Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Shorts: YA stories from Subterranean Magazine

Summer Shorts is weekly feature of short story/novella reviews, posted every Saturday of July and August, 2011. Every week has a different theme - be it featuring a specific anthology, a particular genre, or a great author.

Last week I reviewed one novella and one short story by one of my favourite authors: Patricia Briggs. This week I'm looking at stories from the special YA edition of Subterranean magazine...and to spice things up, I'm reviewing two stories in a single review.

Younger Women by Karen Joy Fowler and Valley of the Girls by Kelly Link

I read these two stories back-to-back, and my first instinct was "wow, I don't want to review either of these". Why? Because they both cut a little bit too deep. They both crossed over the line separating "wow, this is brilliant" to "this story diced my soul into pieces". And describing the latter? Really bloody difficult. But these stories are just so worth it, I had to persevere! 

So let's start with Younger Women by Karen Joy Fowler. I've read Karen's (only) literary fiction novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, and loved it. She's quite the renowned Science Fiction writer, but if you are a YA reader you might not have heard of her. So let me sum it up for you: Karen = genius. OK?

Younger Women is narrated by the mother of a 15-year-old girl... who is dating a 100+ year old vampire. What I loved and loathed about this story was the relationship between the daughter and the mother... in short, the daughter is horrible to her mum. She screams at her, swears at her, and just treats her like dirt. Her mother who loves her... it just struck a really painful chord with me.

And then there is Valley of the Girls by Kelly Link. Kelly's book, Pretty Monsters, has gotten praise everywhere - but this is the first time I've ever read anything of hers. And let give you another "wow". 

You're going to have to read Valley of the Girls at least twice. Hell, I read it twice and I'm still not quite sure I got it. I'm not even sure how to describe it other than as a twisted, gritty, science fiction version of Gossip Girl. It starts rich teenagers who have the short end of the stick. They are just so removed from reality they are practically prisoners. And they way they behave as a consequence... well, it is rather like Lord of the Flies but with money. It's gorgeous, confusing, and scary - you'll love it.

Bottom line? Both Younger Women and Valley of the Girls will make you think (and, perhaps, give you a pit in the stomach from their sheer genius).

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