The Girl Who Owned A City written by O.T Nelson illustrated by Joelle Jones (FABLES) and adapted by Dan Jolley (Twisted Journeys) was first published back in 1975 as a means for Nelson to fund a small house painting company he had. It soon became a huge hit, drawing comparisons to such books as The Lord of The Flies and The Hunger Games (I don’t agree with the Hunger Games comparison..at all). I’m guessing the only reason critics have compared it to The Hunger Games is because it’s female lead and the stories propensity for violence, but if that’s not a testament to those critics lack of knowledge of female heroes, I don’t know what is. Literature is filled with powerful female heroes, with story arcs as good as any of it’s male counter parts, if one would care to look, but let’s get back to this review…shall we?
A killing virus has swept the earth, sparing only children through the age of twelve. There is chaos everywhere, even in formely prosperous mid-America. Gangs and fierce armies of children begin to form almost immediately. It would be the same for the children on Grand Avenue but for Lisa, a yen-year-old girl who becomes their leader. Because of Lisa, they have food, even toys, in abundance. And now they can protect themselves from the fierce gangs that roam the neighborhoods. But for how long? Then Lisa conceives the idea of a fortress, a city in which the children could live safely and happily always, and she intends to lead them there.
The story, dispite being written in the 70’s, was translated very well for the modern audience thanks to Dan Jolley, the art and language of the characters reads well in any vernacular. The hero in the story, Lisa, kept doing things that you don’t normally expect a child her age to do, as she sets out to create a kingdom, but never once did I question her motives or say “this is bullshit”. Everything she did just made sense, like a child who was taught all the right survival skills in the first ten years of her life and retained absolutely everything. One thing the book doesn’t do is get too graphic as rival gangs threaten to take everything she and her followers worked so hard to build. The violence is there, but it’s more implied through creative and subtle artwork. The stories political message is there as well and I wonder if O.T’s intention was to indoctrinate those unruly yewts of the seventies, but it does little in the sense of propaganda and more in the sense of post apocalyptic science fiction survival story. Like the George Orwell story Animal Farm, it builds characters to mirror the behaviors of adults, the circumstances force the children to shed their innocent exterior and swap them out for callous and brutal behavior in a world that’s gone awry. It would be interesting to see if a series comes of this. The middle American landscape is the perfect setting for this dark piece, plus not a lot was explained about what really was the cause of the adults death, so therein lies another level of the story as answers to these questions unfold all the while Lisa must make all the hard decisions for the sake of her community…are you hearing me Dan Jolley (writer/adapter)? You have my endorsement, for what it’s worth. MITNG would love to see more of Lisa and her crew. TGWOAC is a brilliant survival story told through the eyes of a hard as nails young and charasmatic female character.