Title: Undead Girl Gang
Author: Lily Anderson
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Horror
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now
Summary: Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.
So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.
Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.
Review: This book includes suicide, murder, graphic descriptions of dead bodies, and lots of body horror.
Lily Anderson’s latest novel, Undead Girl Gang, is fantastic. Mila Flores is an angry, fat, Mexican-American witch, and her snarky first-person narration is a perfect fit for a story that strongly centers grief and rage and loneliness. She is a complicated, compelling character, from her desperation to bring Riley back to her short temper with Aniyah to her rebellion against her witchy mentor to her romantic feelings for Xander. Mila is determined to bring her best friend back and uncover the truth of her death, and I will always be happy with female friendships where one party will defy the laws of nature for the other.
Of course, that means that I very much enjoyed the relationship that built up between Mila and Riley and the two other dead girls, June and Dayton. Mila and Riley were not friends with them to start (and had several good reasons not to be), so watching them cobble together something that approached friendly was rather enjoyable. The dynamics in the quartet were the highlight of the book for me, especially when they take the time to acknowledge the people they miss and just how unfair their deaths were.
But perhaps the thing I appreciated most about the four girls was that Mila was able to acknowledge the terrible things June and Dayton had done while simultaneously refusing to victim-blame them for their deaths. Refusing to victim-blame isn’t the only stand Mila takes throughout the book. She makes some great commentary about colonialism, racism, and fat shaming, and she even takes a few jabs at tropes such as Not Like Other Girls. It was refreshing how bluntly Mila called these things out—and how explicitly she rejects certain ideas in the climax of the novel. (I don’t want to say anything else about that, but trust me, it was amazing.)
The mystery behind the girls’ deaths was interesting, but more important than the twist was the paradigm shift it caused for Mila. For all Undead Girl Gang is billed as a horror/mystery, its heart is Mila and how she chooses to cope with an unfair, painful world versus how the villain does.
Recommendation: Buy it now if you aren’t squeamish about body horror. Undead Girl Gang features an unapologetically angry, fat protagonist, and Mila’s voice is refreshingly snarky and raw. While the mystery is solid, Mila’s emotional story arc is the true star of the show.