books. One is a YA novel, the other Middle Grade. One is firmly more on the comedic, light side, the other is more gentle, and poignant. Despite these differences, both books feature grief and change and how having to deal with those affect the protagonists. Without being able to care for Lark, Iris spirals into not being able to care for herself. Mila’s grief and sense of loss is so intense, she is unable to assess real dangers until it's almost too late. Both books also disguise a darkness that lie in wait and they don’t shy away from that. In Undead Girl Gang, three of the protagonists are young girls who are actually dead. Possibly murdered (and the culprit was a shocking, dark surprise that in many ways deals with toxic masculinity too). In The Lost Girl, I love that the “lost girl” of the title can be interpreted in many ways just as I loved how the author never shied from how magic has a high cost. Both books advocate looking past the surface to what’s underneath and truly listening to what girls say.
One of the things that I loved the most about these books though is the support system the main characters have.
In Undead Girl Gang, Mila starts out mistrusting and judging June and Dayton for how they presented themselves to the world. The two girls do also have a past in bullying—and show repentance—but the group works together beautifully and they end up supporting, trusting, and loving each other.
In The Lost Girl, Iris has her pod at school—a group of kids who study together and who support each other in hilarious and heart-warming ways—and the after school club Camp Awesome which is a group of girls who get together at library and discuss everything from the patriarchy to superheroines. I can’t stress enough how cool those scenes are. And then both groups are essential in helping Iris helping Lark and eventually, herself.
This is a story of two books. And how I utterly fell in love with both of them and the girls they feature.
In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10 for both.