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Pretty Monsters: Stories

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,356 ratings  ·  731 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, Expanded Edition: 9 Stories, 389 pages
Published October 2nd 2008 by Viking Books for Young Readers (first published July 1st 2008)
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Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing

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
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
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kelly Link’s writing is gorgeous. These stories don’t all have the same tone or theme or setting or anything like that, but they do have that writing style in common, and it’s great. I’m not actually very good at liking short stories — I like developed characters and longer plots — but these are, for the most part, pretty enjoyable. ‘The Surfer’ was, if anything, a little too long for me, because most of what happens is character development.

I was surprised to realise I’d read both ‘The Wizards
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
Dec 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicholas Kaufmann
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another winning collection from Kelly Link, as full of wit, charm, and sophisticated storytelling as her others. The stories skew a bit younger here, but Link's trademark surrealism and underlying darkness are still present, which means adults will enjoy the collection as much as young adults. Shaun Tan's illustrations add a nice touch. Choosing a favorite story in a Link collection is always hard, but the title story, "Pretty Monsters," really blew me away. It's a tour de force. The similarly n ...more
Heather Ingemar
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-stories
Shannon Miranda
Short Story Genre

This is a book made up of short stories and the continuing theme is either fantasy, horror or science fiction. Unfortunately, the book was disappointing. Many of the stories started out to be so interesting and creative yet, would then end abruptly. It is as if the author had writers block or ran out of steam while writing and decided to make the stores short instead of finishing them. It is a shame because a few had such potential to be more than the way they wer
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit. That was fantastic.

My favorites were the one about the handbag and the one about the surfer and the aliens.

But. Wow. A+ for narrative style. A+ for general goodness of writing.

Highly recommended
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good shit good shit good shit 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
3 stars for 3 stories that I liked. It's an anthology out of which I could enjoy only this many stories. The rest are scattered in their intention and plot.
Ok read.
RECOMMENDED? Yes, if you like weirdness or kids/teens in dilemmas... or want to find out what "Pretty Monsters" refers to.

YA VERDICT: 4 solar units
ADULT VERDICT: 3 solar units

A FEW DETAILS (no spoilers):
(view spoiler)
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: want-to-own
I can see why these stories are categorized as YA but they certainly aren't immature. I'd say this is my favorite of Link's collections that I've read. A variety of genres (horror, magical realism, fantasy, science fiction) that showcase Link's many strengths. Favorite stories: The Wizards of Perfil, The Constable of Abal, The Surfer, Magic for Beginners. ...more
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Pretty Monsters is a collection of short stories from author Kelly Link. They range from fantastic stories I wish were full length novels to stories wrapped up neatly. None of the monsters were cut and dry monsters but were generally misunderstood or had a sense of humour.
My personal favourites are Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters, The Wrong Grave and Monster.
The Monster in the camp based story "Monster" had a playfulness and wasn't perhaps as much of a monster as the boys in Bungalow 4.
I a
Oct 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Although each story was expertly narrated, these stories were not for me. I had high hopes during the first story about a young man who digs up the grave of his dead girlfriend because he needs the poetry he buried with her only the girl he digs up is both alive and nothing like his girlfriend. It was funny and a bit weird. But all the stories had one thing in common. They ended without end. They simply stopped. Abruptly. Almost mid-sentence although of course they did not. But I couldn't see th ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
else fine
On your way to grab your copy of Twilight in the Young Adult section, you may have passed Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters, with its haunting cover art by Shaun Tan. Link's been getting major raves and critical acclaim for years for her small-press collections of short stories, and this, her first major-publisher book, is her strongest work yet. Link is one of the most innovative and interesting writers of young adult fiction, with more good ideas in one story than most writers ever have in their wh ...more
Monica Edinger
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: award-worthy, fantasy
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 08, 2009 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'
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Kelly Link is an American author best known for her short stories, which span a wide variety of genres - most notably magic realism, fantasy and horror. She is a graduate of Columbia University.

Her stories have been collected in four books - Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters, and most recently, Get in Trouble.
She has won several awards for her short stories, including th

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