Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: No Such Thing as the Real World: Stories about Growing Up and Getting a Life

real World
No Such Thing as the Real World is a collection of short stories for the young adult market featuring some pretty heavy hitting names. I'd like to preface this review by saying that for people who think literary writing doesn't exist at the YA level, they ought to check out this book.

The concept behind this collection is that "the real world" begins at different times for different people and each story explores just what that means. I had only read two authors in here, and it's probably no surprise that their stories ended up being my favorites. I am interested in checking out work by some of the other authors as well, though. I'm going to go through and rate each story individually and then the collection as a whole.

"Complication" by An Na is the story of a teenage girl who is meeting up with an older man for several evenings. She's hoping to seduce him but they each have a secret, a reason they are meeting. She wants to use him for something, he's trying to understand something from his past. I found this story somewhat confusing, and I didn't love the ending. I did appreciate the style of the writing, though, and look forward to reading more by An Na. 3.75/5

"The Projection: A Two Part Invention" by M.T. Anderson is about two kids doing an improv for drama. Things quickly turn for the bizarre, though. This one I liked a lot. It reminded me of the Invention of Morel (which is a huge spoiler) and packs the quick kind of punch that makes short stories so memorable. 4.5/5

"Survival" by K.L. Going is the sort of story you might more typically expect to find in a collection about coming of age and while it was entertaining enough, it didn't wow me. I also had a hard time believing one of the things that happened, but that's just me. 3.5/5

"The Longest Distance" by Beth Kephart is nothing short of exquisitely beautiful. It's a short story about grief, about an unexpected grief and how you deal with it in the aftermath, how you wonder when time will kick in and ease the pain and looking back and trying to deal with it all. Beth's writing is just so beautiful, it just embodies life--fragile hope, tentative beginnings, living with yourself. It left me teary, as it seems her work always does. The price of this collection is worth it for this story alone.
"Where do ghosts go? How do you deal with all the impossible possibilities? How do you find your way through, to the other side of change?" 5/5

"Arrangements" by Chris Lynch is such a strange little story. So many of these stories felt surreal to me, and I guess maybe that was a bit of the point, since there's no such thing as the real world. This one's about a boy whose father has passed away and he's taken over the family business, which in this case is a pawn shop. And it's about how he learns more of who his father was and what life is through the customers that come in that day. 3.5/5

"The Company" by Jacqueline Woodson was my other favorite in this collection. Woodson has that rare gift of seeing down into the heart of her characters and then sharing it in a story. I love feeling punched in the gut with the honesty of emotions in fiction. Here's an example of why I love Woodson's writing so much:

"Sometimes you wish you could just chasse your ass way back in time and snatch all the nasty stuff you did and said and thought back out of the world. It's like it hangs there, in the air, forever. And every time you look back into the past, it's there, screaming back at you--your own dumb-ass words, all loud inside your head again"

Anyway this story is about a gay dancer who is temporarily sidelined due to a spraned ankle and he reflects on his life and family. Really, it's a brilliant and touching little story. 5/5

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There's a fair bit of profanity
Source of Book: Bought it
Publisher: HarperTeen


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