Kelly Link is a fantastic writer whose young adult stories are at once entertaining and meaningful. This collection of nine short stories contains some of Link’s best writing, including a Hugo Award winner as well as a Nebula Award winner.
All the stories have a vaguely creepy, dreamlike quality that is typical of the magical realism genre. In The Wrong Grave, a boy named Miles meant to dig up the grave of his girlfriend to retrieve the poetry he put in her coffin, but it’s the wrong grave and the girl who’s in there is less dead than he expected. In The Faery Handbag, a high school girl struggles with the disappearance of her boy friend (not boyfriend) and thinks he may have been swallowed by her grandmother’s weird handbag. In Magic for Beginners, a boy’s obsessive love for a TV show begins to encroach on his real life as his parents head for divorce.
While these stories are very strange, they have a vein of truth in them that will resonate with the reader. The characters deal with typical young adult problems like their parent’s divorce, the death of an older loved one, and their fumbling attempts to build a love life, but the problems are highlighted and compounded by the odd circumstances in which the characters find themselves. The juxtaposition between magical and mundane is what made these stories stay with me long after reading them.