Armed with knitting needles, retractable swords and a mean cup of tea, the pink-clad Ladybird Scouts are the covert defenders of the world. High school junior Prudence Perry left her Ladybird circle after her best friend was killed three years ago. She wants nothing to do with the competitive toxicity of the group, but she’s part of a legacy scout family, so her grief, anxiety and PTSD share space in her heart with a daily dose of guilt. Still, she strives for normalcy with her rebellious nonscout friends—but a life of fighting enormous interdimensional mulligrubs that feed on human emotions isn’t so easy to shake.
Now that Prue’s cousin Avi is of training age, Prue is expected to begin training her own circle of Ladybirds. Intending to fulfill that duty but nothing more, Prue throws herself back into battle while grappling with her mental health and her family’s expectations. As she becomes unexpectedly close with her trainees, Prue must choose: forget the Ladybirds and leave that life behind for good, or help lay the groundwork for a kinder, more supportive sisterhood?
With a sly sense of humor and nostalgia, Scout’s Honor riffs on postmodern horror classics like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and recent hits like “Stranger Things.” Author Lily Anderson offers a clever subversion of “chosen one” narratives as the novel explores tantalizing “what ifs” like “What if Buffy had just gone to a psychiatrist?” and “What if Girl Scouts were masters of cookies—and karate?”
It’s an absurd premise, but Anderson makes it work through unself-conscious world building and a skillful blend of fantastical and real-world threats. While Prue and her “babybirds” fight literal monsters, they’re also railing against toxic female institutions, intergenerational conflict and the notion that women should shoulder the burden of emotional labor. Scout’s Honor works as both allegory and satisfying speculative fiction, portraying battles with mulligrubs and the challenges of mental illness with equal grace. It’s hilarious and heart-wrenching in equal measure.
Anderson understands the necessity of characters who feel grounded in reality, despite the absurdities of their situations, and Scout’s Honor poses powerful questions: How do you let grief move with you rather than letting it swallow you whole? How do you balance the weight of obligation with your own needs? How do you remain soft in a hardened world? With the support of her friends, Prue works to figure out her own answers. As her favorite mantra goes, “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it.” The only way out is through.