Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Yellowcake

By Margo Lanagan
Published 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

A haunting and dreamlike collection of short stories from one of young adult literature's most unique talents.

How does one write a summary for a short story collection? I apparently don't have a proper answer for that, if my summary above is any indication. Lanagan has been on my radar for quite some time now - she's published several well-received short story collections and a couple of novels that have gotten excellent reviews, one earning a Printz Honor. As is typical for me, I had not yet found the time to actually read any of these respected works. When her newest short story collection (that is, the newest to be published here in the U.S.) popped up on Edelweiss, I requested a copy. No time like the present, right?

I am not sure what exactly I was expecting before I started reading but I'm sure it wasn't what I got. I consider myself a smart lady but I think Lanagan is too smart for me. The first story in this collection, "The Point of Roses," went completely over my head - not a great introduction to Lanagan for me. However, I persevered and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed a number of the stories in this collection and, as a whole, I'm overwhelmed at her mastery of the craft. Short stories are not nearly as popular as they once were and I admire her devotion to them. I'm also astoundingly impressed at how vivid and evocative her stories are - if everyone wrote short stories of this caliber, they might be as popular as they should be. Lanagan has a true gift with language and her ability to create an entire credible world in each short story is just staggering. My favorites were:

"The Golden Shroud" - a retelling of Rapunzel, with a bewitching new ending. I love fairy tale retellings, and this one is inspired and charming.

"A Fine Magic" - my notes on this are simply "enchanting." An old wizard exacts revenge when his affections are rebuffed. Magical and sly.

"A Honest Day's Work" - so strange and imaginative, this tale is completely captivating and maybe my most favorite of the bunch.

"Into the Clouds on High" - a boy's mother is continually called to a place beyond the sky. Heartbreaking but beautiful.

"Ferryman" - another sort of retelling, this time of the Greek myth of the ferryman on the river Styx. Another heartbreaking and brilliant tale.

"Living Curiosities" - a bit more difficult to get into, but I'm so fascinated by "sideshow freaks" that I love reading about them.

This will certainly not be my last encounter with Lanagan - I look forward to reading the rest of her work.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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