Friday, September 13, 2013

Review - Defy the Dark

Defy the Dark
edited by Saundra Mitchell
Date: 2006
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: short stories
Pages: 480
Format: e-book
Source: library

Defy the Dark, an all-new anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell. Coming Summer 2013 from HarperTeen!

It features 16 stories by critically-acclaimed and bestselling YA authors as they explore things that can only happen in the dark. Authors include Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hawkins, Carrie Ryan, Aprilynne Pike, Malinda Lo, Courtney Summers, Beth Revis, Sarah Ockler, and more.

Contemporary, genre, these stories will explore every corner of our world- and so many others. What will be the final story that defies the dark? Who will the author be?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Defy the Dark offers seventeen (I don't know why the synopsis says sixteen) short stories that all involve things that happen in the dark.  I wasn't sure what to expect, genre-wise, from this collection.  It's actually a mixed bag: contemporary, science fiction, fantasy, historical...

It's difficult to review and rate a book when it's written by seventeen different people.  So I thought I'd share a little bit of my reaction to each story in the collection:

"Sleepstalk" by Courtney Summers - This is an okay story about a girl who follows a sleepwalking boy around at night.  You can kind of tell from the title what's actually going on.  As short stories go, it's fairly typical and not that original.  Though I was glad it at least hinted at a proper ending.

"Nature" by Aprilynne Pike - This one is dystopian.  The world-building was pretty good, but this story felt more like a chapter removed from a longer novel.  It just ended... and it seemed like a waste of a perfectly good set-up.

"The Dark Side of the Moon" by Dia Reeves - All I can say about this one is, "WTF?!"  It's like it's weird for the sake of being weird.  I didn't get it.

"Ghost Town" by Malinda Lo - A decent ghost story.  It's nothing special, but it's not awful, either.

"Eyes in the Dark" by Rachel Hawkins - This is creepy, but also somewhat unsatisfying due to the characters.  Why is Kelley such a jerk and what (if anything) does it have to do with his past... and is it even relevant, or is it just a contrived way to put the characters into a predicament?  The suspense in this one is good, but I was left with too many unanswered questions.

"Stillwater" by Valerie Kemp - Creative and original, with a different sort of voice.  This is probably my favourite story in the whole collection.

"I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon" by Sarah Rees Brennan - I had a hard time even getting through this one.  It was something about the syntax; I don't think my brain is compatible with this writer.  The plot is nothing too exciting, either.  It's just another werewolf/vampire story.

"Night Swimming" by Beth Revis - Much like "Nature", this is a science-fiction story that seems like a chapter taken out of a novel.  The big questions aren't answered; important things are only hinted at.  I would've liked to read more... but the story ended just as it was getting going.

"The Sunflower Murders" by Kate Espey - This is a short -- and I mean really short -- story written from the point of view of the best friend of a murder victim.  There's not a lot to it; it's more like a character sketch than anything else.  While it was fairly well written, I didn't find it all that memorable.

"Almost Normal" by Carrie Ryan - Ostensibly taking place in the same world as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this is mostly just a story about a group of teenagers riding a rollercoaster and their varying reactions to a zombie apocalypse.  It's creepy, but I didn't like the characters... especially after the ending.

"Nowhere Else" by Jon Skovron - The writing in this one was really weak.  It alternated between sounding like an after-school special and the creative-writing assignment of a sixth-grader.  Too much pontificating by the villain.  Probably my least favourite of the bunch.

"Naughty or Nice" by Myra McEntire - A weird sort of holiday-themed horror romance that takes place in Bavaria.  The characters are interesting, and the pacing is just right for a short story.

"Shadowed" by Christine Johnson - A fairytale-esque story about a cursed daughter of a duke and her murderous shadow.  This is one of the stronger stories in the collection.

"Now Bid Time Return" by Saundra Mitchell - This is another of those "I-wish-it-were-longer" stories.  The Norwegian setting, an intriguing paranormal story, and a cool dog character are a nice change of pace.

"The Moth and the Spider" by Sarah Ockler - A truncated, pointless tease.  This one reminded me of the short stories we had to read in school, where we had to divine meaning with not much to go on.  Reading stories like this feels like work.

"Where the Light Is" by Jackson Pearce -  This one is a bit different, told from a young male coal miner's point of view.  The paranormal element isn't overdone, and there is just the right amount of suspense.

"This Was Ophelia" by Tessa Gratton - A gender-confused, 1920s-era retelling of Hamlet that I didn't quite understand.  Is O transsexual?  Is Hal gay?  Are we even supposed to know, or is it a statement about confusion and gender identity in a time where such issues were suppressed?  Oh, and if you're going to retell Hamlet, you can't go and give it a happy-sappy ending.  It's a famous Shakespearean tragedy... just sayin'.

All in all, it was a middle-of-the-road collection.  There were a few stories I really enjoyed, but most of them were just okay, and there were a couple that I really didn't like.  I had hoped to get more enjoyment out of this group of stories.

Since this collection is by different authors, my regular short-story rating system won't really work here... so I'm just going to average out the individual ratings.

Overall: 3 out of 5

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