Cover Undead Girl Gang: Denim jacket pocket with enamel pins of a zombie and human hand pinky swearing

About the Book

Title: Undead Girl Gang
Published: 2018
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Pin Me
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: We Are the Weirdos, Mister
Bonus Factors: Witches, Morticians
Anti-Bonus Factor: Mushrooms
Relationship Status: Coven Co-Founder

Cover Story: Pin Me

How much do I love this cover? The denim jacket and the enamel pins are a stroke of absolute genius—eye-catching, timely (the book came out in 2018, but enamel pins will never die, if you ask me, An Old), and so much fun. It screams “horror, but make it fashion.” All we need is Tim Gunn nodding sagely in the background. Sagely. Witches. Get it? I’m sorry.

I like the body positive rep on the paperback cover, too—but since I prefer to imagine the characters myself, the hardcover is my favorite.

The Deal:

Mila Flores’ best friend is dead, the latest in a rash of Cross Creek suicides by some of the best and the brightest among them. The other two victims, June and Dayton, were popular girls (popular mean girls, natch) in what appeared to be a double suicide. But Mila knows her BFF Riley had no reason or desire to kill herself—which means June and Dayton might be victims, too.

Mila is sullen, fat (not curvy, not plus-size, not fluffy—fat. Please use her preferred and factual terminology), Latina, and Wiccan, and the latter attribute is the only power she feels she has against a rich white world that just took her best friend away. Armed with a mysterious new spell book and her best crystals, she decides that to catch a killer, she’s got to bring Riley back from the dead.

It turns out that magic is real and you really can bring someone back. There are just three problems: she brought back Riley and June and Dayton, they only have seven days before the girls return to the grave, oh, and no one remembers a damn thing.


BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

If you were ever a surly teen, you’ll see yourself in Mila—she’s the classic outcast who protects herself with her sharp tongue, never letting anyone (except Riley) get too close. But now Riley is dead, and that makes her even more vulnerable. Most of me wants to hug her, hand her my favorite labradorite (but I want it back, and no summoning the dead, please), and tell her how much better it gets after high school—the things that make her an outcast now will make her unbearably cool in others’ eyes later. The rest of me wishes we could have been pals when I was an actual teen, because she’s tough and she’s smart and we both could have used more female friends.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Mila has a crush on Riley’s older brother Xander, who is the stuff teenage dreams are made of: handsome, smart and friendly. Also totally off-limits, what with that whole “best friend’s brother” thing as well as the “formerly dating June” one. Still, a girl can dream—and mourn together—and when Xander starts hinting that maybe they could be more than friends, it starts to get hot in here. The romance isn’t the main focus of the book, but it’s a sexy distraction when it happens.

Talky Talk: We Are the Weirdos, Mister

I’ve loved Lily Anderson’s voice since her debut, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You. She’s got a cutting wit that belies a big, tender heart, and some of the offhand dialogue in the book made me chortle out loud. Sometimes “edgy” characters can seem obnoxious and like the author is trying too hard to relate to The Teens. Anderson is brilliant at making her characters realistically obnoxious, terrifying teenagers (I say this having been one myself), but you can’t help but root for them.

She’s also skillful at peeling back the layers of a character’s personality. One of my favorite tropes in YA and middle grade fiction is “mean girls with hidden depths,” because people are so rarely one-note. I love getting to know their specific codes of honor and watching people from different cliques connect: June and Dayton’s full personalities are revealed over the course of the book, but so is Mila’s. By the time you finish the book, you’ll be invested in all of the main characters, but especially June, Dayton and Riley, who were way too young to die.

As for the mystery itself, of course I cared who did it—but that was overshadowed by my love for the girls and wanting to change the rules of the universe on their behalf.

Bonus Factor: Witches

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really love witches as a metaphor for young women grasping for control over their environment. I also love it because of the recent popular trend toward spirituality, and the idea that maybe we can trust science and believe in something bigger than what we can empirically observe. That’s not to say I think witchcraft is a pop culture trend in and of itself, but astrology, tarot and the occult have been undeniably more popular in the last 4-5 years. Also, crystals and plants and personal power. Who can argue with that?

Bonus Factor: Morticians

An ornate black coffin

Riley and Xander’s parents are morticians. Morticians! I mean, they’re kind of awful—they wouldn’t let Riley be buried with her favorite rose quartz necklace because they think it’s unchristian and possibly satanic—but this is pretty much my favorite occupation for YA parents ever. If you can’t handle the idea of stuffing bodies with gauze to prevent leakage, this might not be the book for you, but it’s not really described in great detail. Death is simply a fact of life for the Greenways.

(I think my single nitpicky critique here might be that I’m pretty sure most bodies’ lips are sewn shut, but none of the girls seemed to have a problem with that. It doesn’t affect the story, it just means that I read too much of Caitlin Doughty’s Twitter feed and books. June would say that this is because I’m a Scorpio.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Mushrooms

Various mushrooms

Dammit, Lily Anderson, why did you ruin a favorite food for me? Why?

Relationship Status: Coven Co-Founder

Book, I knew I was going to love you from the moment I saw your announcement, but our date was even better than I expected. You hit just the right balance between witty and sweet, painfully dark and hilariously light-hearted, with a good dose of swoon and whodunnit to tie it all together. Let’s make it official by starting our own coven. First order of business: petitioning the universe to bring me more Lily Anderson books.

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought a copy with my own damn money, so no one bribed me with stabby unicorns and crystals to love this book. Also, I am a literary agent, but Lily Anderson is not my client.