Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link – A Book Review

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.”

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