Thursday, August 17, 2006

All Sleek and Skimming

All Sleek and Skimming: Stories, edited by Lisa Heggum

YA/Canadian/Short Stories

Have you ever noticed that it takes a lot longer to get through a book of short stories than it does to get through a novel of equal length? I think it must be because there are natural breaking off points. I might read a 5 page story and then set the book down, but rarely read just 5 pages of a novel.

Also, I think that maybe I don't really like short stories. I prefer really getting to know characters. I think that's why I tend to like series novels. Especially when they are like Tamora Pierce's or L.M. Montgomery's series where one feeds into another and you might get to see the same characters or worlds in 14 or 15 different books, even if they don't star in all 14.

But I digress.

All Sleek and Skimming compiles 22 previously published works in an anthology for the teen audience. The editor, Lisa Heggum, is something of a goddess among youth services librarians (I've been to a couple of her workshops myself and she's great), and her goal is to recontextualize "young adult literature by associating it with adult literature rather than children's" with the hope that this book helps to "change the way books for teens are published". The stories vary widely. There are short stories, excerpts from longer works, and two comics. The main characters are teens. The stories are all in your face, true to life, no holds barred, and risky. There is nothing cleaned up, safe, or preachy about them.

Some of the writers are well known and highly respected YA authors, like Arthur Slade, Martha Brooks, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Janet McNaughton, and more, others are newer entrants to the publishing stage. I don't think I liked all of the stories, or all of the characters. However, as a cohesive anthology of generally realistic teen fiction, I think it works. There isn't a lot of joy or a lot of light here. There's a lot of dysfunction and angst. Issues of abuse, sexuality, and sex emerge and, blessedly, are dealt with honestly and openly.

I think there is something here that most teens will recognize of their own experience. I can't give it a perfect recommendation, but I think that's mostly a matter of personal preference. As far as short stories for teens go, this is a great compilation and well worth a read.


Maggie said...

Hmm ... sounds a little like grim lit to me. I think I'm more like you. I want to be entertained by a story.

MadJenny said...

Yes. I refrained from saying so because (a) that's your phrase and that might be stealing and (b) some of it actually is relatively uplifting. But yes. A lot of it kind of is.

But. And this is important. It is well written grim lit, and therefore less horrid than poorly written and overdone grim lit.

One thing I forgot to say before is that I think it really is well selected and well put together. The reader moves from story to story quite smoothly. Which was nice.