The synopsis reads, “When eighteen-year-old bi, socially anxious, Harajuku fashionista Holly Roads is infected by blue blood that bestows destructive strength, she strikes a deal with a stubborn ex-CIA prodigy: Capture the mutant his scientists accidentally unleashed on San Francisco in exchange for the cure for her powers.”

When I first heard about Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl, I was excited but reserved. It ticked all my boxes: lolita, magical girls, comics and other nerdery, bi representation, and more. Yet often when many loves are combined, are they ever really better than their own parts? In the case of MMNG, yes, yes it is.

As a fellow member of the lolita community, we’re extremely protective of our hobby and culture. We’re used to outsiders mocking us, the same questions or insults hurled in our direction. We’re used to our fashion being mistaken for costumes, a fetish, cosplay, or any number of incorrect assumptions. Erin Grammar, the author, gets it. Therefore, Holly Roads- our protagonist- also gets it. From the first page, you can tell they are both “real lolitas”. The first page even references Usakumya, the mascot from the designer brand, Baby the Stars Shine Bright. Her interactions with her Usakumya are some of my favorite passages.

Holly herself is an excellent, relatable character. She’s socially anxious, but strong and independent. She has one close friend but doesn’t need more. She dresses herself in her armor, even though it attracts more attention she’d rather not deal with, because she is true to her ideals. Holly drinks wine from crystal decanters because it’s cuter. She’s living her best life and making mistakes along the way. Her decisions always fit within her frame of mind and are never contrived simply to move the plot along. I’d love to have tea with Holly sometime, and I know that she’d always have my back.

Erin’s approach to genders, sexuality, and inclusivity will be much appreciated by a modern audience. She is tactful, aware, and very thoughtful in her characters and their interactions. This was especially demonstrated while Holly observes couples while on the way home from her party, “ Pairs of men and women, men and men, two women, and groups of other magnificent genders floated by, their feet playing a cozy melody as they squashed wet, yellow leaves.”

Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl is not all frills and progressive ideals, though. The mutants were unique and quite terrifying. The terror lies in the realistic details that Erin provides us, how they’re believable enough to picture perfectly. When Holly first encounters them, they’re huge, blue-tinted men, plucking medical tubing out of their bodies. They’re clumsy, using simple speech, and relearning how to move. This grants her a better chance in her first fight, as she has to save herself while alone on the way home. Armed with only a parasol, she winds up splattered with their mysterious blue blood.

There are also lots of fun Easter eggs for fans of comics and sci-fi. From Buffy to Unbreakable there are a lot of fun references to pick out. Most are included as banter between the supporting characters that create an easy camaraderie. I loved Holly’s fellow team members and wanted to become a part of the cast. They would have felt right at home in any of Joss Whedon’s works.

Erin’s prose is fully fleshed out, with lovely descriptions, rounded characters, dynamic relationships, and locations that place you inside the scene. It is surprising to hear that this is her first novel. I definitely look forward to reading the next in this trilogy, as well as any other works she releases. You can pre-order Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl by Erin Grammar, published by Midnight Tide Publishing at https://bit.ly/39G0V3M. It will be released on March 10th.

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