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One Death, Nine Stories
by Marc Aronson
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The format of this collaborative book is really interesting and keeps the pages turning, but the flow of story and change of pace between authors can make it hard to love. I really wanted to love the book, but was unsatisfied by some of the methods used to present the story. ( )
I love short story collections. LOVE them. You don't see too many for the YA market, which is too bad. Fortunately, there's a wonderful new collection out right now. And it's a collection with a fabulous twist, since, despite being written by multiple authors, it pretty much reads like a novel.
In ONE DEATH NINE STORIES, edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith, Jr., authors like Rita Williams-Garcia, Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King, Chris Barton, Nora Raleigh Baskin, and others answer a big what if: What if a teen's death had a ripple effect in ways nobody could have predicted? The book opens with a story about an undertaker's apprentice, bringing in the body of a boy named Kevin. It continues to explore Kevin's death with each story, through the eyes of a different person. Some of these people were close to Kevin -- his ex-girlfriend, a childhood friend. Others only knew him because he died, like the young cosmetologist working on him at the funeral home.
These stories, in an almost surprising way, tell both one story and nine. Each of the vignettes gives as much about the narrator as it does about Kevin. Simultaneously, each story is a piece of the puzzle that was Kevin. And which Kevin was the real Kevin? The troubled boyfriend? The charismatic leader? The loving brother? The wannabe gangster?
ONE DEATH, NINE STORIES is a beautiful collection, a fabulous story both as one and as nine. This will be a great book both for readers of literary fiction and fans of the above authors, as well as for young readers who might be reluctant to pick up a novel, due to the book's short length and the unique format. Readers, find a copy for yourselves; English teachers, put this on your shelves for this fall!
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
One Death, Nine Stories didn’t really scream Christina book, but I couldn’t resist the premise of the anthology. It actually turned out to be much cooler than I was even expecting. I thought they’d be essentially companion stories by different people associated with the deceased. That’s true, but they’re also interlocking and codependent. It’s more of a cohesive novel than I was expecting. It’s a multiple POV novel from nine different authors. One Death, Nine Stories is a really neat idea and I hope to see more collaborations like this one in the future.
Of course, I probably wouldn’t have taken a reading risk like this one had the book not been so short. I started One Death, Nine Stories at 10 PM last night and had two stories left by midnight, even though I wasn’t very focused. It’s only 140 pages of stories, with the rest of the page count being associated material like author bios. It’s an easy risk to take, because, like it or not, it doesn’t take a huge chunk of your reading time. In my case, the risk paid off.
Singularly, the stories mostly aren’t subject matter that I would want to read as a book, but the way they all tie together is amazing. The best example is Ellen Hopkins’ story. I didn’t really like it because the first person POV is this guy Mick, who has really racist and sexist attitudes. He didn’t learn anything and I wasn’t a fan of that. However, at that point, you don’t really know too much about the deceased and, in learning more about Kevin, I had a bit of a new stance on Mick by the end. The stories really do impact one another.
Kevin Nicholas we see first as a body in a bag. He’s tall, but that’s almost all we know. Then we see him as an altar boy, having his first sexual experience. Some of the stories are memories of him in his youth, while others are as recent as a couple of days before he died. Some of the stories really focus on Kevin’s impact on the person’s life, while, in others, his death is merely a launching off point for things that person needs to deal with because they didn’t know Kevin at all. In the beginning, all the reader sees is the mourning family and the expressions of sadness at his loss, but the picture becomes less simplistic with all the new information in each story.
As is not usually the case with anthologies, there wasn’t a single story that dragged. They were all fast-paced and interesting. I will say, though, that I didn’t really get why one story was in there. It’s from the POV of someone whose cousin knew Kevin and he sees about the death on Facebook. He starts thinking about Kevin’s death a bit, sure, but mostly it’s about his football practices. I think the death was supposed to have some strange impact on how he lives his life, but that wasn’t really conveyed effectively to me. It wasn’t a bad story per se, but I didn’t think it fit as well with the others.
If you enjoy novels that experiment with different formats or are interested in author collaborations, I urge you to check out One Death, Nine Stories. It’s different from a lot of YA or, actually, NA, since the characters are 18 and over for the most part and, hey, it’s super short so why not?
How could one teenage boy's life elicit other kids' first experiences -- even after he dies?. Kev's the first kid their age to die. And now, even though he's dead, he's not really gone. Even now his choices are touching the people he left behind. Ellen Hopkins reveals what two altar boys (and one altar girl) might get up to at the cemetery. Rita Williams-Garcia follows one aimless teen as he finds a new life in his new job -- at the mortuary. Will Weaver turns a lens on Kevin's sister as she collects his surprising effects -- and makes good use of them. Here, in nine stories, we meet people who didn't know Kevin, friends from his childhood, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, all dealing with the fallout of his death. Being a teenager is a time for all kinds of firsts -- first jobs, first loves, first good-byes, firsts that break your heart and awaken your soul. It's an initiation of sorts, and it can be brutal. But on the other side of it is the rest of your life.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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