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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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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 |
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 adored crazy Aunt Dodo in Pretty Monsters who quite correctly identified the cruel and heartless way of teenage girls whom were monsters in their own way. She made me laugh a loud not regretting blowing up the bank but some of the actions of her youth.
Kelly Link was quite adept as portraying the casual cruelty of youth and coming of age antics towards ones peers. Did Bryan indeed make James wear that dress?

The true stand-out story of this collection was Magic for Beginners. The group of friends are fans of a TV show called The Library. I imagined the show to be somewhat what like Doctor Who. I wish the show really existed. It took me back to the days of watching TV without listings and surfing for something good to come on. I get why it was just a short story since coming of age was captured so lovingly what with having to move, liking the girl your friend does, etc. but if now if Link would write the Library show herself... that would make it up to me that this had to end.

The Specialist's Hat, The Wizards of Perfil and The Faery Handbag were good stories but didn't quite touch the stars as the others I listed.
They were good stories but Magic for Beginners was so perfect.
Twins were a common theme in these stories. Claire and Samantha of The Specialists Hat were the main characters but Wizards and the Monster also had twin characters. I always enjoy reading about twins since I am one. Twins and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer references made me feel at home.

The two stories I didn't feel matched the quality of the others were The Constable of Abal and Surfer. I can't quite put my finger on it but perhaps reading them with the other stories I couldn't connect to them. [It might be the drugged scene at the beginning of Surfer made me quite sleepy. Or that Zilla ended up being a goddess and not just a murdering con-artist. The story didn't manage the tone Pretty Monsters did with sympathising with the "monster" nature.
Possibly since it was told from the perspective of her daughter Ozma. Ozma, is too close to her mother despite the goddess status to let her off the hook for her crimes. The jealously of mother's looks is never a story I could bond with. It is just my preference, but it was not my favourite story of this collection.

With the exception of being murdered at camp, Link created many different worlds I'd love to live in. The goat farm reminded me of this cool concert venue I went to last year. Very cozy stories despite all the monsters. ( )
  peptastic | Nov 27, 2013 |
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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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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