Friday, January 29, 2016

Review of Truth or Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness

Truth and Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness
Truth  Dare is a collection of short stories confirming the truth we all know-- high school is painful--and written for those who dare to be different. These edgy short stories are told from the point of view of the quirky, cool, but not necessarily popular teens, who are dealing with all the pressures of growing up--school, friends, music, relationships, parents, and just plain fitting in.This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Jennifer Boylan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Cecil Castellucci, Emma Donoghue, Courtney Gillette, A.M. Homes, Jennifer Hubbard, Heidi R. Kling, Jennifer Knight, Michael Lowenthal, Liz Miles, Saundra Mitchell, Luisa Plaja, Matthue Roth, Sherry Shahan, Gary Soto, Shelley Stoehr, Sara Wilkinson, Ellen Wittlinger, and Jill Wolfson.

Overall, I enjoyed this short story collection. Love is a subject worth talking about with teens, especially since the teen years are the first time falling in love for a lot of people.  I found this collection to be very hit or miss.  Instead of trying to talk about all twenty stories, below I've discussed a few that really stood out to me.

"Iris and Jim" by Sherry Shahan

As far as short stories go, this one is incredibly close to perfection.  The descriptions are amazingly well written and even though this story is only about 10 pages, you immediately get right inside the characters' heads.  If the content of this story doesn't haunt you, you'll remember it for how well it's written.

"Never Have I Ever" by Courtney Gillette

I assumed right away that I'd feel a deep connection to this story because like the main character, I went to a writing workshop when I was in high school, and it was hosted by the school where I inevitably went to college.  Gillette constructed a good story and good prose, but her characters all felt a little bit off to me--like she doesn't actually know how teenagers interact with one another.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say this helps add some diversity to this anthology, and I appreciated that.

"Dirty Talk" by Gary Soto

This one is all about a girl who learns how different she and her best friend really are, and a how a person's upbringing affects the type of person that they become.  The message in this one was extremely heavy-handed, as in slap in the face heavy-handed. It also made some pop culture references that are not going to stand the test of time.  There was an okay idea, but it was poorly executed, and it won't do well with actual teenagers.

"Somebody's Daughter"by Shelley Stoehr

A short story about three girls who go to a party, and who do want to party--drink, do drugs, and have sex. It doesn't end well.  There were a few moments in the beginning where parts of the writing felt unrealistic, but it really came together at the end.  This one will probably ring true for a lot of readers, sadly.

"Rules for Love and Death" by Ellen Witlinger

A story of a girl whose crush, who she rarely spoke to, passed in a car accident.  Witlinger's story had a lot of astute observations about love and sex.  I also thought it was a really accurate depiction of what high school crushes can be like.

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