Mila Flores is just about as outcast as a teenage girl can get: the opposite of popular, she’s Latina, fat, a Goth, a practicing witch, and her only friend lives above a funeral parlour. So when that BFF shows up dead in a suspected suicide pact with her high school’s resident Mean Girls, Mila takes action: by summoning Riley back from the dead… and the other girls, too. By accident.
Undead Girl Gang is Heathers meets The Craft by way of a fabulous and morbid teen voice. Mila is totally awesome: not always likeable, she felt very real to me, with insecurity issues every teen girl can identify with. I felt like Anderson addressed her body issues and the microaggressions that affect her daily as deftly as she did with Mila’s Latinx heritage, including being an unconfident speaker of Spanish. Mila is fat but it’s not a source of shame for her. She owns her fatness and I love her for it. It’s everyone else who is uncomfortable with her size.
I have to admit that the mystery kept me guessing: I couldn’t quite pinpoint who the murderer was, and I even at one point thought maybe Mila had it all wrong and it really was suicide. This is due to the skill of the author who very cleverly wrote beautiful red herrings that honestly at first led me to underestimate the skill involved. I am happy to say that I was wrong! Lily Anderson is a skilful writer and I’m deadly sorry I underestimated her #punintended. It wasn’t predictable at all, although it seemed to be heading in that direction. Anderson really made reading the whole book really pay off.
I really loved how as Mila spent more time with accidental-zombies June and Dayton she actually kinda became friends with them, even though they had been incredibly self-centred in their lives. Dayton was so chirpy and positive, I adored her, and June was feisty and stood up for herself, and most importantly, didn’t hate Mila for liking Xander, whom she dated at one point. I am so sick of girls’ knee-jerk reaction to competition, even for someone they’re not interested in, and I liked seeing June actively encourage Mila to tell Xander how she felt.
It was actually Riley, Mila’s BFF, whom I had the most issues with. While June owned her awfulness, Riley was supposed to be Mila’s best friend, but she was pretty mean and ungrateful to Mila for bringing her back. She didn’t seem to really love Mila the way Mila loved her, and I even had a hard time buying that they were BFF until the very last section of the book. She seemed so angry and snappy all the time. I get it, she died and then was resurrected through powerful and frightening magic, and Mila was confirmed as a powerful witch which was more Riley’s thing, but still. I didn’t really like her and I felt like Mila was kind of blinded to her meanness. Dayton was far sweeter and nicer to Mila than Riley was, and I was supposed to buy that Dayton was a bully? It didn’t quite fit for me.
Overall this book was interesting as hell, with a thoughtful narrative that dwelled on the morbid nature of death, a feisty Latinx goth witch who wouldn’t let herself be shamed for being fat, well-developed relationships between most of the other characters, and a mystery that kept me guessing until the last possible moment. I really recommend you listen to the audiobook read by Rebecca Soler since she inflected her words beautifully when reading as other characters and nailed Mila’s voice.