Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Title: Pretty Monsters

Author: Kelly Link

Pages: 389




A phone booth in Las Vegas
Unhelpful wizards
Possibly carnivorous sofas
A handbag with a village inside it
Tennessee Fainting Goats
Dueling librarians
A statue of George Washington
A boy named Onion
An undead babysitter
A nationally-ranked soccer player
An unexpected campfire guest

And drawings by SHAUN TAN

I originally picked up Pretty Monsters because of the kick-ass cover, and I actually considered bying it because the inside cover was adorned with glowing blurbs from some of my favorite authors, such as Holly Black, Alice Sebold, Garth Nix and Libba Bray. The summary itself was what sold me. Nine odd, quirky, perhaps a bit morbid tales involving a kid named Onion? I never stood a chance.

Pretty Monsters consists of nine short stories by Hugo award winner Kelly Link. The reviews thus far for them have been glowing, making the actual product hard to live up to. Perhaps this was the reason I was a tad dissapointed, or maybe it was just the fact that Ms. Link is trying a bit too hard to be strange and wimsical (I know, how can anything be too wimsical? I'm getting there, no worries)

The first story, "The Wrong Grave", begins with an unnamed narrator begins discussing a "boy she once knew" named Miles and how he decided to dig up his girlfriends grave to retrieve a poem he had left in her casket. He wants to submit it to a contest, and it's the "best one" he's ever written.

Hold on, I'm flipping through it and found the cutest sentence ever:

"Carpe diem before you run out of diem"


But Miles comes into some trouble when, upon pulling a grave out of the ground exactly eleven months after it had been burried, he discovers that it is, in fact, the titular "wrong grave".

This is a perfect introduction to the strange, oddly humurous stories that lay ahead in Pretty Monsters. If Kelly Link can do anything, it is make you wonder how anyone could come up with these things. Strange, strange stories about sporatic television shows and inherited phone booths on the Vegas Strip rule the day in this collection. Some of them are fun, even hilarious stories that force you into a subdued appreciation for the possibilities of a human's imagination. Others, on the other hand...

Okay, I'll say it. Some of them were just boring.

Like I said before, it seems Ms. Link tried a bit too hard to capture a strange quirkiness that's incredibly difficult to pull off. While she does have a beautiful writing style, and some very...interesting ideas (for lack of a better word), her execution is desperatly lacking in that factor that grabs the reader's attention. The first thing most people look for while reading any kind of story is something interesting, something that holds that interest without lagging. Most of her stories left me scratching my head, staring at the page and thinking, "...what...the...hell...?" in a daze. Now, this is not to say I don't enjoy the strange, because I do. But sometimes, there is a fine line between strange and whack. A lot of it is so strange, I couldn't even focus on the story. It got to the point where I was bored with the prose and the odd characters and the WTF??? plotlines. If your going to be weird, keep in mind not everyone is in your head, and not everyone can see what your seeing, so you have to figure out a way to convey your thoughts in a way that us average folk can understand.

Ms. Link is not lacking in imagination, that's for sure. Again, while some of the stories were a bit weird, many of them were hilarious, morbid, odd tales that gave me a fuzzy feeling inside. You know, the one you get when a book just makes you feel good? I don't know if you know what I'm talking about, but that's what this book gave me.

Don't get me wrong, it did have it's flaws. In fact, I can see a lot of people hating it. It's a type of story where you either love it or hate it, burn it or cherish it. Those who like traditional story telling, clear plots and in-depth characters will simply hate it. But anyone who likes humor, parody or satire, or even any Tim Burton movies, will definetly love it.

Despite overkill on the oddity and some poorly executed plotlines (making it lag at times), Pretty Monsters was definetly a fun, different read that I completley enjoyed.

Rating: 6 out of 10--very good.

Also: You can read the first story of Pretty monsters on Ms. Link's website here.


Jessica (BookLover) said...

I've been really curious about this one; thank you for reviewing.
Even though you said some of them were boring, I think I'll give it a shot. I'll try to find it at the library first though. :)

Lisa said...

This looks like something I would like as well, and with your review I'll go in with realistic expectations and probably really enjoy it! Thanks for the review!

Faye said...

love the cover. It looks really good :D
i'll check it out

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