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Pretty Monsters: Stories by Kelly Link

Pretty Monsters: Stories (2008)

by Kelly Link

Other authors: Shaun Tan (Illustrator)

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7514512,377 (4.04)43

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Link has a wonderful knack with short stories; these all feel like satisfying shorter segments of longer narratives which tell perfectly satisfying stories that somehow don’t fully resolve themselves. They don’t end, they merely close the section of the character’s story the author’s chosen to tell. That’s also a tribute to the author’s knack of being able to quickly and skilfully bring characters and their worlds to life. It’s also a refreshingly modern fantasy collection; only once is there a straightforward fantasy, otherwise it’s good to see mundane trappings of modern life seeded in throughout; football, trains, summer camps and pop culture references.

These stories tend to nudge towards dark fantasy, but that’s offset by the often playful tone. Stories the one which lends the collection its title, The Cinderella Game or Monster threaten to tread the nastiest side of human nature but are rescued by a playfulness of form and ideas, even better it’s a lightness that asks questions of the reader (quite literally in the case of Pretty Monsters). Only The Specialist’s Hat takes that final turn into the blackest part of the woods and even then the crucial moment is not dwelt upon (and it feels absolutely right in context).

There’s really not a duff moment here; each story has thoughtful and clever moments, they repay rereading and going back over what you thought you read. Perhaps there’s the odd obvious moment (the twist in The Wizards of Perfil seemed obvious, but I might have read a few too many fantasies or seen a certain film which led me to expect just what I got) and The Surfer seems a tad thin for its length but overall this is a fine collection which, like a good website, left me wanting to explore more Links. ( )
  JonArnold | Aug 1, 2015 |
Pretty Monsters is a short story collection by Kelly Link, with illustrations by Shaun Tan.

Pretty Monsters is a wonderful collection, sometimes eerie, sometimes funny and always beautifully written. All stories are fantastic/science-fictional but all in very different ways, showing the (apparent) ease with which Link changes styles and narrative voices. She’s also really good at balancing humor and big (and often sad) issues. Tan’s illustrations (at the beginning of each story) perfectly capture the atmospheres as well. I might not have liked all the stories equally well, but there was no story I didn’t like.

On my blog more about each of the stories: http://kalafudra.com/2015/06/29/pretty-monsters-kelly-link/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jul 2, 2015 |
This collection of weird tales for juveniles, or perhaps young adults, has a few clever ideas and reads easily, but the little magic Link achieves is surface magic at best. As an adult, and (unfortunately!) not a young one, I'm hardly her target audience, but it would be nice to see the author work just a bit harder to give these stories some meaning that stays with the reader after the final page is turned. My story-by-story reviews, written as I was reading, follow.

The Wrong Grave (**) - Really annoying intrusions by the authorial voice spoil whatever fun this throwaway tale of a young man digging up the grave of his former girlfriend to retrieve a book of poetry he left in her coffin, but for which he has no copies. Sort of pointless.

The Wizards of 'Perfil (*** 1/2) - This story has a completely different tone and could be from a different writer. Though written at a juvenile level, but tells a satisfying tale of a young girl and her cousin who are sold to the wizards of the title. The narrative here is quite effective and the ending satisfying.

Magic for Beginners (** 1/2) - This story of a strange television show and a group of young people who are obsessed by it is enjoyable, but just sort of rambles on and on. The protagonist is likable, and there are some good scenes and observations, especially about male-female relationships. Some might describe the story of the TV show as being Borgesian--but Borges never rambled, and in the end I just have to conclude that the author knows how to write--but doesn't know how to tell a story.

The Faery Handbag (**) - Another interesting idea, a handbag that opens up into another dimension, but the author just doesn't seem to care enough to give the story any depth or lasting meaning.

The Specialist's Hat (*** 1/2) is suitably creepy and, because it is mercifully short, quite effective.

Monster (***) - As usual, Link's portrayal of teen (and younger in other stories) characters is convincing. In this one, an overnight camping out trip at a Summer Camp runs into...complications. Still, despite some good scenes, here and elsewhere Link never seems really committed to her story, and as usual, it lacks depth.

The Surfer (****) - In a world where the United States has split apart and Costa Rica is now the height of civilization, a soccer-playing boy and his doctor father are quarantined in a Costa Rican aircraft hangar during a flu pandemic. The characters here are memorable and the relationships believable and meaningful. And oh yes, there are aliens. Despite its length, this story doesn't have the offhand quality so much of Link's work seems to have. Memorable!

The Constable of Abal (*** 1/2) - An original and pretty well-done fantasy story about a young girl who discovers a hidden truth about her mother. Very atmospheric.

Pretty Monsters (**) - The final, too long title story is convincing proof that Link is more interested in being clever than good. It interweaves two (or three?) stories into an anything but seamless whole. Pointless! ( )
1 vote datrappert | Mar 12, 2014 |
Overall pretty solid, although I feel like the story I picked this up for ("The Specialist's Hat," a World Fantasy Award-winner) was the weakest of the bunch. I did particularly like "The Wrong Grave," "Pretty Monsters" and "The Constable of Abal." ( )
  jen.e.moore | Feb 10, 2014 |
Overall, three stars, but a few individual stories were a four (I especially liked the one about the mysterious TV show). YA short stories, with YA protagonists in a variety of situations from very vaguely supernatural to full out fantasy. I liked them in general, although some aspects blended together in a way that is not a compliment. I think it's one thing for a short story collection to feel cohesive and dovetailed -- this didn't seem that intentional.

I felt like the author is a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; there was a lot of pop culture supernatural stuff that was cute and fun when it worked, although it occasionally felt like filler in a way that made me ask myself "If I was writing stories, would I really want my authorial voice to be so closely linked to a fandom?" ( )
1 vote delphica | Jan 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
The stories are wryly funny, spine-chilling and occasionally outright frightening (if I'd read "Monster" at night I'm fairly certain I'd have had nightmares). Perhaps most importantly for such surreal stories, the characters are real, easy to relate to.
added by camillahoel | editReadAndFindOut, Rebekah (Oct 14, 2009)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kelly Linkprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tan, ShaunIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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for Annabel Jones Link
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All of this happened because a boy I once knew named Miles Sperry decided to go into the resurrectionist business and dig up the grave of his girlfriend, Bethany Baldwin, who had been dead for not quite a year.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670010901, Hardcover)

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 handbag, to the near-future of ?The Surfer,? whose narrator (a soccer-playing skeptic) waits with a planeload of refugees for the aliens to arrive, Link?s stories are funny and full of unexpected insights and skewed perspectives on the world. Her fans range from Michael Chabon to Peter Buck of R.E.M. to Holly Black of Spiderwick Chronicles fame. Now teens can have their world rocked, too!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:51 -0400)

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Weirdly wonderful and a touch macabre, the nine short stories take readers into worlds with elements of reality but also supply a fantastic twist.

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847677835, 1847677843

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921520736, 1921656360

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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