“Nothing says “fuck off” like eyeliner as dark and heavy as my soul.”
Razorbill | 2018
Opening Hook: Crawling out of your own grave
Main Character: REPRESENT
Plot Witchy-ness: Wiccans do it better
FINALLY! It’s been 84 years… Okay, no it’s only been like four or five, but it’s true! I have FINALLY found a YA novel that I genuinely LOVED.
Thank you, Lily Anderson. It’s been a fucking struggle to get here.
This novel is part murder mystery, part witchy supernatural fun, and part teen drama but with none of the cheesy dialogue or after-school special bullshit that is usually the reason I’ve disliked every YA novel I’ve tried to read.
There’s none of that here. This is mature in the writing, appropriate for teens but not annoying to adults. It has relatable plot points for every reader, with a mystery element that takes the spotlight instead of things like “we held hands once, are we dating now?”
This is a passionate, fun, interesting and original YA story that everyone should be reading. Maybe everyone already has and I’m late to the party, but still, read it!
In the small town of Cross Creek, not much ever happens, until three high school students die by apparent suicides. But when the third girl to die is Mia Flores’ best friend Riley, she just knows it was murder.
Using her Wiccan powers, that she didn’t realize were so powerful, Mia tried to raise Riley from the dead to find out who killed her. But things go a little off the rails. Mia unintentionally raises the other two dead students as well, and they realize the three girls were all murdered by the same person.
Mia has to wrangle three zombies, find a serial killer and still keep up with homework. And the whole thing is fun as hell.
The mystery of who the killer is wasn’t necessarily very deep or shocking, but to the younger side of this book’s audience, it will probably be a good twist. I’m just jaded as hell at this point.
But Lily Anderson has written a book that balanced the young adult genre with dialogue and writing style that was totally readable to me, a curmudgeonly 30-something with high, angry standards.
It’s dark, it’s witty. It’s the right combination of sweet, dramatic and supernatural without seemingly overwrought or silly. A pretty good accomplishment considering we’re dealing with teenage zombies. There are a lot of body-positive, woke moments running throughout the plot that don’t come across as preachy or soap-box delivered. It’s presented as simple truths worked into the dialogue and scenes that hit a natural moment at the right time.
Speaking of woke, the characters are diverse, complex and individually crafted to be distinct from each other – which is you know, is what people are instead of copies of copies of character types you’ve read or seen a million times before.
The girls are not just “teenage girls,” they feel real; all different, all interesting and all bringing something to the story that the others don’t, making the plot fully realized and thoroughly thought-out. Like I’m talking that it’s on par with any of the soft five-star adult novels I’ve read lately.
I have to say too, that the friendship between Riley and Mia is a special aspect of the plot, making the story about more than just zombies and magic and murder, but also about love and connection and grief during one of the weirder times of the human life cycle.
Honestly, being a teenager fucking sucks, but the friendships you can develop are unlike anything else you experience in life. Making friends as an adult is certainly different and doesn’t exist in the same isolated bubble that a teenage friendship does. And remaining friends with people from high school to adulthood changes the dynamic completely.
The special quality of those friendships at that moment in time was perfectly captured here, giving it a little something extra that resonated with my cold, unfeeling heart.
If you want to read a spooky YA novel that won’t make you roll your eyes like I tend to do when reading YA, then this is the book you need in your life. It’s literally got everything, from zombie girls to boy troubles, representation and twisty twists. What more could you need?
Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.
So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.
Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.