Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: One Death, Nine Stories – Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith Jr. (Editors)

One Death, Nine Stories – Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith Jr. (Editors)

Nicholas, Kevin. Age 19. Died at York Hospital, July 19, 2012. Kev's the first kid their age to die. And now, even though he's dead, he's not really gone. Even now his choices are touching the people he left behind. Rita Williams-Garcia follows one aimless teen as he finds a new life in his new job—at the mortuary. Ellen Hopkins reveals what two altar boys (and one altar girl) might get up to in the cemetery at night. Will Weaver turns a lens on Kevin's sister as she collects his surprising effects—and makes good use of them. Here, in nine stories, we meet people who didn't know Kevin, friends from his childhood, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, all dealing with the fallout of his death. 
Stories by Chris Barton, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Marina Budhos, Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King, Torrey Maldonado, Charles R. Smith Jr., Will Weaver, Rita Williams-Garcia.

Review: Well, this is a depressing little book.

One Death, Nine Stories centers around the death of nineteen-year-old Kevin. Each of the stories focuses on a different person who is impacted by Kevin’s death. Some characters are impacted more than others, but the book shows how one death can ripple through a community.

Anthologies are usually hit or miss with me. This one is a bit of a miss. I didn’t hate it or anything, but it’s forgettable. None of the stories really stand out.

If I had to pick a favorite story, I’d go with “Initiation” by Ellen Hopkins. This story takes place when Kevin and his friend, Mick, are kids. They steal a bottle of wine from a church and go to the cemetery. Kevin and Mick are on a mission to see their friend, Candy’s, boobs. This story is different from the others because it adds some desperately-needed humor to the anthology. Ellen Hopkins is also very good at writing believable child characters.

My second-favorite story is “Connections” by Marina Budhos. In this story, Kevin and a college friend go to the mall to pick out suits. The friend has a complicated family life. This story is well-written and has more depth than the others.

My biggest problem with this anthology is that it feels shallow and repetitive. This is a very short book (150 pages), so there isn’t much space for character development. Many of the stories feel very similar, which is odd because they’re written by different people. Almost all of the characters have tragic pasts, and almost all of them had a weird/criminally dangerous/mildly disturbing interaction with Kevin at some point in their lives. Since the characters are so similar, the stories blurred together in my mind.

I do like how this anthology brings attention to some overlooked aspects of death. I’ve never really thought about the people who bring bodies to the morgue or the people who put makeup on the dead. I’ve never wondered what happens to the guns that the police collect after a suspicious shooting. Some of the stories show what happens behind the scenes of a death, which is interesting.

The anthology also has a good message: There is life beyond your teenage years. Your life isn’t over just because something bad happens.

This book has some interesting aspects, but I was mostly underwhelmed by it.

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