Originally posted to Dark Lady Reviews on September 9, 2012
Characters: **** (4 Stars)
Character Development: *** (3 Stars)
Plot: **** (3 Stars)
Writing: ***** (5 Stars)
Overall: ***** (4 Stars)
I found this book in the library by my old high school, when I was looking for a book by the same author I’d read as an early teenager; a book called Blue Girl which had punks and faeries and ghosts and just the sort of angst I had been into as a thirteen year old. Blue Girl wasn’t there, but Little [Grrl] Lost caught my eye with it’s painfully lame title and similar cover to the De Lint book I had been looking for. Sometimes self-indulgent teenage fiction is just the balm for the woes of a self-indulgent twenty-something, so I checked out Little [Grrl] Lost, with its shiny cover and outdated slang, and sat on the porch pretending to be a gothy freshman once more.
Charles De Lint can do a lot of things, and he does them well. I like his stories influenced by folklore, I like his urban fantasy, and I must say that his Young Adult fiction is pretty good too. Yes, Little [Grrl] Lost quickly became behind the times as far as teenagers and their interests are concerned, but when I read about a six inch tall “Little” with home made grunge tee-shirts and bright blue hair I couldn’t help but smile.
The novel’s main character is a fourteen year old human girl named T.J. who has had to move from the countryside and away from her beloved horse into the suburbs because her family’s finances have gone all sorts of downhill. (The details aren’t really explained, but the story starts after their move and the stock market isn’t exactly a riveting subject for most teenaged readers, so the plot doesn’t suffer). T.J. is a bit dull, a little too normal, and she clearly has no sense of fashion or adventure compared to the kids in the city where she now lives. Therefore, when the diminutive and feisty Tetty “Elizabeth” Wood storms out of her family’s home in T.J.’s wall, the angry Little (it’s what the six-inch-tall wall dwellers are rather obviously called) stirs up T.J.’s sense of style and personality as well as her belief in the unknown. The two teenagers band together despite their major differences in size and fashion sense; they’re both looking for independence and security in the big bad world. T.J. has no friends and no real personality. Tetty’s parents move away when they see that a “Big” has found their daughter and discovered their existence, so she’s now a little more on her own than she’d expected after her dramatic exit. There’s a children’s book author in town who seems to know about Littles and how they may be able to change back into the birds of their origins, so the two unlikely friends set off to find this woman though they have their own troubles along the way with hungry cats and creepy boys and life in the big city.
My favorite part of the book was after Tetty and T.J. find themselves separated. T.J. has to find the author on her own while perverts, gangs, and the promise of big-fat-trouble back home cause roadblocks on her quest. Tetty, on the other hand, finds herself in the company of more Littles, a Gnome with a talent for baking pies, a shriveled up old woman, and a complicated fairy wish quite literally weighing heavily on her mind and in her pocket. These are the details which made Little [Grrl] Lost seem timeless and universal despite the use of phrases like “as if” and “PDA”: a wish is dangerous if it places you in debt with a fairy; the ability to transform into a bird could be permanent or could disappear at a very inconvenient moment indeed; you’re safe in the goblin market as long as you remain polite and remember that nothing is ever free. These themes are true in ancient fairy tales, they’re true in “high fantasy”, and they’re just as true in De Lint’s fictional city where Littles learn about popular music on a stolen T.V. and human girls must be on the watch out for creepers and animal spies alike on every street corner.
I’d recommend Little [Grrl] Lost to grumpy middle school girls who are looking for a bit of magic in life, basically anyone who I would have been friends with as a teenager. The language is a little lame nowadays, and the plot isn’t as thought provoking as I know Charles De Lint has been in his other writing, but it’s a good story and a quick read. When I return it to the library this afternoon, I hope some kid will take it out soon, because it’s a decent introduction to an author who consistently adds just the right kind of magic to everyday life.