Kawai's Reviews > Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
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May 27, 12

Read from April 23 to May 27, 2012

The reviews for Schappell's BLUEPRINTS collection are mixed, with good reason. Like any short story collection, there will be some stories that will resonate more or less, depending on the reader. Unlike most short story collections, the vast majority of these stories weren't previously published (with the exception of a few, one of which--"The Joy of Cooking"--was this reviewer's favorite of the collection). It's difficult to say whether that's a good or bad thing, as some readers will be happy to find fresh stories they couldn't possibly have been exposed to elsewhere, while others might wonder if the lack of published material suggests certain stories might have been hurried.

That's all really irrelevant when it comes down to the writing itself. I came to this book on the strength of "The Joy of Cooking", hoping to find more of the same--stories that were touching and populated with complicated characters involved in moving, real relationships with each other and the world around them, while subtly commenting on myriad facets of women's lives in contemporary American society--and was sorely disappointed when that turned out not to be the case. The vast majority of the stories in the collection lacked life, movement, tension, and characters that felt deep and real. More often than not, the collection seemed to contain characters that were empty shells used as vehicles to discuss this or that aspect of women's lives...which might still work out, if some of the stories ever felt like they got off the ground.

To be fair, it's important to recognize the reader's role in making a book work. Perhaps I came to this book at the wrong time; perhaps something in my life pulled me away from it. Either way, I dropped out and didn't feel compelled to finish with only a story and a half left to go in the collection.
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