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“They were the troubled girls of Dragomir Academy — breaking, but never broken — and they had stories to tell,” Marya Lupu. —The Lost Girl
The Lost Girl
by Anne Ursu
When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. The twins have always had each other’s back and their bond was so strong that they never felt alone. They shared their looks as well as their thoughts and feelings. Lark was the extension of Iris and vice versa, and they were always better off together.
However, things change when they are put in separate classes in fifth grade. They are in unfamiliar surroundings without their other half. For the first time, they have to make new friends and acquaint themselves with new teachers, new routines, and new challenges. Despite the grownups telling them that this is the best decision, Iris and Lark do not agree.
Iris’s heart aches because she misses her sister’s constant presence. She had always been confident with Lark by her side, but now she has to navigate the scary and unfamiliar world of fifth grade alone. Lark, on the other hand, finds herself hiding in a world of her own as she struggles to adapt to the changes. The once inseparable twins now feel the weight of their individuality.
At the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them. Things both great and small go missing. The girls can’t help but feel a sense of unease as they notice their world changing. When Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it is up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe. Iris starts paying attention to her surroundings and taking note of suspicious activities. With each passing day, Iris becomes more determined to protect her sister and unravel the mystery of the missing things.
The Lost Girl is an incredibly touching story that celebrates the unbreakable bond of sisterhood, and the beauty of individuality. The story follows two sisters, Iris and Lark, as they navigate the challenges of life, and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient. The reader experiences the twins’ journey and is drawn into the world of Iris and Lark by their intricate relationship. Since the story is told from the third-person perspective, the narrative style creates a sense of mystery around the identity of the speaker, which adds an intriguing element. While this narrative style has its benefits, it can also be confusing at times. For instance, the speaker seems to have knowledge of the girls’ internal thoughts, which can sometimes make it difficult to discern who is thinking or talking. However, black and white pictures appear once each chapter and provide a visual element that helps readers fully immerse themselves in the story.
Throughout The Lost Girl the reader is reminded of the transformative power of change, and how even the most difficult situations can lead to personal growth and a greater understanding of yourself. However, The Lost Girl could benefit from a more developed and connected plot. The mystery and magic elements are not clearly explained which may cause confusion and disconnect readers. While the beginning seems to crawl along at a snail’s pace, the imbalance between the explanation behind the mystery and the deep development of the main characters leaves the ending feeling rushed.
The Lost Girl presents a heartwarming tale about the bond of sisterhood and the journey towards self-discovery. While the plot development has some flaws, specifically with the integration of mystery and magic, the novel still offers wonderful life lessons. Additionally, the themes of individuality, family connection, and the power of friendship are sure to strike a chord with many readers. Readers longing for books similar to The Lost Girl should also read the Legend of Eerie-on-Sea Series by Thomas Taylor and Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai.
- Mr. Green, the man who owns the antique shop, invites Iris to stay with him. When she refuses, Mr. Green tries to force Iris to stay. Before anything can occur, Duchess, Mr. Green’s cat, comes to Iris’s aid. “A yowling sound—then Mr. Green yelled, ‘Ow!’ Duchess was at his ankle, biting. Iris wrenched free from his grasp and ran forward, and then heard another yowl, this time in pain. Mr. Green kicked the cat. Then his hand wrapped around her shoulder again, and the next thing she knew, she was being thrown into the doorway marked office.” Duchess and Mr. Green remain mostly unharmed, but Iris is left trapped in the room.
- Mr. Green attempts to get close to Iris because he plans to use magic to transform her into a doll. Iris “dove over to the shelves with the jars of magic, grabbed one, and hurled it at Mr. Green. He yelled and ducked out of the way. The jar exploded on the wall, and the magic inside splattered and oozed and steamed and hissed, and Mr. Green slapped his hands over his face and screamed.” Iris temporarily halts the attack, but wounds Mr. Green with a magic substance.
- The girls from Camp Awesome, the after-school camp Iris attends, attempt to save Iris from Mr. Green. Unfortunately, the girls are no match for the size and strength Mr. Green possesses. Mr. Green “swore, then threw Hannah across the room and kicked Lark in the stomach. She stumbled backwards. Iris dove to her.” Hannah and Lark are wounded slightly. The girls are left trapped listening to the demands of Mr. Green.
- Iris agrees to go with Mr. Green as long as he allows the other girls to go free. To ensure she doesn’t leave, he binds her to a chair. Mr. Green “growled at her. And then he duct-taped one arm to the chair. Then the other. Then he bound her ankles. And then her mouth.”
- The girls continue to fight Mr. Green and they use their intelligence to outwit him. They formulate a plan to shove him into the magic well. “Then several things happened at once. Mr. Green pushed the door open. As he did, Lark jumped backward. A crow let out a cry and dove toward him. He whirled around, and out of nowhere Duchess came barreling forward, right toward his ankles. He bobbled. Lark thrust out her hands and pushed. He slipped backward. And he fell.” The girls defeat Mr. Green and escape. After he falls into the well, it is presumed that he is dead and unable to come back up from the magic water within.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Tommy Whedon, Lark’s sworn enemy, makes fun of Iris in the hallway. “You’re a psycho, you know that?” Iris retaliates by calling him a mole rat and blowfish.
- Tommy Whedon became Lark’s enemy when he called her crow girl. “And at recess, Tommy told Iris she was nasty and ugly and bossy and no one liked her, and Lark didn’t talk for the rest of the day. Somehow their parents got wind of the ‘mole rat’ comment and Iris got a talking-to about name calling. Meanwhile people whispered Freak and Crow Girl at Lark for the rest of the year.” This nickname pops up a couple of times.
- Lark is imaginative and believes there is magic in even the most mundane things. Lark believes her teacher to be an ogre because he made fun of her and seems out of place as a fifth-grade teacher. “‘I am pretty sure,’ [Lark] said, voice intent, ‘that Mr. Hunt is an ogre’…To Lark an ogre took great pride in his collection of children’s hearts and when the other ogres would come over for dinner (usually ogres serve yak to guests) he would show his treasure, boasting about how he had the finest collection in the land. He’d take the jar off the shelf and tell the great and glorious story of the capture of the child the heart once belonged to.” This is a thought Lark brings up repeatedly throughout the text and she continues to theorize about why she believes Mr. Hunt is an ogre.
- Iris sees a cat, Duchess, travel thorough a clock.
- Duchess leads Iris behind a curtain where Iris discovers a whole house. Not only is it almost the size of a mansion, but there are remarkable pieces of art scattered throughout. Mr. Green says, “I told you I had magic. You kept saying it was science.”
- Mr. Green use magic to make a compass using water and create a battery out of a potato.
- Mr. Green gains power by accessing wells of magic. He shows Iris a new well that is hidden inside his mansion. “Iris shook her head slightly as if to clear it. It was a well of magic. Magic was a thing, something you could scoop up like water.” Iris has a hard time comprehending the magic.
- Inside Mr. Green’s office, Iris discovers more magic. “One wall of shelving was lined with wooden carvings, and perched right in front of it was a big shiny black-and-gold sewing machine with a foot pedal. Another was filled with sealed jam jars of shimmering magic.”
- Mr. Green explains magic’s power. “The magic is hard to work with, but it does excel at one thing in particular . . . It excels at transformation. This is very useful when you need to walk out of a museum with a painting or take a sculpture the size of a semi-truck out of a public garden. It can also be useful in other ways. And I think, Miss Maguire, I know the best way to keep you. . . Perhaps I can give you as a gift to [my lost sister] after all.” He explains to Iris that he could use the magic to transform Iris into a doll for his sister.
- The explanation behind who the narrator is brought full circle and revealed as Mr. Green’s lost sister, Alice. It is learned that Alice turned herself into a crow and that she’s the giant crow following the girls throughout the story. “Iris was right — I did run from you. You locked me in a room, you said it was for my own good, and I pulled all the magic I could from the room and turned myself into a crow. I made a tool to open the latch and flew out the window. Crows are very good with tools. Magic has a cost. You gave your humanity willingly for it. I gave mine, too, but in a different way. I like my way better.”