Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories About Real Life – Grace Kendall (Editor)

I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories About Real Life – Grace Kendall (Editor)

Through prose and comics alike, these heart-pounding short stories ask hard questions about a range of topics from sexuality and addiction to violence and immigration. Here is the perfect tool for starting tough discussions or simply as an introduction to realistic literary fiction. In turns funny, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, I See Reality will resonate with today's teens long after the last page has been turned.

Review: I’m always looking for good young adult anthologies, so when I saw this one at a scratch-and-dent sale, I knew it needed to come home with me.

These short stories focus on real-life topics that teens think about. They cover everything from sexuality and pregnancy to abuse and school shootings. Like all anthologies, some of the stories are much better than others.

These are my favorites:

The book starts out strong with “Three Imaginary Conversations with You” by Heather Demetrios. The narrator imagines three potential events that could occur after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Demetrios is a fabulous writer, and this story has the most realistic characters in the anthology.

“I’ll open my mouth, but the words won’t come. Despite everything, I won’t want to break your heart . . . I’ll wish there didn’t have to be words. Or that you, for once, could be the one who has to say the hard thing.” – I See Reality

“Things You Get Over, Things You Don’t” by Jason Smith follows a couple who is trying to survive a school shooting. The story has a nonlinear structure, so it’s up to the reader to piece the events together.

In the comic-strip-style story “Gone from This Place” by Faith Erin Hicks, a girl confesses to her best friend that she’s a lesbian. Her romance with the most popular boy in school isn’t real. I like the art, and I didn’t see the twist at the end coming. This is my favorite story. I’ll have to see if the author has any full-length graphic novels.

In “The Mistake” by James Preller, a girl debates if she should get an abortion. The writing style is a bit strange, but the plot is sad and suspenseful. It shows that an unplanned teen pregnancy can affect the boy and girl very differently.

I am the poem.
I am strong, and brave, and beautiful. And though my bones feel heavy, and my heart aches, I will be the one who writes the next verse.
I am the one who decides.” – I See Reality

My biggest struggle with this anthology is the heavy-handedness. I know this book is meant for teens, and they might need the moral of a story to be obvious, but some of the morals are really obvious. Don’t believe stereotypes, kids. Bring a friend if you’re going to break up with your abusive boyfriend. Drugs are bad. Some of the stories are too educational for my tastes. Cynical teenage-me would have rolled her eyes.

The description of this anthology says that it’s meant to introduce teens to literary fiction. I think it accomplishes that. I didn’t love the majority of the stories, but I appreciate the variety of characters and writing styles. There’s something in here for everyone.  


  1. This does sound interesting. Too bad it is a bit heavy handed. It looks like at least a couple of the stories are worth a look.

    1. Yes! Some of the stories are excellent, and some made me groan.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Heavy handed, preachy writing can easily turn people off :( I'm glad there is goodness here -- it sounds like stuff teens need to read

  3. Interesting that this one takes the comic kind of form as well. But you're right - there are always some stories which are better than others when it comes to anthologies. I am glad to know there were some you could really enjoy here though!