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Pretty Monsters: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 2, 2008

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers as yet unfamiliar with Link (Magic for Beginners) will be excited to discover her singular voice in this collection of nine short stories, her first book for young adults. The first entry, The Wrong Grave, immediately demonstrates her rare talents: a deadpan narration that conceals the author's metafictional sleight-of-hand (Miles had always been impulsive. I think you should know that right up front); subjects that range from absurd to mundane, all observed with equidistant irony. Miles, hoping to recover the poems he's buried with his dead girlfriend, digs up what appears to be the wrong corpse (It's a mistake anyone could make, interjects the narrator), who regains life and visits her mother, a lapsed Buddhist (Mrs. Baldwin had taken her Buddhism very seriously, once, before substitute teaching had knocked it out of her'). Other stories have more overtly magical or intertextual themes; in each, Link's peppering of her prose with random associations dislocates readers from the ordinary. With a quirky, fairytale style evocative of Neil Gaiman, the author mingles the grotesque and the ethereal to make magic on the page. Ages 12–up.
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From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—In her first collection of stories for young adults, Link upends traditional horror, science fiction, and fantasy motifs, creating original, quirky, and distinctly beautiful literary landscapes. Honed, brilliant language renders blood, werewolves, ghosts, magic, and monsters sublime—at times even funny. Readers will relish uncertainty in these savory, strange stories and never feel quite sure of their footing. They proceed giddily, jumping from one uncanny premise, phrase, or image to the next, eventually stumbling upon a revelation that hits them like the snap of a rubber band. Clever resolutions and tricky plots place teens on delightfully circuitous reading paths. Unexpected endings force them to double back and reconsider each story from the beginning. In this second read, young adults might notice Link's seamless incorporation of their own experiences. Awkward adolescence, uncomfortable first love, frustrating parents, and complicated friendships surface quietly amid wonderfully knotty, twisted plots and incandescent imagery. This compilation of intricate, transfixing selections succeeds in making the weird wonderful and the grotesque absolutely gorgeous.—Shelley Huntington, New York Public Library
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670010901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670010905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kelly Link's debut collection, Stranger Things Happen, was a Firecracker nominee, a Village Voice Favorite Book and a Salon Book of the Year -- Salon called the collection " alchemical mixture of Borges, Raymond Chandler, and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Stories from the collection have won the Nebula, the James Tiptree Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards. Her second collection, Magic for Beginners, was a Book Sense pick (and a Best of Book Sense pick); and selected for best of the year lists by Time Magazine, Salon, Boldtype, Village Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Capitol Times. It was published in paperback by Harcourt. Kelly is an editor for the Online Writing Workshop and has been a reader and judge for various literary awards. With Gavin J. Grant and Ellen Datlow she edits The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror (St. Martin's Press). She also edited the anthology, Trampoline. Kelly has visited a number of schools and workshops including Stonecoast in Maine, Washington University, Yale, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, Brookdale Community College, Brookdale, NJ, Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, NC, the Imagination Workshop at Cleveland State University, New England Institute of Art & Communications, Brookline, MA, Clarion East at Michigan State University, Clarion West in Seattle, WA, and Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia. Kelly lives in Northampton, MA. She received her BA from Columbia University and her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kelly and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, publish a twice-yearly zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet -- as well as books -- as Small Beer Press.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on October 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have a confession - I'm an adult who loves so-called YA novels, and especially tales of the supernatural and macabre. Kelly Link 's "Pretty Monsters' seems to be borderline between YA and adult fiction. The stories within this collection of dark, fantastical tales are truly unique and what makes them stand out, besides the imaginative plots and unusual characters are the fact that the stories themselves don't usually resolve themselves in a conventional manner.

Among the stories I liked were "Monster", in which a ravenous beast preys on boys at summer camp - and this is an unusual creature indeed, it uses a cell phone. There's the story "The Faerie Handbag"of a girl whose grandma's purse happens to be the living quarters of a fairy village. "The Wrong Grave" is another one that is creepy yet humorous - of a boy named Miles who regrets burying the sole copy of his collection of poems in his deceased girlfriend's casket. These are among the tales that sucked me into a weird,terrifying, and yet humor-tinged world.

The other stories in this collection are "Magic for Beginners" in which a teenager finds himself questioning the 'reality' of the TV show he's addicted to, "The Surfer", "The Wizards of Perfil", "The Constable of Able", "The Specialist's Hat" and "Pretty Monsters".

This is Kelly Link's third collection of stories, after "Magic for Beginners", and "Stranger Things Happen", and the first collection for young adults. The protagonists in these stories are all teens and despite the strange premises of the stories, the characters themselves seem very real and the emotions they experience as they face their 'realities' are very much human. Highly recommended!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Scott William Foley VINE VOICE on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In a recent interview, Michael Chabon recommended reading Kelly Link. His suggestion was good enough for me, and so I quickly got a copy of the short story collection Pretty Monsters from my local library.

I think the first thing I need to note is that Pretty Monsters is a young adult novel. Meaning that, while there is some profanity and adult circumstances, the stories largely focus upon young adult protagonists and largely investigate themes important to young adults.

However, that is not to say that you should turn your nose up at this book if you are an old adult as opposed to a young adult. (I'm 32, where does that put me?) Link has one of the most imaginative minds I've ever run across. While her stories dealt with aspects of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each was completely original and refreshingly weird. I mean that as a total compliment, by the way. Oftentimes, I feel like authors aren't willing to get flat-out weird enough. I'm not talking perverse--I'm just talking weird in a fun and provocative way. Link often took her stories in unexpected directions, and if you do manage to predict an outcome to one of her stories, be assured that she meant for you to do so.

My only complaint about Pretty Monsters, though, is the fact that each story tended to end on a rather abrupt, inconclusive note. Some people really enjoy this, but I personally prefer more decisive endings. Link charmed me, consequently, when she addressed this issue in--appropriately enough--the final story in the collection. Somehow the fact that she's cognizant of her trends makes it less irritating for me.

In particular, I recommend "The Faery Handbag," "Magic for Beginners," "Pretty Monsters," and, by far one of the best short stories I've ever read, "The Surfer."

~Scott William Foley, author of Souls Triumphant
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In a dual review of her previous collections, Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners a couple of years ago, I wrote the following about Kelly Link:

"...for the last decade, [Link] has demonstrated an unparalleled mastery of the short story form in every sense of that word. In retrospect, to say she has mastered the form is perhaps an understatement: not only has she tamed this particular beast, she's taught it a few new tricks. Her talent and dedication shine through in each and every tale.

Link's collections are treasure troves of creative storytelling, each volume a celebration of the power of the imagination, each story a unique, glittering gem worthy of careful and repeated inspection. Combining fantastic concepts with familiar elements of the real world, Link's works reveal there are myriad ways of interpreting and portraying "reality". You'll rarely encounter a writer as warm, adventurous, eclectic and sharp witted as Link. Fearless, there is no place she won't go; empathic, she effortlessly conveys to her audience the nuances of her characters' pain, bewilderment, joy and understanding."

I'm pleased to report that Link's latest collection, Pretty Monsters, bears out these words, providing incontrovertible evidence that she is, as Peter Straub once said, "the most impressive writer of her generation.
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