KidLit Book Review: The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu


Synopsis

When you’re an identical twinyour story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark.

Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant — and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both.

Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace.

As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.


Details

  • Title: The Lost Girl
  • Author: Anne Ursu
  • Illustrator: Erin McGuire
  • Cover Artists: Sarah Kaufmann, design; Erin McGuire, illustration
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press
  • ISBN: 0062275097
  • Publication Date: February 12, 2019
  • For Ages: 8-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.

I’d like to thank Walden Pond Press for providing an advance copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.


Review

Spoiler Alert: I don’t typically do this in my reviews, but there will be some spoiler-y discussion, so please proceed with caution. (The spoilers are in the middle two paragraphs, if you want to skip those parts.) I’m also going to veer into political discussion a bit. If I lose followers, so be it. Thank you for your support up until this point.

More than any other book I’ve read, The Lost Girl defends the middle grade girl as a person to be valued, respected, and taken seriously. The novel posits that every young woman needs a girl gang of her own, a group of friends and fellow warriors to lift each other up and prove to the world (and themselves) that girls are a force to be reckoned with. Everybody needs to read this book: adults who dismiss girls for being insubstantial or overly emotional; boys who think girls are weak or silly; women who need to be reminded of what they were, what they could have been, and what they can still be; and above all, young girls who will see themselves in these pages and know that they are worthy, they are capable, and they are filled with magic that can do amazing things when they work together.

There are times when this dark fairy tale feels like a howl of rage, directed at a society that wants to make sure its damsels stay in distress. Though I think it will age well, this book is very timely: the villain of the piece is revealed to bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain world leader. He has a vast collection of the world’s rarest and most valuable objects, but he doesn’t appreciate their true value; he simply acquires them as status symbols to prove to the world that he is an important person of wealth and class. He doesn’t believe in science and he uses up finite resources without any consideration for the future or the needs of other people; even certain pompous verbal mannerisms call to mind this Individual.

In the most frightening parts of the book, the villain abuses girls and treats them like property. Young girls will relate to this allegory all too well, since they are growing up in a society that sends misogynistic messages through its popular culture and elected leaders. The characters are hardly damsels waiting for someone to come rescue them, though. They are sisters, superheroes, and girl gang warriors, and they save the day. They save themselves, and they show the girls reading the story that they can save themselves as well.

Anne Ursu sees the truth beneath the surface of the world. Her words are lyrical and poetic; when you read a particularly beautiful passage, you want to linger on it, holding the words in your mouth to savor the taste and the texture. Since nearly every other paragraph had a passage like that, it took me quite a while to finish the book, but it was worth every second. The Lost Girl belongs on every bookshelf — it is a compelling mystery, a beautiful ode to sisterhood and friendship, and a heartbreaking exploration of finding yourself when you didn’t even realize you were lost.


Rating

Truly spectacular. I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.

5 Coffins


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