Kelly Link taps into teenagers’ darkest emotions in Pretty Monsters. The selfishness and ego of a boy who attempts to dig up his dead girlfriend’s grave so he can reclaim the poetry he buried with her; the anger and fear at being singled out; the cruelty friends and siblings can visit on each other; ambivalence toward parents; the unhealthy fantasies that shape thoughts and actions. The main characters in these stories aren’t always monsters, and they usually have sympathetic or likable characteristics, but the stories depend on what’s going on beyond the façade. Her writing packs a powerful punch.
Link frequently uses metafictive devices, speaking directly to the reader from a story, or framing and linking multiple narratives. Although she uses these techniques skillfully, they can be confusing for readers used to linear narratives, and multiple readings can lead to a richer experience. A great example of this is the title story, “Pretty Monsters”, which fits three sets of girls together through books. Link also frequently ends her stories in an abrupt manner, which left this reader with her heart in her throat more than once! Two of my favorite stories, “Monster” and “The Cinderella Game”, used it quite effectively! Her writing is also very evocative. In “The Wrong Grave”, I can tell you exactly what Gloria looked like! There’s humor, too, although for the most part it’s very black.
Pretty Monsters contains stories across genres. Some are clearly set in a fantasy world, and one is even science fiction. I loved “The Wizards of Perfil”, which illustrates that there can be hope even when everything seems like an exercise in futility, but I would say that Link’s strength is in writing about the experiences of contemporary teens, infused with her own sense of the magical, eerie, and bizarre. Much of Link’s award-winning work is contained in this volume, so you get a good representation of what she has accomplished, as well as newer work. The illustrations by Shaun Tan and quotes that precede each story add a different perspective, and the cover design and art are striking.
Readers with a love for the bizarre and a clear memory of the teenage years, as well as the young adult audience these stories are intended for, will fall head over heels for these stories. Although it certainly isn’t for everyone, Pretty Monsters is an original and unique title that ought to be in every young adult collection. Highly recommended.
Contains: gravedigging, mild sexual references and kissing, violence and murder
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski
Kirsten gets a chance to interview Kelly Link, read the interview (http://www.monsterlibrarian.com/Kelly...