Christa Seeley's Reviews > The Kingstonians

The Kingstonians by Jonathan Ryan Vassallo
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's review
Aug 12, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: canlit, short-stories

Originally posted at Christa's Hooked on Books

This collection of short stories begins with a story called “The Prince”. While reading this story I repeatedly felt frustrated, throwing the book down and exclaiming “Really?!” to whoever was around me at the time. The main character – Pete - just annoyed the hell out of me. I just couldn't understand why he was just so stupid! I remember at the time thinking it wasn't a very promising start to the book. When the story ended, however, I remember smiling and then babbling on and on about it. I realized I just loved to hate Pete. His actions were entertaining and he was well written. And so began my adventure through The Kingstonians.

“The Prince” is immediately followed by a story called “The Well”. I don't want to tell you too much about it because I think it'll be a better experience if you go in blind. This is probably my favourite story in the collection. It's gripping, it's moving. It radiates emotion but is also so dark. The first two stories are so dramatically different that you have to keep reading just too see what's going to pop up next.

Thankfully, the variety continues through out the collection. Some stories make you laugh (“The Manipulative Woman”), others are completely heartbreaking (“The Visionary”) and some make you think about society (“The Vroom”). It's pretty remarkable really, the range of ideas and styles that are going on in this book. All that being said, however, they were not all gems. Some were a little corny, and others needed a little polishing. Not all by any means, but one in particular made me feel like I was reading a creative writing assignment. This isn't so much a criticism of the writer, however, but of the publisher. I think with some stronger editing, or maybe more selective story placement, these problems may have been avoided.

This was an interesting and varied collection of stories from a young debut author. The stories were fun to read and no two were a like. A feature I very much admire in a short story collection. I generally don't read collections like this because I tend to sit the book down after a couple stories and get too distracted to pick it back up again. This was not the case with The Kingstonians. I think this is partly because I lived in Kingston Ontario for so many years and felt a happy nostalgia while reading it. I also went to Queen's University which is featured prominently in a number of stories. Sometimes it felt like he was writing about people I actually knew! But these weren't the only reasons I enjoyed this collection. The stories were interesting and they often surprised me (in a good way). I think J.R. Vassallo is a promising author and I would like to read more of his work in the future.

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