Girls in Gangs


Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little (Arsenal Pulp Press) is shocking—but in the best possible way. Most books set in contemporary Vancouver are familiar to those who live here, but this novel is set only blocks away from where I work and go to school, and it makes my city seem foreign and dangerous. Written in the voices of the five young girls in the Black Roses—a newly formed all-girl gang in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver—the story follows each girl through her life after joining the gang. Mac is smart as a whip, the gang’s leader and mastermind. Mercy, her best friend, is a beautiful Punjabi girl with a knack for theft. Kayos lives in Shaughnessy with her parents and the daughter she had when she was thirteen. Sly Girl left her life on a First Nations reserve for one she thought would be better. Z is the city’s best graffiti artist—and, secretly, Mac’s new girlfriend. For a novel that deals with such disturbing content, this book is heartfelt and tremendously moving. It reads like a diary, as if the girls are real and writing, and don’t particularly care whether or not you read their story. My first thought after I read it (almost in one sitting) was that it should be required reading in high schools, especially in the Vancouver area—not only as a cautionary tale but as a reminder that kids are growing up in harrowing circumstances. Anatomy of a Girl Gang is triumphant, beautiful, startling, sad and gritty—a powerful feminist coming-of-age novel.

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