We all love a bad girl. It's a culturally ingrained fact — from Madonna, who's made a career of being a sexy and self-assured asshole, all the way back to Juliet, who defies her family for the dude she met a hot minute ago. The bad girl of today, however, is undergoing a renaissance; she's the liberated smart-girl with a rebellious streak. Exemplified in the wild success of Jenji Kohan's Orange Is the New Black, the new-age femme fatale is whip smart, relying less on her sexual wiles and more on her own wits to get what she wants.
Ashley Little's second novel, Anatomy of a Girl Gang, takes this present-day bad girl and puts her in the streets. The novel follows a group of five teenaged delinquents who start an all-girl gang on the rough side of Vancouver. Little's narrative often travels at a break neck — almost Dan Brown–inspired — speed, detailing the gang's successes as they build their empire and the dangers that come from being a straight-up G.
Little evokes the gangster culture seamlessly in her prose (with a very handy glossary in the back for us less street-wise readers), adopting each girl's unique voice in eponymous named chapters. Vancouver itself takes the role of the omnipotent narrator, chiming in with its own poetic and cryptic observations as the girls, naming themselves The Black Roses, take the streets.
It's a thrilling read, but the pacing screeches to a halt a few times throughout. Unless u r @ble 2 reed di@l0g lyk di$ e@$1lee, a handful of the chapters will make you feel like you're deciphering a code rather than reading a book.
Little credits her inspiration to Romeo and Juliet; from Vancouver acting as the chorus, down to the star-crossed lovers — except, twist, they're lesbians. But Shakespeare's play was never really about impossible love, despite what years of high school English teach us. It's about teenagers behaving impulsively and the consequences that come from doing whatever the hell you want. Anatomy of a Girl Gang paints an almost-perfect picture of a group of girls doing what feels good — and the bloody aftermath that follows.