Alan's Reviews > Pretty Monsters: Stories

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
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's review
Apr 29, 09

Recommended to Alan by: The library's reshelving cart
Recommended for: The young and adult
Read in April, 2009, read count: 1

The stories in Kelly Link's collection Pretty Monsters are all written in simple, lucid prose, and her protagonists are, by and large, teenagers and younger children. That's enough, I guess, to explain why I found this book in the "Teen Fiction" section of my local library (well, that and the fact that Link specifically selected these stories for young adults). But they're also uniformly surreal, antic, and above all well-written, and you shouldn't let that sort of niche marketing put you off reading them, even if you happen to be more of a grownup.

Kelly Link is, of course, also one of the founders of the long-running and well-regarded slipstream magazine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Her talents are multiple and well worth noting.

These nine tales are by no means lightweight stories, although Link has a light touch with them, full of observational humor and asides to the reader. Take Miles, for example, in "The Wrong Grave," about whom Link says "You might think at certain points in this story that I'm being hard on Miles, that I'm not sympathetic to his situation. This isn't true. I'm as fond of Miles as I am of anyone else. I don't think he's any stupider or any bit less special or remarkable than--for example--you. Anyone might accidentally dig up the wrong grave. It's a mistake anyone could make."

Or notice how deftly the smells that permeate "Monster" get inside your head--the odors of urine and feet and flatulence that go along with camping in the rain--even before the titular monster shows up.

Or this dark but keenly-observed fragment from the title story, the one that concludes this volume: "A monster. You and your friends, all of you. Pretty monsters. It's a stage all girls go through. If you're lucky you get through it without doing any permanent damage to yourself or anyone else."

Link has a way of making all her characters come alive, from the self-centered and really rather dim soccer player in "The Surfer" to Jeremy, the confused young man who treks across the country in "Magic for Beginners" (also the title story of an earlier collection--some of these are reprints). I enjoyed all of these stories, even the ones I'd read before in other places.

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