Synopses & Reviews
Winner, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes)
Longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award
A sharp and gritty novel told in multiple voices, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is the powerful story of a gang of teenage girls in Vancouver called the Black Roses, a.k.a. "the citys worst nightmare": Mac, the self-appointed leader and mastermind; Mercy, the Punjabi princess with a skill for theft; Kayos, a high-school dropout who gave birth to a daughter at age thirteen; Sly Girl, who fled her First Nations reserve for a better life, only to find depravity and addiction; and Z, a sixteen-year-old graffiti artist.
Cast out by mainstream society, the Black Roses rob ATMs, cook crack on stoves, and savagely beat down anyone who dares to harm them. Brutal and broken, they claw at the knot of darkness and violence that tightens around their lives.
Told in stark, vivid, and fearless prose, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is an unflinching story about lost girls struggling for power, voice, and hope.
Ashley Little is author of Prick: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist and the YA novel The New Normal. She lives in British Columbia.
"In Vancouver's rough Downtown Eastside, a group of underprivileged teenage girls seek security and protection. Little (The New Normal) alternates among their voices as well as that of the city itself in potent, vignette-like chapters, some of which are as short as a single sentence. Having quit the Vipers after realizing the gang 'didn't give a solid fuck about us,' intense 17-year-old Mac starts the Black Roses, an all-female gang of 'bad bitches.' She recruits Mercy, an orphan and dropout; Kayos, a sexual abuse victim whose anger smolders just below the surface; Sly Girl, an ex-addict from 'the rez' with scars from being shot in the face; and Z, a Chinese graffiti artist. They sign on to share a home, steal, deal drugs, and abide by a shared code of conduct in hopes of keeping their pasts at bay and building a future. A romance between Mac and Z, a shooting, a fatal accident, and a robbery fuel jealousy and complicate their plans. While the demise of their operation is perhaps inevitable, the girls' journey is deeply felt and often shocking in its brutality. Ages 14 up. (May) Going Over Beth Kephart Chronicle, $17.99 (264p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2457-5 Kephart (Small Damages) crafts an absorbing story of young love and conflicting ideologies set in 1983 Berlin. Ada, 15, lives an impoverished life in West Berlin with her mother and grandmother, while 18-year-old Stefan who Ada has loved for years lives with his grandmother in dull Friedrichshain on the other side of the wall. The plot shifts between Ada's life, which includes 'graffing' scenes of heroic escapes on the Wall itself and visiting Stefan when she can, and Stefan's dissatisfied days spent working as a plumber's apprentice while developing tentative plans to attempt to overcome the wall, despite the potentially fatal consequences. Kephart alternates between the two teenagers' voices, with Stefan's voice written in second-person; deeply held desires for freedom and escape, both physical and artistic, radiate from each narrative. A subplot involving a Turkish boy in need of help gives the novel additional depth, and the sharpness of the lovers' separation is as deeply felt as the worry that they will never reunite. Ages 14 up. Agent: Amy Rennert, the Amy Rennert Agency. (Apr.) Lies My Girlfriend Told Me Julie Anne Peters Little, Brown, $18 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-23497-9 After Alix's track star girlfriend, Swanee, drops dead of sudden cardiac arrest, the high school junior is devastated. When a mysterious girl keeps texting Swanee's phone, unaware she has died, Alix learns she was not the only girlfriend Swanee left behind. Once Alix starts spending time with beautiful and grounded Liana, her father worries that it is a rebound, but Alix becomes convinced they were 'always meant to find each other.' This book tenderly explores themes of loss and forgiveness, but Peters's descriptions of Swanee as uncaring and possessive (after Alix's baby brother nearly chokes to death, Swanee immediately wants to 'pick up where we left off' making out) make it difficult to understand why Alix or levelheaded Liana would be so devoted to her. Supporting characters, such as Swanee's troubled younger sister, can come off as contrived, but the two central protagonists have believable chemistry, and Peters (It's Our Prom ) capably addresses teen LGBT relationships without making them the story's sole preoccupation. Ages 15 up. Agent: Wendy Schmalz, the Wendy Schmalz Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Both gripping and moving, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is a tight, grim portrait with deep empathy for characters capable of horrific deeds." Kirkus Reviews
"Relentlessly gritty and in your face, this novel makes some urban lit look like just bling." Library Journal
"It seems destined to shock and thrill younger readers - think Go Ask Alice minus the moralizing. The plot moves at top speed, much like the characters themselves: running headlong into the night, propelled by the certainty that everything will fall apart if you stop too long to think." Lambda Literary
"Ashley Little's book grabs you by the larynx and does not let go. Reading, no, listening to these girls' voices is like being that nurse or paramedic on the scene without any defibrillator or oxygen. Sly Girl takes your breath away; Mercy makes you want to go on a five-finger discount walk with her; Z and Mac kiss graf across the city; and Kayos kicks ass against anyone who goes against her Black Roses. And in the voice of the city, Vancouver, takes these precious gang girls into her arms and, we hope, loves them back to themselves, to where they need to be: whole and in bloom." Cathleen With, author of skids and Having Faith in the Polar Girls' Prison
"Ashley Littles novel Anatomy of a Girl Gang is so fierce and raw and compelling that you wont want to put the book down until you know exactly what becomes of the Black Roses ... A thrilling and frightening, fast-paced read."
A vivid, intense novel told in multiple voices about five members of a teenage girl gang.
A sharp and gritty novel about a gang of teenaged girls called the Black Roses: Mac, the self-appointed leader and mastermind; Mercy, the Punjabi princess with a skill for theft; Kayos, a high-school dropout and young mother; Sly Girl, who fled her Native reserve for a better life; and Z, a sixteen-year-old graffiti artist.
Told in stark, vivid, and fearless prose, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is a narrative punch to the throat: an unflinching story about lost girls struggling for power, voice, and hope.
Ashley Little is author of the YA novel The New Normal (Orca Books).
About the Author
Ashley Little studied creative writing at the University of Victoria. Her debut novel, Prick: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist
(Tightrope Books) was shortlisted for a ReLit Award and has been optioned for a film, for which she is writing the screenplay. She is also the author of the YA novel The New Normal
(Orca Book Publishers).