LITTLE (GRRL) LOST
by Charles de Lint
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Charles de Lint's adolescent novel Little (Grrl) Lost focuses on the relationship between two girls, T.J. and Elizabeth, who, despite appearing very different have more in common than either would like to admit. Although not obviously set in de Lint's mythical Newford, the setting and story have a similar feel to those tales.
T.J. has recently moved to the city from her family's country home when her parents suffer a financial set-back. Separated from her friends and her horse, Red, T.J. feels even more alienated than she otherwise would have, especially since her older brother, Derek, seems to have found a place at their school so easily. Her world, already turned upside down, is further shaken when she hears a strange noise coming from the walls of her room and an eight-inch tall girl appears in her room.
Elizabeth is a Little, a race similar to the Mary Norton's "borrowers." Like T.J., Elizabeth is feeling stifled by her parents and the situation inflicted on her by her diminutive size in a world created by and for "bigs." However, while T.J. is a relatively innocent 14 year old, Elizabeth is a much more cynical seventeen. This difference of world views results in a strained relationship between the girls that can't be called friendship.
When T.J. discovers Elizabeth's existence, however, she becomes interested in the world of the Littles. Her discovery that a local author, Sheri Piper, has written some books about the Littles spurs her on and results in the two girls attempting to contact the author. Their outing does not go according to plan and they get separated before meeting Piper and finding out what Piper really knows about the Littles.
Once separated, de Lint alternates chapters between the two girls, often leaving off a chapter as a cliff-hanger. While this works reasonably well, the length of the chapters tends to work against the technique since the dangerous situation T.J. finds herself in at the end of chapter 2 on page 81 doesn't get resolved until chapter four on page 160. Similarly, while T.J.'s character is more likable than Elizabeth's, the book's charm tends to reflect whichever character is the protagonist of a given chapter.
Even though the girls are apart for much of the book, with T.J. looking at the world through the eyes of a naive and trusting fourteen year old, despite some of the situations she gets herself into, and Elizabeth using her cynicism to provide a tour of the demimonde of fairies and goblins, the girls are both able to grow and take on characteristics learned from the other.
Little (Grrl) Lost does an excellent job of capturing the feeling of isolation and detachment so many find in their teenage year. Coupled with the sense of security and ability which is not necessarily grounded in reality (but which are quite common at that age), de Lint's representation of teenagers is well done. His world is dangerous, but not dark and gives his characters room to grow from their initial representations.
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