I was so excited to read Kelly Link’s newest story collection Get in Trouble. I read Magic for Beginners a long time ago and really liked it. It was so quirky and strange. The stories would be perfectly normal expect for the zombies. Or the rabbits. Or some other weird twist that made everything shift just a little off the reality axis.
Get in Trouble has much of the same thing going on. I am reading and the story seems ho-hum and then a small detail slips in and — wait, what, did that just say she has two shadows? But as weird as a story might get, the characters in it find nothing weird going on and they have the most banal conversations. It keeps the stories grounded and prevents the slightly off-kilter from wobbling into the absurd.
I should have liked the collection. And I did like several of the stories. There is one called “The Summer People” that manages to be both innocent and creepy at the same time. Another, “Secret Identity,” is everyday enough. A teenage girl playing online pretends she is much older than she is, hops a bus to New York City to meet the guy who likes her in person only to end up at a hotel where there are two conventions going on, dentists and superheroes. Everyone keeps asking her if she is a sidekick or there to apply to be a sidekick. And the man she is supposed to meet? Turns out he is a superhero but she never meets him for various reasons. It’s a good story about the masks we wear and who we really are underneath.
“The New Boyfriend” is also pretty good. Teenage girls and synthetic boyfriends that you can buy — take your pick between vampire, werewolf, or a few others. The ghost version is no longer on the market because there were problems. But Ainslie always somehow gets what she wants and Immy just can’t stand it any longer. Not a story so much about boyfriends, Immy has had a real boyfriend and Ainslie has not, but more about friendship and jealousy, popularity and social power.
The rest of the stories were uninteresting to me. The humor and weirdness rubbed me the wrong way. The strange was expected instead of surprising and it was even at times boring; the charm and shine faded.
Overall I was disappointed. I seem to recall other folks reading the collection and finding it lacking a bit too. Unfortunately I don’t remember who they all are. If you have not read Kelly Link before and have heard what a good story writer she is and want to see for yourself, don’t choose Get in Trouble as your collection of discovery. Go for Magic for Beginners instead.