Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
Genre: Adult short story collection (magic realism)
Publisher: Random House
Release date: February 10 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
The nitty-gritty: A collection of quirky and whimsical short stories, dreamy and magical as only Kelly Link can do.
You know sometimes when you have a dream, and when you wake up you try to remember that dream and piece it together so that it makes sense? Well, reading a Kelly Link story is just like that. Link’s stories often feel like fractured dreams. You want to dive back in and experience the dream again, but the waking world isn’t going to let you. Her stories are populated by impossible things: girls who float two feet off the ground; ghost boyfriends who live in a coffin box and only come to life when you flip the switch; people with two shadows. Her sentences are magical and brilliant and sometimes hysterically funny. She drops you in the middle of a story and you have to scramble to catch up. Her mind is blindingly quick, one thought quickly following on the heels of the last. You have to pay attention or you might get lost.
But like dreams, I find it best to just go along with Link’s crazy and sometimes ludicrous ideas. I didn’t love all the stories in Get In Trouble, but the stories I did love, I loved fiercely. Some of them are more accessible than others, but all of them showcase Link’s talent and singular imagination. Here are the five stories from this collection of eight (**see my note below) that I thought were the best of the bunch:
The Summer People 5/5 stars
One of my favorites, The Summer People is the story of a girl who has inherited the job of caring for an unseen group of fae who live in an old house down the lane. Intertwined with descriptions of the mechanical toys Fran has collected over the years, toys that the summer people made for her, and the odd but magical goings-on in their house, is a melancholy tale of a girl who is trying to escape her life of duty to these mysterious and magical creatures. As the words on the stairs remind Fran every time she visits the summer people, BE BOLD BE BOLD BUT NOT TOO BOLD.
Secret Identity 5/5 stars
I loved the risky idea of a fifteen-year-old girl who falls in love with a thirty-four-year-old man in an online chat room. Billie takes a trip to New York after arranging a meeting with Paul Zell, the man she meets online. But when she arrives, Paul Zell isn’t there. As Billie anxiously waits for Paul to show up, she navigates a strange and quirky crowd of dentists and superheroes who are attending two conventions in the hotel. I loved this story for its ludicrous ideas (the juxtaposition of dentists and superheroes sharing space together! Superheroes are real and they’re having a convention!), as well as the tender and fragile emotions of a teen who is in love for the first time. Here’s a taste of Link’s writing:
Billie climbs, slowly and carefully, up a laddery stool and lays her poor head down on the dusty, funereal slab. (It’s actually a pastry station, the dust is flour, but Billie is mentally in a bad place.) Paul Zell, Paul Zell. She stares at the tiled wall. Bille’s heart has a crack in it. Her head is made of radiation. The Starbucks espresso she forced down has burnt a thousand pinprick holes in Billie’s wretched stomach.
The New Boyfriend 5/5 stars
If I had to pick my very favorite story in this collection, I guess it would have to be this one. Immy’s friend Ainslie gets a Ghost Boyfriend for her birthday, and Immy is insanely jealous. In this story, “Boyfriends” are android-like, life-size dolls that are programmed to fall in love with their owner. Immy falls hard for Mint, Ainslie’s new Boyfriend, and she devises a poorly thought out scheme to steal him from Ainslie. Once again, Link gets to the heart of the angsty life of a teenager in love, and the consequences of acting on that love.
Two Houses 4/5 stars
I know I’ve read this somewhere before, but even after Googling I couldn’t find any information on previous printings of this story. So frustrating! (**see note below). In any case, Two Houses is an odd and fractured tale of a group of people on a space ship, heading towards a new planet, perhaps. The ship, whose name is Maureen, is able to change the scenery of the ship’s interior to anything the girls can dream up. This story in particular had a strong dream-like quality to it, which made it difficult to tell what was real and what wasn’t. A sense of loss and sadness pervades this tale, but it’s so subtly done that the emotional impact comes out of nowhere.
Light 4/5 stars
Their four shadows fell across her double bed, sticky and wilted as if from lovemaking that hadn’t even begun.
Lindsey is a girl with two shadows, and her twin brother Alan was born from one of them. If that idea doesn’t want to make you grab this collection and devour it, then perhaps you aren’t the intended target audience for Kelly Link. But if you’re intrigued, take heed and add this book to your TBR pile immediately! In Light, Link has created a world full of “pocket universes,” places you can jump to for a vacation, or even to live. Light has a sense of wonder that reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, and in fact there was a strong Oz reference at the end.
Kelly Link’s sentences alone are reasons to read Get In Trouble. Here are some of my favorites:
Then she went outside and sat on her patio and watched the iguanas eat the flowers off her hibiscus. It was six a.m. and already quite warm.
If you can’t be honest with your best friend’s Vampire Boyfriend, who can you be honest with?
I had an inadequately sedated fruit bat caged up in my pompadour.
Link’s stories made me feel melancholy and sad, yet oddly hopeful. Their weirdness kept me off-balance, and even if I didn’t “get” each one, I loved the overall feeling of whimsy, magic, and endless possibilities that these stories invoke.
**Note: Although every professional review I’ve read of Get In Trouble states that there are nine stories in this collection, my digital ARC only had eight. Perhaps the publisher added a ninth one after producing the ARC? Also, I would have loved a copyright page that stated if and where these stories were published prior to this collection. Many of them had an oddly familiar feel to them, and I’m quite sure I’ve read some of them before. No doubt the finished book will include both of these.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.