Book ’em, Nerd-o: Little (Grrl) Lost

Little (Grrl) Lost is one of those books that I’ve run into repeatedly for years — like it was following me. Whenever I saw it, it would taunt me from library and bookstore shelves, saying “read me, reeeead meeee!” (anyone else have this happen to them regularly? No? Just me? Okay, cool, just checking…). But it either didn’t quite seem like the right time for it on these occasions, or I was in college and didn’t have time to do more than look longingly at it while shelving books at my library work-study job. Eventually, though, I stumbled upon a used copy of it at a book sale a couple of years ago and had to pick it up, and I’ve now finally got around to reading it. I’m happy to report that my imaginings of how great it was were not disappointed!

Here’s the gist–in the world of the book, Littles (creatures similar to the Borrowers we know and love from childhood) are real, and often live secretly in the suburban homes of the middle class. In one such home lives T.J., a recent farm-to-suburb transplant whose family had to move when they lost a great deal of their savings in a stock market crash (here I’ll mention that this book was published in 2007…apropos much?). A farm girl at heart, T.J. hates everything about her new home. That is, until she stays up one night to figure out where the strange sounds behind her walls are coming from.

That night, she meets her first Little–Elizabeth, a punky teenage runaway with attitude for days. When Elizabeth’s family overhear her befriending a Big (what Littles call humans, naturally), they pack up and move out of T.J.’s house, leaving Elizabeth stranded and alone. After trying unsuccessfully for a little while to live free-range on her own, as she had set out to do in the first place, Elizabeth reluctantly retreats to T.J.’s room for help in looking for her family.
During the time Elizabeth is gallavanting about, T.J. uses the time to do some research. She finds that there’s an author by the name of Sheri Piper who’s written stories all about Littles. Elizabeth has heard of her (or her stories, at least), and knows enough about the books to know that while they embroider the truth a bit, they’re close enough to make one wonder whether Piper is just a great storyteller…or whether she’s met Littles herself.

Soon after, the girls happen to find out that Piper will be doing a reading at a local bookstore. They plot to go to the reading to observe Piper, try to talk to her, and see if they can find out, hopefully as obliquely as possible, whether Piper might be able to help Elizabeth find her family. Will the girls succeed? Will Piper have the answers they seek? Or will T.J. just get branded a crazy person and get taken away somewhere, leaving Elizabeth to fend for herself in the Big, wide world?

And there is where I’ll have to stop, lest I tread right into spoiler-zone — from there on out, things get a LOT more interesting, but you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out how!
As I mentioned, this book pretty much lived up to all my expectations for it (though whether that’s bad or good, you’ll have to decide). I’m a sucker for this style of urban fantasy, in which a teenage protagonist either discovers that supernatural beings are real, or that they are/will become one themselves. It’s such a great analogue for growing up and figuring out who the heck you really are, and it never gets old for me. This one in particular captured the teenage experience perfectly — it just felt so real. Any book that can make me remember exactly what it felt like to be fifteen is a well-written book, in my opinion. Mind you, this wasn’t always super pleasant — there was one scene in particular during which the secondary embarrassment just about did me in. However, that speaks to the author’s skill just as much, even though it made me sweat a little to read it.
I do have to note that this story will probably seem a little hackneyed in spots to those of you who have read a lot of other books in this genre. There were a few moments where I found myself thinking, “Welp, seen THAT one before…” However, I don’t think this detracted overly much from the story, especially because it was those sort of moments that helped this story hit all the right urban fantasy notes for me. And it’s important to note that, as a 20-something, I’m not part of the target age group for this book (regardless of the fact that the majority of the fiction I read is YA…) — for a lot of readers, this will be the first time they’re encountering some of the tropes in the books, and they won’t feel common or hackneyed to them.
In short, this book is a great choice for both readers who are new to urban fantasy and for those who are looking to climb back inside that world once again and get comfortable. If you’re a non-teenage reader like me, it’ll make you relive those years for better or worse, and if you are an actual young adult, I think you’ll find a lot to resonate with in this story.
So, friends, have you read Little (Grrl) Lost? Would you add it to your list? If you’re an urban fantasy fan like me, what are some of your favorites of the genre?

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