Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love is Hell by: Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfield, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz

Doesn't that cover just scream R*O*M*A*N*C*E?

This collection of short stories by some of the most uber-cool names in teen fiction today has a bit of a misleading title.  None of the stories actually take place in H-E-double-toothpicks, as my mother used to call it.  They all, however, have a strong supernatural component (with one exception, Westerfield's story "Stupid Perfect World", which is science fiction all the way).   Short story anthologies can be a bit dodgy, but this is a really solid collection with consistently smart and entertaining writing.

I came away with two special favourites.  The first was the aforementioned "Stupid Perfect World", which takes place in a high school class the distant future.  The class is called "Scarcity Class", and it is a sort of modified history class-what life was like before modern technology.

"It wasn't a real course with grades and everything, so only the most pathetic meekers worked hard at it.  The rest of us just showed up and tried not to fall asleep.  Nobody wanted to fail, of course, because that meant repeating:  another long semester of watching all those olden-day people starving and being diseased.  At least regular History has battles;  Scarcity was just depressing."

For their term projects, everyone in the class has to pick an obsolete physical condition and live with it for two weeks.  Things like hunger, cancer, river blindness, the common cold.  Going for the unusual, our protagonist, Kieran, chooses sleep.  Real REM sleep, every single night for two whole weeks.

"When I got home, I asked Dad if I could synthesize a bed for my room.  He immediately put on his serious face and sat me down.
'Sixteen is too young to have a bed in your room, Kieran.  Remember when we talked about this, how a little bioframe tweak can make those feelings less...persistent?'
I groaned.  'This isn't about that, Dad...It's for a school project.'
He laughed too hard in a really embarassing way, actually slapping his thigh.  'Nice try, buddy.'"

So, how does sleeping four hours a night on a pile of coats in his bedroom lead Kieran to true love?  Read the book to find out!

My other favourite story was Melissa Marr's "Love Struck".  A modern selkie story where the selkie is male and his human companion, Alana, is a city-dwelling, college-bound teenager, it has an intriguing premise and an unusually unexpected and satisfying ending.  Like "Love Struck", for the most part, the stories in Love is Hell should warm reader's hearts.

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