The Undead Girl Gang
By Lily Anderson
ARC e-book, 320 pages
ISBN: 9780451478238 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: May 8
Thank you to Penguin for a free copy in exchange for my honest review.
Mila’s best friend is dead and the whole town thinks it was suicide, but Mila knows better. Riley would never kill herself and Mila is determined to figure out what happened, even if everyone she knows thinks she’s crazy. After a spell gone wrong, Mila raises not only Riley, but two other recently deceased students, June and Dayton. Unfortunately for Mila and Riley, they find themselves linked to their two long-time bullies. None of the zombie girls recall their murders and Mila must hide them from the rest of the town while working more unfamiliar magic to find out what really happened.
I was wary going into this book, because it’s YA and historically, when I get excited about YA, I tend to find myself let down. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with Undead Girl Gang – this is a gem!
Set in Cali, this story follows Mila, a large and in charge witch who’s just lost her best friend and had her world turned upside down. The police have declared Riley’s death a suicide, but Mila knows her friend wouldn’t have thrown herself in a river and ended her life. Isolated from her classmates, her parents and even her younger sisters, Mila is not coping with her loss. When she visits the old house she and Riley used to hide out in to practice their spells, a package with an old book of spells arrives. Desperate to be with her friend once more, Mila performs a spell said to raise the dead for seven days.
What ensues is a realistic (well, I use that term loosely) look at what might happen if a teenage girl raised her best friend and two class bullies from the dead.
Anderson put her own spin on zombies. Riley, June and Dayton come out of their graves looking like they did when they were buried and while they remember most things, the last several weeks of their lives are hazy. But rather than lust for brains, the girls are ready to devour burgers, pizza and Gatorade. They can’t feel pain and they don’t need to breathe or sleep. They also discover they can’t go more than about 100 paces from Mila, or they start to revert to their disgusting, decomposed states.
Mila finds herself playing babysitter to a trio of unhappy, undead girls. Bringing her best friend back to life wasn’t at all what she imagined and she finds herself more distant from Riley than ever. But Mila is tough and she’s not one to give up on her friend, even if her friend doesn’t seem to care who murdered her. Mila was very likable. She’s sassy, foul-mouthed, and vulnerable. I was rooting for her the whole time, even when she was being a brat.
This was a fun book with an unexpected amount of emotion and growth, especially when three of the characters are the living dead. Rather than be relegated to bullying bitches who do nothing but hinder Mila and Riley, June and Dayton have their own character arcs and were incredibly likable (eventually). All the teens in this book felt like real teens. No one was perfect, there were no love triangles, and they even needed adults now and then.
I also experienced a bit of nostalgia when Mila mentions a book by Silver Ravenwolf. I had several of her books during my brief sojourn into Wicca. Overall, I thought Anderson handled religion well, giving different characters a chance to talk about their beliefs without anything feeling heavy-handed.
Shout out to Mila for describing the smell of cat food as “dumpster custard.” That made me laugh.
My only big issue was during a scene where the girls go to their local Walmart to steal clothes. Granted, it’s after midnight and I’m sure the store was pretty dead (no pun intended!) but at one point, one of the girls screams. When I read the word scream, I imagine something loud and frantic. I know that maybe those nightshift Walmart workers might not care about their jobs, but I felt like someone from the store should have come running. Instead, the girls leave without notice. That was the only big moment that pulled me out of the story. Then again, it could be accurate – I’ve never been to a Walmart after midnight.
The ending was a little weak, but I don’t want to go into detail in order to avoid spoilers. While it could have been stronger or better justified, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story.
If you’re a fan of zombies and witchcraft and a feisty main character with a good sense of humor, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I didn’t think it was incredibly graphic either, if you’re worried about that. There are a few gross scenes, but as I mentioned, there’s no brain eating or limb tearing or anything that you’d see from your standard zombies. I recommend this one and I hope Anderson puts out more paranormal/urban fantasy books in the future!