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Friday, June 11, 2010

Pretty Monsters Review and Interview

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Source: Penguin for tour

Grade: 3.8 stars out of 5

“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!”--from Barnes and Noble

Pretty Monsters is a gothic collection that may or may not serve as bedtime tales should the parents like to explore the unique. Its strange world with sharp-tongue, witty, yet sometimes hostile characters leaps from pages. There are plenty of stories to choose from so there will be something to please every palette. Of course there is the cream of the crop with some stories better, like The Faery Handbag, than others.

It’s hard to rate this collection of stories because it is a collection; I loved some, but others were not my cup of tea. There were also times when syntax threw me off, but each was vividly created that trouble caused can be forgiven.

With its odd yet delightfully addicting narration, Pretty Monsters is a book dying to be picked up!

Cover A
Interview with Kelly Link:

1. Is there an overall theme connecting each story?
All of the stories are about encountering the uncanny, or the unexpected: monsters, ghosts, wizards, gods, aliens, babysitters. All of them, except for "The Specialist's Hat" were originally written for young adults. When we were putting together Pretty Monsters, I wanted to include "The Specialist's Hat" in any case, as I hoped (somewhat immodestly) that it was the kind of ghost story that Helen Hoke used to put in her anthologies.

2. Do you find writing short stories easier or harder than writing full length novels?
I've never written a novel. I hear that they take a long time. Having said that, some short stories are easier to write than others. WIth about half of the stories in this collection, I finished a close-to-final draft within a few days. Other stories took over a year to write. I don't know that one method makes for a better story than another, but guess which stories I still like best. Also: I'm curious if readers would have an idea of which stories came quickly, and which were a slog.

3. Name a few inspirations for some of the short stories.
Joan Aiken; M. R. James; H. P. Lovecraft; H. R. Wakefield; Angela Carter; Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's anthologies, as well as those of Helen Hoke; Robert Westall; Nicholas Stuart Grey; Diana Wynne Jones; Ursula K. Le Guin. (Just to name a few.)

There are a ton of writers, though, whose work I've loved, but who I'm not sure I can claim as influences. Terry Pratchett, for example, Mary Elizabeth Pope, and Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible trilogy. Joyce Ballou Gregorian, and P. C. Hodgell, and Patricia McKillip. Those last three are writers whose work I read all in a pile, around the same time, when I was a teenager. And then reread and reread and reread. I still read Joyce Ballou Gregorian's Tredana trilogy every few years, mostly because she died much too young, and so there are only those three books. They mean a ton to me.

4. In your opinion, is the cover for Pretty Monsters a good representation of the book?
I love the cover for Pretty Monsters. It's by Will Staehle. The interior illustrations are by Shaun Tan, who is also the author of The Arrival and Tales From Outer Suburbia. Cover art matters a lot to me -- Shelley Jackson painted the cover illustrations for my first two collections, as well as putting together spot illustrations for each of the stories in Magic For Beginners. I run a small press -- Small Beer Press-- with my husband, and working on covers is one of my favorite parts of publishing.


  1. This sounds a bit twisted and entertaining. What age group would you recommended this for?

  2. Middle grade students--ages 10+