Identical twins are also at the center of Anne Ursu’s THE LOST GIRL (Walden Pond/HarperCollins, 368 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12). They’re physically alike, but Lark is dreamy and creative while Iris is outgoing and fact-oriented. They have always looked out for each other — but in fifth grade, for the first time, they are put into separate classes. Devastated, the girls struggle with this new reality, Lark withdrawing into a world of her own while Iris frets and worries about her. With every difficult situation, Iris becomes more alarmed. How is she to take care of Lark if they are in different classes? Distraught, Iris gravitates to a strange new antique shop in town run by the eccentric Mr. Green, while elsewhere things big and small start to go missing.
Told by a mysterious narrator, the story gets darker and darker as the foolhardy and desperately unhappy Iris stumbles in her attempts to help her sister. Yet the book’s somber moments are balanced by lighter ones, especially those featuring Iris’s classmates and the energetic girls of her after-school Awesome Club, all of whom she has discounted in her self-absorption, but who turn out to be supportive, and critical at the end.
While the bulk of “The Lost Girl” is set in a realistic world, the final section is suffused with magic. Capturing with piercing accuracy Iris’s evolving anguish, Ursu (“The Real Boy”) ends this passionate and complex story with a celebration of sibling autonomy, youthful agency and the power of friends.