Pretty Monsters: Stories
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Pretty Monsters: Stories

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,938 ratings  ·  505 reviews
Kelly Link has lit up adult literary publishing, and Viking is honored to publish her first YA story collection. Through the lens of Link's vivid imagination, nothing is what it seems, and everything deserves a second look. From the multiple award-winning The Faery Handbag, in which a teenager's grandmother carries an entire village (or is it a man-eating dog?) in her hand...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published October 2nd 2008 by Viking Juvenile
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Y'know how people will be like, 'I don't really listen to rap stuff, but I really liked that Nas album,' or whatever, and then you know that Nas album is probably not super representative of hip-hop? I don't really read fantasy, or sci-fi, but I fuckin love Kelly Link. I'm like, I guess these count as fantasy stories lots of the time, and that's clearly the community Ms Link is coming from, and about which she tends to talk, but still, her stories engage me in a way that genre stuf...more
There are nine short stories in Kelly Link's collection, Pretty Monsters. I picked this up without realizing that I'd actually read two of them before, both offered in other YA short story collections I had loved. Unfortunately, those two stories proved to be the best of the lot. There is one other story I liked. The rest have promise but tend to fall a bit flat. Reviews of each are below. Overall, however, 3 good stories out of 9 is not a great record. It's really frustrating because Link is a...more
Kelly Link’s short stories are like other people’s dreams. Except usually when someone pins you down to tell you about a dream they just had because they’re so excited by how weird and meaningful it is, you’re like “…um, okay. Whatever.” Or maybe that’s just me. Other people’s subconsciouses? Boringly impenetrable.

But Kelly Link’s stories are like dreams we’ve all had. There’s something really down deep twisty and disturbing she gets at, some common psychological taproot of cultural metaphor thi...more
First of all, today's young adults must be made of sterner stuff than I am, because this collection would have scared the crap out of me at just about any age before thirty. OK, actually, some of the stories totally creeped me out even now. I've read a few of them in other collections and anthologies, but they were well worth reading again. I particularly loved "The Wizards of Perfil" (which I had read before) and "The Surfer," which I hadn't. Kelly Link, like the current big thing Karen Russell...more
3.5 stars. I have not read all of the stories in this collection, so this review is only for the following selections:

The Faery Handbag: A creative, interesting story about a unique piece of luggage with a mind (and maybe an appetite) of its own. 3.0 stars

Winner: Hugo Award Best Novelette
Winner: Nebula Award Best Novelette
Winner: Locus Award Best short story.

The Wizards of Perfil: A very good, original story about two children sold to some very "mysterious" wizrds. Good story-telling and a very...more
In a series of 9 stories, I liked 7 a whole bunch, 1 a little bit, and 1 not at all. But as the song goes, 7 1/2 outta 9 ain't bad. Even when I didn't like a story or found it ok, I was awed by Kelly Link's writing. I have read a ton of great books by great writers. Link surpasses every single one of those writers by a mile, at least. She's so compelling readable and every one of her words and thoughts are pitch perfect I just don't know how I haven't read anything by her before. In fact, I'm em...more
I'm not quite sure why authors are writing stories with no attempts at a storyline, no interesting/likable characters and spewed little sentence fragments, and readers are like 'oh, wow, that's deep and well written'.

No. It's a bunch of shallow, underdeveloped junk that wishes it was well written, but failed. Rather epically, I'd say.

Some of these stories actually were interesting. Magic for Beginners would have made a really interesting novel. The concept of a TV show like the Librarian, and a...more
I read one of Kelly Link's other books, Magic for Beginners, way back in January 2009 and I only gave it three stars. (Complete with bonus debate on the term 'magic-realism' thanks to Caris.) I just couldn't get into it, and I felt bad, because I felt as though something in all of those stories was just waiting for me to grasp. So when I heard about Pretty Monsters, I decided to give Kelly Link another go.

Well, it's kind of another go. I think something like 70% of the stories in here were repri...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Breanna F. for

PRETTY MONSTERS is a collection of nine short stories; all of which were quite interesting. Here is a sentence or two about each story...

1. The Wrong Grave - Miles Sperry decides to dig up his dead girlfriend, Bethany Baldwin, to get back some poetry that he wrote for her after she died and wasn't smart enough to make copies of. When he opens the grave, he has discovered that it is the wrong one. Now he's got some strange dead girl following him around...more
I originally picked up Pretty Monsters because of the kick-ass cover, and I actually considered bying it because the inside cover was adorned with glowing blurbs from some of my favorite authors, such as Holly Black, Alice Sebold, Garth Nix and Libba Bray. The summary itself was what sold me. Nine odd, quirky, perhaps a bit morbid tales involving a kid named Onion? I never stood a chance.

Pretty Monsters consists of nine short stories by Hugo award winner Kelly Link. The reviews thus far for them...more
Dec 31, 2008 Jane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jane by: Alethea
First book of fantasy short stories I've read. It's great! I wished that some of the stories were novels instead.


The Wrong Grave - Miles Sperry digs up the wrong grave of his dead girlfriend. The dead girl follows him.

The Wizards of Perfil - I really liked this one. Halsa is sold as a servant to the wizards of Perfil. Many strange things happen. Her wizard never talks to her.

Magic for Beginners - A story centered around a television show called The Library. The show is weird! No one kno...more
Oct 27, 2008 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writing teachers
Shelves: young-adult-teen
I'm not sure I like Link's stories as much as I admire them. I like a linear narrative, and Link is non-linear. I like a strong resolution, preferably happy (yes, I read like a 12 year old girl) while most if not all of Link's stories are open-ended. I like my fantasy grounded in reality, while Link's stories are nothing if not surreal. But though I have only read two of these previously published stories before, I was surprised at how many times I went back to see how she constructed characters...more
Sep 29, 2008 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes things that are strange
Recommended to Erin by: Small Beer Press
Linked from my blog over at

Kelly Link writes strange stories. They take all the things you know about genres and twist them up until they become nearly unrecognizable, and suddenly real. Fantastic things: a dead girl’s hair with a mind of its own, a country contained within a handbag, thick, viscous magic, beautiful aliens, a secret television show called The Library—seem plausible, tangible. This is not in a far away land a long time ago. It’s magic, plain and...more
John Wiswell
I can’t overstate the highs of Pretty Monsters. Halfway into the shortest story, “Monster,” I was tempted to Skype a couple friends and just read the entire thing out loud to them for its great language and emotional subtext. And it turns out? I hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet. That story is about a Boyscout troop full of kids who are too insensitive, and in particular abuse more of their fellow boys, covering him and mud and peer pressuring him into crossdressing. They’re so preoccupied...more
This wonderful book gathers 9 of Kelly Link’s stories in her first collection published for teens. Most of the stories have appeared in other books but old fans will welcome having them together and those unfamiliar with Link’s work will surely join the ranks of admirers. Her work is truly unique and blend horror, fantasy, and science fiction. While being extremely funny in a dead pan, sneak-up-on-you way, Link has a very sharp eye for human foibles. Whether she is writing about a handbag that h...more
Monica Edinger
Absolutely superb. I always meant to read me some Kelly Link and am so glad I finally did. I loved each and every completely different story in this collection. Link is clever, witty, imaginative, and remarkable. And she writes like a dream. So many wonderful lines and bits. Here's just a tiny one I thought was hilarious (partly because of a certain writer-of-a-very-famous-boy-wizard's overuse of a certain part of speech): "The goats are sneezing emphatically." (In the title story, page 285.) Th...more
Jun 12, 2009 Hallie added it
Shelves: fantasy
Read as part of the 48 Hour Reading Challenge - but not quite finished then.

I have no idea what to give this as a rating. It's got some classic Link stories ('The Faery Handbag' is my all-time favourite) and it's beautifully done. A lot of the stories have appeared in other places though, which is -- well, depends on what you want from this collection. Of the ones I hadn't read before I loved 'The Wrong Grave' and 'The Surfer', really disliked 'Monster' and was a bit meh about 'Pretty Monsters'...more
Heather Ingemar
Feb 27, 2009 Heather Ingemar rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who don't mind verrrrrryy slow pacing
Two words: Meandering Narrative.

Which was a disappointment, because I loved Link's kooky voice, and her wonderfully creative description/metaphor. She's obviously a talented writer!

But, with every story I read, I found myself wondering when she would get to the point. And when the beauty of the short story form is that it is fast-paced and exciting, having stories that meander around the point and lollygag around becomes extremely frustrating for the reader.
"The Faery Handbag" was my favorite story of the collection. The title and final story, "Pretty Monsters," was a perfect way to end the book. I found the narrator's voice in the first three stories a little confusing and unclear. It distracted me from the stories which were entertaining and interesting. Then my favorite story came up fourth. I loved the characterization of the grandmother and the idea that a village lived inside her handbag. The story played on the stereotype that old people tel...more
Apr 26, 2010 Alicia rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya, arc
I'll be honest. I only read 6 of the 9 short stories in this book. Usually, I feel obligated to finish a book even if I'm not enjoying it so much, but because these were short stories, there was nothing tying me to it. I enjoyed at least a part of each story. I loved the voice and concept of Magic for Beginners. However, I was ultimately dissatisfied by where each story went and how each story ended. They seemed careless rather than haunting.
I liked most of the stories in this horror/dark fantasy collection, but the lengths felt a little odd to me. The ones that ended quickly, I wanted to go into a little deeper; the ones that ran for more than fifty pages had me getting restless. Still, good dark fiction with humor is hard to find and the author's writing is distinct and eye-catching.
Pretty Monsters is a collection of short stories in which the first three stories made me break into tears at the end. Only halfway through did I notice these were sort of horror stories, and it was only by the end that I noticed they were written for young adults. I picked this up because I read a book of short stories by Joe Hill (Stephen King's brilliant son, who knew?)--then I looked at Joe Hill's website, and he mentioned how much he loved Kelly Link's strange settings and tone. Brilliant b...more
One night, I read the first story and thought, "This is fun and original!". I read the second story that same night and thought, "Wow, I may be in love with Kelly Link!". I went to bed, went to work the next day, and recommended this book to everyone who may be interested, antsy to get home and keep reading.

My enthusiasm waned a little bit at the beginning of "Magic for Beginners". I thought, "There's a lot of quirk here for the sake of quirk, and this story is not making a lot of sense. These...more
Aside from The Faery Handbag, I hadn't read anything by Kelly Link prior to this collection of short stories. Nine in all, of varying length, time period and feel, the stories showcase Link's mastery of the short story form--in a couple of paragraphs she tells us everything we need to know, and she then does the slow reveal with the punchline at the end. I'm in awe of her technique! The stories explore a multitude of themes such as textuality, reality, death, myth, and magic, all with mystery an...more
Before I began this review, I read some other opinions on-line. It isn't that I didn't know my opinion of the stories so far, but I wasn't sure if I was alone. Kelly Link is a good writer. By that I mean Kelly Link is very creative and does write interesting narratives. That being written I don't particularly like these stories. I am a little more than halfway through them and have found only one or two that I can honestly write I enjoyed. The few I have found interesting were also beyond creepy...more
Anyone curious about Kelly Link would do well by choosing this story collection as a first book to read. Her stories are creative, original and always unexpected. There isn't one particular writer I can neatly compare her to, but she often reminds me a little bit of Neil Gaiman (I prefer Link to Gaiman). The stories also transcend any one particular genre- she blurs the lines between traditional fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and assorted other categories. Reading through Pretty Monsters, you will not...more
I used to love short stories. As if words gain in strength when there is less of them (provided they have been put in the right order). Still somehow I lost interest. I got hooked on large volumes with prequels and sequels instead. Until now that is.

Did you ever notice there is always a link between the book you just read and the book you are reading right now? Some quirky detail in both, about a nut allergy or the color of the bathroom tiles? This time, the link is rather blatant. A shameless...more
This collection of fantastical short stories covers a wide range of styles, moods and lengths, but they all include an element of the mysterious, the mythical, or the other-wordly. Some stories feature contemporary teens in odd situations, like the girl in “The Faery Handbag” searching for her grandmother’s handbag which contains another world. Other stories offer high fantasy, aliens, the undead, and bizarre TV shows that you’ve never seen, but “you wish you had.” Each story feels unique and un...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
This one is supposed to be a collection of stories for young adults but it's great for adults as well. The tales have untrustworthy wizards, talking corpses, vampiric ghosts and undead babysitters. Here is an America where anything can happen and it usually does.

The book opens with “The Wrong Grave”, in which Miles, a teenage boy, digs up what he believes to be his girlfriend’s grave in an attempt to recover a sheaf of poetry so he can submit it to a contest.

In "Magic for Beginners", Jeremy Mar...more
This was really good, although I was disappointed that some stories from her adult collection were replicated here. What is nice about this book of hers in particular though is that because it is young adult-geared she more directly engages with the fantasy genre instead of writing her usual eccentric magical realism crossed with modern fiction and dry wit sort of thing. While I like that about her, it was interesting to read her when she was actually writing more straightforward fantasy stories...more
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Kelly Link is an American author of short stories born in 1969. Her stories might be described as slipstream or magic realism: sometimes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realism.
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