Five teenage girls run author Ashley Little’s Vancouver in Anatomy of a Girl Gang. At the very least, the self-christened “Black Roses” run rough-shod over the city as they steal, cook crack on stoves and dole out savage beatings to anyone who gets in their way.
The Black Roses move as a pack, but they’ve strayed from diverse backgrounds. Among them are a Punjabi princess theft-wizard; a mother since the age of 13; a First Nations runaway whose hopes for a more fulfilling life away from the reserve have been deflated by the realities of destitution and addiction; and a counter-cultural graffiti artist.
But the four girls, along with their self-appointed leader Mac, come together for one common purpose: to cold-serve the harsh hand they’ve been dealt back to the city that has castigated them and forced them to its outskirts – to raze the city that symbolizes the girls’ pasts and to start a new herstory on their own terms.
Multiple shifting voices recount the Black Roses’ brazen, subversive and downright unlawful activities. But there is at least one voice that sees through to the girls’ more tender, scorned interiors – a voice that claims to have heard the girls tell their mothers they loved them – that claims the girls still want to be loved and live with a spark of fear within them.
The prose in Ashley Little’s third novel is as stark as the world in which the Black Roses fight for survival and try to take as their own. Anatomy of a Girl Gang is a story of struggle – for power, a voice and agency, subjects Little has proven her candid familiarity with in her previous works.