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When Mystical Creatures Attack!
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When Mystical Creatures Attack!

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  553 ratings  ·  147 reviews
In When Mystical Creatures Attack!, Ms. Freedman’s high school English class writes essays in which mystical creatures resolve the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. Students include Janice Gibbs, “a feral child with excessive eyeliner and an anti-authoritarian complex that would be interesting were it not so ill-informed,” and Cody Splunk, an aspiring writer working on ...more
Paperback, 163 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by University Of Iowa Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Melinda Borie
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Jennifer Founds
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you SHOULD judge a book by the cover. And just like the cover, this book is MAGICAL, DARING, and LIFE CHANGING. A mournful squid trying to pull a majestic unicorn down to the depths! I have never seen a more profound metaphor for the human struggle. (One difference between book and cover: the book has many dimensions unlike the uniquely flat illustrations on the cover.)

I received an advance copy of the book and was quite simply blown away. The book draws you in from page one with its
Sep 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize in 2014. It is also made me extremely angry.

There were actually some funny parts (the opening, and titular essay/chapter is notable, as is the faux-horror story about the killer Bible manikins), but I do not see the "provocative" or "dark" humor running through this book as so many others have. A dark cloud of rage overwhelms this book, because I am very offended at the way the author portrays mental illness.

Books end up on my to-read list any number of ways; I d
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this early from Netgalley, and I couldn't be more delighted. So fresh and revealing. Emotion this raw is rarely found in new fiction. My heart ached with love for these characters. Best book I've read so far this year. A true gift.
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Although there's merit to be found in the accent-on-creative writing in this book, I found it to be one hot mess. It's holding a high rating average here on GR, however, maybe for its daring, genre-busting, subversive humor. But one man's daring genre-buster is another man's singular hot mess.

It's book-ended with classroom teacher scenes where the kids are more un- than ruly. Truly. And I sympathize with the teacher, one Laura Freedman. And I find some of her students funny. And mayb
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Why the full star rating? Because it smacks of youth and all the clever, witty things the teens write echo what my own teenager children say and think. Very funny. Here is one excerpt that made me laugh childishly. "You wouldn't have had to bring in all your childhood books from your family's basement, and you wouldn't have been so upset when someone drew boobs and a penis on Black Beauty. I know you think it was me, because of those notes I wrote you, but it wasn't."

Ms. Freedman's c
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was not at all what I expected. If you judge from the title and cover, you'd expect a funny, perhaps even silly, fantasy book, possibly geared toward younger readers. Instead, it's a collection of interrelated short stories, most of which aren't in the form of stories per se, that tell about the lives of three characters, one a teacher who has a mental breakdown and the other two her former students. Some of the stories are screamingly funny (the title story, for instance, is comprised ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was able to obtain an advance copy of this book, and it is amazing. This novel is broken up in over a dozen short stories, so it is a very fast read. The style from story to story is very dynamic, so you never know what to expect from the next one. The tone of the work shifts between hilarious to thoughtful to downright heartbreaking; several of the funnier chapters had surprise endings that would leave me a little choked up. Although the book is fiction and not science-fiction/fantasy, the wo ...more
Rowan MacBean
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, ya-mg-na-kids

Another tidbit, in the spirit of full disclosure: This review is basically going to be made up of several chunks of the contents of an email I sent to Kathleen Founds after I finished the book. (Also: She's really super nice, and if she writes more books, I will buy every single one of them.)

Okay. So! When I requested When Mystical Creatures Attack! from it was a case of judging a boo
Bruce Gargoyle
Full review at http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress... (Sept 12)

I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley.

Ten Second Synopsis:
Within these pages is a micro-level social history, depicting three individuals trying to eke out a satisfying existence in an uncaring universe…as well as a treatise on how mystical creatures could be harnessed to solve the problems of our time.

This was both an utterly discomfiting and unutterably satisfying reading experience. I have ne
Reading Bifrost
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it

“Plenty of teachers have thrown a terrarium out a window and shouted, ‘You’re driving me crazy!’ But you’re the first who actually followed through.”

First off I have to say that this book wasn’t at all what I first expected. I expected a witty commentary about how a school teacher in the midst of a midlife crisis is handling school systems, parents, and disrespectful students. What I got instead was a book full of life lessons learned through experience and through the eyes of others.

The three/>
Joannah Keats
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, own
This review refers to the NetGalley edition.

This is the kind of book that I would hand to a friend and say, "You should read this." They would ask "What's it about?" and as I tried to think of a way to explain it, I would give up, shrug, and say "Just read it."

I read it over the course of just a couple hours, sucked in from page 1 at the sheer originality and bizareness of it. The first section is a collection of writing responses that a group of high school English students wrote a
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Winner of the 2014 University of Iowa Press John Simmons Short Fiction Prize, this "novel-in-stories" reads like a creative writing exercise that should have been completed, critiqued, and filed rather than being published. The characters, while not without interest, lack verisimilitude -- it would be difficult to discern who is speaking if one were to be given a sample of dialogue without a character's name attached. The plot seems cobbled together from stories that, while tangentially related, ...more
Lindsey Lewis
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, net-galley
I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley. When Mystical Creatures Attack is released today, October 1, 2014, and I strongly recommend going out and getting a copy.

The novel follows a high school teacher suffering a nervous breakdown and two of her most interesting students through essays, emails, therapeutic journaling attempts, and even recipes from a church cookbook.

I have found one of my new favorite authors and books. This is the kind of writing I hope to be able to accomplish one day,
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, fantasy, book-riot
This book contains both hilarious entries for a Methodist women’s fundraising cookbook and "The Hall of Old-Testament Miracles” where wax figures of Bible characters come to life as zombies only to be beaten back by the ever vigilant wax figure Founding Fathers. Not to mention it has a lot of talk about jam and jam factories. Basically, it is the tale of me heart.

Incredible and joyous and heartbreaking and real while still ridiculous - the perfect sort of book. I will recommend it to everyone.
Melissa Benson
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"These hilarious, heartbreaking stories build a new architecture between the novel and the postmodern parable, revising our notions of what the short story is and might be. ~ Wells Tower"

I love the novel-in-stories format of this book? collection? perfect piece of art? Whatever you want to call it, it is brilliant in its execution. The perfect recipe of real and surreal, high and low, grace and cruelty used to show, not tell, what its like to experience a life with mental illness. Add vivid,
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a really unique story. It's told through English class assignments (hence the title), snippets from Psych Ward handouts, emails, letters, journal entries--you get the idea. It took me two tries to get into this book. The first time I had no framework for who or what I was reading about. The second time, it was easier to pick out the teacher (Laura Freedman) and a few students who become major characters. The teacher is basically institutionalized and several of her students are flounderi ...more
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This book starts off with two questions and the responses to those questions set the tone of the book: Random. Unique. Magical. Mystical. Silly. Insightful. This story is told through emails, essays, journal entries, creative writing shorts and even recipes and while the method is random and eclectic, and at times a little confusing, it gives you a well rounded, in depth look into the lives of three people brought together
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: death, family, netgalley
I was faked out by the cartoonist creature on the cover. I thought When Mystical Creatures Attack was a tween novel. What it is is a often funny, always deadly serious romp through mental illness, social injustice, throw-away lives, yearning for God and some of the deepest, oldest questions. Originally written as a series of short pieces, the whole book holds together well. The writing is very "writerly" and very talented. You will learn that a lot can be revealed through a high school English a ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't give many full star ratings, but in this case I didn't hesitate. The book was adorable and a little bit magical.

Founds has an ability to tap into the full human experience - I laughed and I cried and I wanted more. She does this while the book operates via a non-conventional narrative structure.

The reader feels impossibly close to the characters - and Founds, for a brief time, made me feel like I was a high school student again (it was a nice trip to nostalgia, but I am glad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky to get a copy of this through NetGalley, and am kicking myself for leaving it unread for so long. This kind of reminded me of Where'd You Go, Bernadette? with a David Foster Wallace + Dostoevsky vibe. Truly amazing.

The Methodist Fundraising Cookbook chapter was hilarious, heartbreaking and just brilliant. Serve with cornbread.

Seriously, this is in the top 3 of books I've read this year; I'm glad to be ending 2014 with such a great one.
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a delightfully silly book. It wanders all over the place, but never strays far from the story of a madwoman who taught her students how to be crazy too. The tale is told via pages of essays & communications, snippets of recipes, and bits of paperwork from the insane asylum. It is a mishmash of delight that I finished in one sitting.
Alexander Yates
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is simply brilliant. It carves out a new formal space that allows it to work simultaneously as a collection and something more than a novel-in-stories (you could make an argument that it's a straight up novel, and I'd nod thoughtfully as say: "I can see that"). Humane, inventive, fearless, hilarious. There isn't a page of this that I didn't adore.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible achievement – students’ short imaginative essays, diaries, narration – all part of an imaginative whole full of laughter and tears, and ripe for book club and classroom discussion – a remarkable and rich accomplishment!
Linda J
Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Startlingly well written. Fresh and poignant, yet old as Eve. Feels like poetry, in which every word is well chosen, every image required. Quite dark and despondent, yet never cheap or pitying. A small investment of time yields reams on our "...lives of quiet [and not so quiet] desperation".
Matt Velick
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional. That perfect blend of devastating humor and crippling melancholy that validates all of my life decisions to ignore everything happening around me, and instead, sit back and read. My heart squeals with delight as it simultaneously breaks in half.
Grigory Lukin
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"When Mystical Creatures Attack!" by Kathleen Founds is a quirky book that defies simple descriptions.

It's a book about a disgruntled young high school teacher in a tiny Texan town, who gets driven insane by her ungrateful students and ends up in a bizarre mental hospital. It's a book about a girl who takes the teacher's English class. It's a book about a dorky boy who has a crush on the girl.

It's a book pieced together from emails, diary entries, monologues and hilarious
Wade Rasmussen II
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm not much of a book reviewer, but I saw this on the list of best books of 2014 from the New York Times and their synopsis had me hooked. This is a complete novel, though told from the perspective of various characters in different parts of their lives. A chapter of high school students' short stories, one on correspondence between the main characters, and one on recipes pushes the narrative forward.

Kathleen Founds has an interesting and unique way of delivering a story through the
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Obviously, I had trouble categorizing this book.

It was possibly not a great choice to read during the holiday season when several people I know are struggling with their own psychiatric problems.

The cover caught my attention at the library, and well, the title cinched it. I had to read it.

There are mystical creatures in this book, but not a lot and they're not the primary focus.

The story revolves around a young woman, with a family history of menta
Bryan Furuness
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read Kathleen Founds was when she submitted a story called "The Un-Game" to Booth, the magazine where I work. The visiting judge didn't pick her story, but it was a favorite among the readers and has since become a cult classic with the staff. For good reason, too: that story is funny and heartbreaking, and the voices of the teacher and the students in the story crackle with personality.

I waited a long time for this book. I'm happy—so happy—to say that the rest of this book is
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Kathleen Founds has worked at a nursing home, a phone bank, a South Texas middle school, and a Midwestern technical college specializing in truck driving certificates. She got her undergraduate degree at Stanford and her MFA at Syracuse. She teaches social justice themed English classes at Cabrillo College in Watsonville, CA, and writes while her daughters are napping.
“The leaf said nothing. Or maybe it said everything, which, as all colors make white, sounds like nothing.” 2 likes
“I got used to birds: small black birds flying up from behind a building like God had tossed up a handful of currants, birds squalling in the parking lot of the grocery store (drowning the hum of industrial refrigerators), chachalacas -brown robed nuns to the spangled disco dancer peacocks - cackling in the dust of our yard. I got used to the chatters, squeaks, squalls, peeps, calls that sounded like bitter laughter, whistles, flutes, calls that sounded like souls ascending to heaven. I got used to dust and flatness, to sunsets like pink water pouring from the sky, flooding the earth with orange soda. I got used to wind: the hot, cruel wind of afternoon, the merciful magnolia breeze of night. I got used to it. But then I had to go.” 0 likes
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