After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Review copy from NetGalley
[#58 in my 75 book challenge]
Note: Release October 9, 2012
If you know me, you know I love dystopia, and I love post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s my favorite genre, y’all. So when I saw this collection on NetGalley up for review, I could not help myself.
Now we all know that short story collections can be a little hit-or-miss. That’s the fun of it all. With nineteen different stories, there were bound to be some that I loved and some I hated. I realized very quickly that it very hard to write dystopian/post-apocaplyptic short stories for teens. There is so much world building to do, and so little space in which to do it. Most of the authors took on the strategy of just dropping the reader in the middle of the story, giving clues along the way as to how the world ended up that way and what the rules (or lack thereof) are in the society. This alone made the collection very hard to read.
You could take those nineteen instances of complete disorientation as a literary parallel to the disorientation found in dystopian/post-apocalytpic societies. I get that, though I don’t know if it was purposeful. I still didn’t like it. But you know what I did figure out? I now see why so many books these days are trilogies. The world building is complicated, and often takes up half of the first book in a trilogy.
THAT BEING SAID, I did enjoy many of the stories in this collection. It’s actually worth reading/owning if you love YA dystopia, and some of the stories would be great to read again. Some of my favorites:
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan — This is a zombie story where people can actually be cured from the zombie-ness. Imagine knowing that you had once been a human-eating zombie!
Valedictorian by N.k. Jemisin – It is well know that he valedictorian every year is picked for a special task and never returns, but what is the task and whydo they never return? (This could definitely be turned into a longer work. I’d read it!)
The Other Elder by Beth Revis– This comes from the same world as Across the Universe, telling the story of an Elder before the Elder we meet in Revis’ trilogy. Cool if you’ve read the books, probably not as cool if you haven’t.
Rust With Wings by Stephen Gould — Crazy-ass beetle-bug things eat anything metal. Such a cool premise! Do YOU have any metal fillings?
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan — A scientific endeavor went wrong, and much of the world has turned to plastic. Quite sad, but I liked the premise (and the weird ending).
Note: The LGBT tag comes from some of the stories having clear LGBTQI characters. But the fact that the LGBTQI aspect is not the focus of any of the stories was great!
FINAL GRADE: B- One of my favorite things about dystopian short stories was that there was very little time for romance, so we got to focus on the actual world-building and action of the stories. Sometimes I think the romance takes over in dystopian trilogies (and I’ll admit that I get caught up in it). The B- is an average score for all of the stories in the book, with points take off for having a few too many stories in the collection (nineteen is a lot). Of course, casual readers can always skip stories they aren’t getting in to! As a librarian, I’d definitely buy this volume and put it on display in my library. It might even be a cool purchase for reading short stories in a language arts class (lit circles, anyone?). I recommend it to anyone, 10 and up, who love dystopian world building and short stories.
Do you think 19 stories are too many for a short story collection? How do you feel about the idea of dystopian short stories?
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (Graphic Novel)
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Harry N. Abrams
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#41 in my 75 book challenge]
I picked up this book from our most recent Junior Library Guild order, intending to just flip through it and see what it was about. I ended up reading the entire thing.
Essentially, this is a graphic novel short story collection all on the same theme: mystery boxes. Each story has a different author/artist and style, but all have an element of fantasy to them. Including lots of unicorns. There are seven stories:
- Under the Floorboards by Emily Carroll – A wax doll comes to life, helping and hindering a girl in her chores.
- Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier – A puzzle box is found in a messy closet, and some wizards are willing to pay a lot of money for it. But why?
- The Keeper’s Treasure by Jason Caffoe – A treasure hunter seeks a treasure inside a labyrinth, and is curious about what is inside the treasure box.
- The Butter Thief by Rad Sechrist – A spirit is stealing butter, so grandma traps the spirit and buries it in the backyard. Her grandmother is curious and investigates the box.
- The Soldier’s Daughter by Stuart Livingston – A girl goes on a quest to avenge her father’s death, but a magical box shows her some truths about life and war.
- Whatzit by Johane Matte – A little alien is put in charge of a a checklist for shipping boxes, but he opens one that makes his job a little harder.
- The Escape Option by Kazu Kibuishi – A boy is sucked into a spaceship box and told of a choice he must make to save the world.
The stories are short and cute, but they also have some interesting depth to them. The artwork is beautiful in some stories and brilliant in others, as there is a nice variety in styles and tones. Some stories feel dark, some epic, and some just fun. My favorite was Spring Cleaning because I enjoy Raina Telgemeier’s art and I liked the fun tone of the story. I also liked the ending to The Escape Option because I didn’t see the twist coming. It’s good when a 15-page story can give me a twist ending, that’s not an easy feat — especially with a graphic novel.
FINAL GRADE: C I give it a C based on my personal taste (it was average), but a B for my library and my students. This is not a book I read for me, but one I read for my kids. Boys and girls alike with appreciate this little collection. They will love it, like they love all graphic novels! But this one will surely stayed checked out more than it’s on my shelf. I also like the potential for using this as a jumping off point for a writing exercise, since each story takes on a common theme, kids could write their own story about a mysterious box. I might even be inspired to do so!
What would your story about a mysterious box be?
So, John Green definitely wrote some fabulous novels (I’ll be reviewing Paper Towns tomorrow). However, he also wrote some excellent short stories that have been featured in YA short story collections. I haven’t read all of these, but the ones I have read are excellent! Green hangs with the coolest crew of YA authors, so these collections read like a sampler of some of the most awesome literature for teens. For this post I’m reposting a review of Geektastic that I wrote last fall. Green’s story in the collection is called Freak The Geek.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelluci
I am not typically a reader of short story collections, but I immediately knew I had to read this collection. I ordered this book with my last big book order because the reviews were great and it seemed like a fun book. When the book came in, I was actually able to see the list of contributing authors on the front of the book and I was hooked. Where else can you find a book that combines the topic of geekiness AND fabulous YA authors suchs a Libba Bray, John Green, Wendy Mass, David Levithan, Garth Nix, and MT Anderson? As a self-professed geek I could not deny my curiosity, so I had to read it.
It. Was. Awesome! This is one of the best books I have read this year. All aspects of geekiness are covered in these pages — band nerds, quiz bowl geeks, Role Playing Games (RPGs), conventions, stormtroopers, LARPing, Star Wars vs Star Trek, sci-fi, Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, Buffy, paleontology, drama geeks, astronauts, Rocky Horror, and so on. I guess I’m not geeky enough to know a whole lot about many of these geekdoms, but I enjoyed the overall geek-tasticness of reading about other geeks of all kinds. Though some of the stories were a little slow, most of the stories were perfect for getting a quick read in at lunch. I realized that the great thing about short stories is that they can be completed in one sitting.
My favorite stories in the book were “I Never” by Cassandra Clare, “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” by David Levithan, and “The Stars at the Finish Line” by Wendy Mass, and “It’s Just a Jump to the Left” by Libba Bray. This is definitely a book that I have purchased and added to my personal collection. It is a book I can see myself re-reading. Apparently my students feel the same way, because I can barely keep it on the shelf! Check out this book and other short story collections @your library!
Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances
by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
Library book ordered from Follett
[#4 in my 75 book challenge]
I waited all fall to read this book ON Christmas Eve. I read it over three days, December 24-26, and I would argue that that’s exactly how it should be read. I was not disappointed. The three stories, all taking place in the same North Carolina mountain town, are as follows:
“Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson
After her parents are put in jail due to a fight over Flobie Village collectibles, Jubilee is shipped on a train to her grandparents’ house in Florida. A massive snowstorm hits, and the train is forced to stop outside of Gracetown, NC. Jubilee hikes to the local Waffle House and meets Stuart, a sad Jewish boy with a broken heart.
“A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green
The cheerleaders from Jubilee’s train have made their way to the Waffle House. Tobin, JD, and The Duke go on an adventure through the snow storm to bring Twister to the cheerleaders (and get some hash browns). Did I mention that “The Duke” is a pretty girl, and there’s romance in the air?
“The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle
Addie works at the local Starbucks, and she’s sad. Sad because she made a mistake and lost Jeb, the love of her life. She’s a little bit self-centered and miserable, but she starts to make right some of the selfish things she’s done.
The one problem I had with the story was the geography (skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read me nitpicking). Jubilee’s train is supposed to be going from Richmond to Florida and it stops in western NC? There aren’t even any passenger train lines in western NC. At first I thought the story was taking place in the Raleigh area, but the final story makes it sound like this fictional town is supposed to be between Maggie Valley and Asheville. It also says it is a 200 mile drive between Maggie Valley and Asheville. Now hold up. I’m pretty sure I used to live in that town, and Maggie Valley is only 30 minutes from Asheville. Just sayin’.
Moving on…one of the reasons I did like this story is that it was taking place in my back yard. All of the three short stories came together to create a great novel. It’s Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle for goodness sake! Johnson’s writing was real but charming and a little ridiculous at times (in a good way). John Green’s story was like all of his other stories that I love so much: smart and nerd-tastically funny. I’ve heard and seen some criticisms of Myracle’s story, but I also loved it. I’ve felt EXACTLY like Addie before, so that one hit really close to home. I didn’t blame Addie for moping around to much, and her story brought together all the other stories.
Final Grade: A Fluffy and fun, but well written. It served exactly the purpose I wanted it to serve, which was getting me in the holiday spirit. I think it would be enjoyable any time of year, and I will definitely recommend it to any of my students who like romance because it definitely delivered. I think this is my first A novel…how exciting!
George and Martha: One Fine Day
by James Marshall
George and Martha books all contain “five stories about two best friends.” I loved them all because I liked the short-story-in-a-picture-book thing and also because the stories are funny. As a kid I think we owned George and Martha: One Fine Day, George and Martha Encore, and George and Martha Back in Town. My favorite of these was George and Martha: One Fine Day, though I really liked the whole series pretty equally.
The stories in One Fine Day are:
“The Tightrope”: George causes Martha to lose her confidence on her tightrope, so he builds it back up again so she can succeede and have fun.
“The Diary”: George is trying to sneak a peak a Martha’s diary while she writes. Martha reminds him about privacy.
“The Icky Story”: While they are eating dinner, George tells an icky story. Martha gives George a taste of his own medicine, telling an ickier story and making him sick.
“The Big Scare”: George scares Martha, so Martha threatens to scare him back. He waits and waits…but she never does.
“The Amusement Park”: George and Martha ride all the rides at the amusement park and have a blast. Finally, in the Tunnel of Love, Martha scares George, getting him back.
The stories in all of the books are very short and give basic lessons on how to be a good friend. It also shows kids (and adults) that friendship takes work. Sometimes you have to do unselfish things to make your friend happy, help them out, or show respect. This particular book has George apologizing a lot, but Martha does her fair share in other books. In George and Martha: Back In Town, Martha opens a box she’s not supposed to (and gets a surprise!) and annoys the crap out of George while he’s trying to read. But George and Martha always work it out and they really are best friends…
…or are they? Even as a kid I knew that these two were shacking up. They are totally together. George and Martha love each other. Not only do they live together, but George kisses Martha in one book and they go in the tunnel of love together. All the lessons about being a good friend still apply to cohabitating couples, of course, but I think even kids understand that George and Martha are sharing their hippo bed. And I think that’s sweet. I want to be like George and Martha when I grow up.
Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? Stories about loving — and loathing — your body
Edited by Marissa Walsh
[#19 in the 52 Book Challenge]
I love my body.
I also loathe it.
So I had to read this book.
Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? is a collection of fourteen short stories by YA authors suchs a Wendy McClure, Matt de la Pena, Carolyn Mackler, Barry Lyga, and Ellen Hopkins. The focus is on body weight, whether too fat or too thin, a big butt or flat chested, too short or too tall, proud or ashamed (though usually a combination of both).
My favorite stories:
“Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” by Sarra Manning: Cath, who desperately wants a breast augmentation, and Rosie, who lacks confidence because of her large breasts, spend the summer working together at an ice cream parlor. Cath helps Rosie learn how to wear cute clothes and win a boyfriend, and Cath learns some life lessons in the process.
“HELLO, my name is” by Carolyn Mackler: More an essay than a story, Mackler discusses what it’s like a to be a thin author who is known for writing a book about a plus-sized teenage girl (The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things).
“It Is Good” by Sara Zarr: Zarr’s short memoir explains why she overate as a child and how she came to take responsibility for her body for the right reasons. She learned to love her body and all it could do, including running…at a snail’s pace. This story hit closest to home for me. “The religion I’ve held dear all my life says that what God creates–including the body I’m in–is good. God doesn’t qualify that statement.”
As with all short story collections, some of the stories are excellent and some are forgetable. But I enjoyed most of the stories. The book served it’s purpose because it made me think about me, my own body issues, and what my personal journey with those has been/is/will be.
Cloaked in Red
by Vivian Vande Velde
[#16 of my 52 Book Challenge]
The synopsis: Vivian Vande Velde retells the story of Little Red Riding Hood eight times, each with a different twist.
My opinion: I didn’t care for this book, and I was glad that both the stories and the whole book were short. That’s not to say that I hated it…it was fine. Average. But it wasn’t the kind of book that made me laugh, made me think, or kept me turning the pages with an intense plot.
To be honest, I felt Vivian Vande Velde was trying to hard with some of these. I loved her introduction — I actually thought the premise was fun, and that there was a lot of potential. I was thinking it would be Little Red Riding Hood IN SPACE or Little Red Riding Hood VERSUS NINJAS. Instead the stories were still set in Once Upon a Time land, with each one focusing on the finer points of some of the odd characters: grandma, the woodcutter, the wolf, and even the riding hood itself.
All in all, I would have rather read a Jon Scieszka/Lane Smith version of a fairy tale.
I’ve never read any other books by the author, but I have always heard good things about her. I have to wonder how this book fits into her general body of work. I remember someone in my YA Lit class last spring did their author in-depth study and presentation on her, but I can’t remember a bit of what was presented. Maybe I need to give one of her other books a go to see more of what she’s about.
13.) Geektastic by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
This book is completely and utterly awesome for two reasons. First, it is all about celebrating geekiness in all forms: band nerds, quiz bowl geeks, Role Playing Games (RPGs), conventions, stormtroopers, LARPing, Star Wars vs Star Trek, sci-fi, Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, Buffy, paleontology, drama geeks, astronauts, Rocky Horror, and so on. Second, it is a collection of short stories by all of my favorite modern YA authors: Libba Bray, John Green, Wendy Mass, David Levithan, Garth Nix, and MT Anderson.
I guess I’m not geeky enough to know a whole lot about many of these geekdoms, but I enjoyed the overall geek-tasticness of reading about other geeks of all kinds. My favorite stories in the book were “I Never” by Cassandra Clare, “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” by David Levithan, and “The Stars at the Finish Line” by Wendy Mass, and “It’s Just a Jump to the Left” by Libba Bray. I love it when the geeks win, when the geeks fall in love, and when the geeks learn to love their geekiness. So for all of the Geektastic Nerdfighters out there, read this book!