“Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?”
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel — only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her.
Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing…
Obsessed with figuring out what’s going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery’s grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when white and Black people were kept separate in life — and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town’s past, they become determined to restore Avery’s grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there.
But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that’s not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever — no matter what the cost.
- Title: The Forgotten Girl
- Author: India Hill Brown
- Cover Artist: Maeve Norton, design
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- ISBN: 1338317245
- Publication Date: November 5, 2019
- For Ages: 8-12
- Category: Middle Grade
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.
The Forgotten Girl is an eerie, melancholy, and ultimately hopeful story about family, forgiveness, and rectifying the sins of the past. The title takes on a dual meaning as the narrative progresses. Iris Rose is a bright, fearless young girl who feels forgotten by nearly everyone in her life: her parents pay more attention to her younger sister Vashti and make Iris feel left out of family life, and her school — where Iris is one of the few Black students — frequently “forgets” to include her in activities and awards ceremonies where she is supposed to be honored. When playing in the woods behind her house with her best friend Daniel, she stumbles across the grave of another forgotten girl: Avery Moore, a Black girl who died at about Iris’s age whose final resting place is a segregated graveyard that has fallen into disrepair and been all but erased from the community’s history.
Driven by her empathy for Avery and her desire to bring justice to the people buried in the forgotten graveyard, Iris begins investigating Avery’s history to try to get the community involved in restoring the burial site. She learns quite a bit about the racist past of her North Carolina hometown…a past that seeps into her present, as she deals with demeaning treatment from her school and from her classmates. Encouraged by her family and friends to keep her head up and focus on her goals of being the best student and best step team captain she can be, Iris perseveres. However, she soon starts receiving nightly visits from Avery’s ghost, who asks Iris to help people remember her. Though Avery initially seems like a friend, her lonely, frustrated spirit becomes more menacing, and Iris must figure out how to help Avery find peace to save herself and her family from danger.
The Forgotten Girl is a chilling ghost story that emphasizes the importance of love. Iris works hard to show her love for her friends, her family, and her community. She shouldn’t have to struggle like she does to win recognition from her school and her classmates for her academic and extracurricular efforts, but she learns that she’s never alone and that more people support and believe her than she realizes. This ghostly middle grade novel features a beautiful portrait of family love and ends on a hopeful, inspirational note. Its sensitive but matter-of-fact handling of painful issues will resonate with young readers and show them that acknowledging and rectifying our country’s sins is the only way to move forward.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.