Review based on ARC.
Unfortunately for me, the title story was the first story, and I didn't like it. I imagine if you liked that story, then the whole book is set up for you. But for me, it was kind of going nowhere, kind of depressing, kind of just blah. I've heard so many of that story, from so many perspectives, and this one fell flat for me. I say unfortunately because it made me avoid reading (altogether) for a while, because I didn't want more of "that."
When I finally DID pick the book back up and bear down to geterdone, I was very pleasantly surprised. No, I did not love all the stories - I felt that some were self-gratifying.. "look how RAW I am" kind of tone. But on the whole, there was a lot of good stories, a lot of good telling, and some pretty good writing.
I particularly liked Push Kick Coast because it accomplished the "raw," harsh reality, without being so self-aware. It was just. So. Well. Done. Loved it.
And Why I Hate Strawberries... Well, I hated the story because of why she hates strawberries, but it was well told and I appreciated her courage.
Overall, I was pleased with the opportunity, but it felt a bit weighty to be put all together like that... I know that not all of the stories were sad, but they were all dark, weighty, lessoned.
I also enjoyed being brought back to Chicago -- having lived there for about a decade, the stories brought me back to my first adult home, and I enjoyed the nostalgia.
Overall, 3 1/2 stars because some were just excellent, some were okay, and a couple were really blasé.
Follows is a reaction-blurb of each individual story:
- Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck, by Matt Miller: As I already stated, I did not love this one. This was a cute title, a great hook, a well-phrased description of something that happened, and a boring story surrounding it all.
- When the Fairies Came by Julie Ganey: This one probably won't appeal to everyone, but it was a light (and welcome) moment of frivolity. I really enjoyed it.
- Push Kick Coast by Ric Walker: Like I said above, this was the pinnacle. So impressed with the way the whole story came together, the point, the awareness. So impressed.
- Crazy for You by Lott Hill: I don't know. Again, I kind of felt like, yeah yeah, I've heard it before. It was cute and sweet, but kind of cliched. I'm sure it was not cliched to the person experiencing it, but not all versions of the same story need to be told...
- This Teacher Talks Too Fast by Megan Stielstra: This was pretty good, okay. I knew where this story was going, but it almost seemed like the author felt like I was supposed to be surprised when it got there. Nonetheless, I thought the ending was satisfying and redeeming.
- Super K by Kim Morris: This was one of the one's that mostly fell flat for me, but then I loved the ending, making me feel better about the whole story, overall.
- Amber by Sam Weller: I did not like Amber because I felt like I was just reading a Brag. You know, your friend who once met [fill in name of celebrity] and just HAS to tell the story. Like, Dude, I met this porn star, you know, the one from when I was a kid, and she totally wanted me. but I turned her down. I know, I'm awesome. and you sit there smiling politely with your eyes glazing over. It was like that.
- A Cautionary Tale? by Eric Charles May: This one was one of the lighter moments in the book... May told a potentially dark tale in a pretty light-hearted and certainly humorous fashion. I really enjoyed this one.
- Why I Hate Strawberries by Deb R. Lewis: As I stated above, I did not like the story, but because of what HAPPENS in the story, not because of how it was told. I commend Lewis for telling her story - I am certain that this helps various audience members (and now, readers) come to different terms with their own stories.
- Foundationalysis by Lawrence Kerns: This was okay. It didn't really go anywhere, up or down. I imagine it's a welcome break from the heartbreak, but it was just kind of blasé.
- Xena: Cardboard Princess by Sara Kerastes: I really enjoyed this. It was cute and fun, serious and heavy. It was well-told and ended just right.
- The Kids and the King by Khanisha Foster: This was another one of the stand-out pieces. Although I felt like the author was a little self-gratifying, I really enjoyed her story, and I *REALLY* appreciated the resolution and what you learn from it.
- Hollyweird by JC Aevaliotis: I think that I enjoyed this one for a similar reason that many will -- it gives you some confirmation of that odd feeling you get when you think about Scientology! But not only that, he told it well. He had just the right amount of creep, suspense, and humor. Another one of the stand-out pieces.
- Dirty Dancing by Byron Flitsch: This one was well-told and made me sad. Not deeply sad (or angered) like Strawberries, but sad at the cruelty in the world, and at the loss of innocence (even if it's just the next degree of innocence). Fortunately, Flitsch has a sense of humor about what he learned that night, and tells his story well employing that humor.
- Running on Empty by Julia Borcherts: This was yet another stand-out piece. I loved it, it was so well-told and well-paced. It was believable, honest (had an honest tone), and whole. I don't even really know what I mean by that word -- It just felt "complete" reading that one.
- Tribes by CP Chang: This was a pretty cute story, with some light moments, and just the right amount of unknown at the end.
- Here, Capture Something by Andrew Reilly: This is the perfect story for the romantics out there. It was sweet, young, and innocent.
- Covergirl by Kimberlee Soo: I really liked this nostalgic little piece. It was just the right tone to perfectly describe what it feels to be at that age. What it feels to have an older sister. What it feels to be different from everyone else, and to have someone notice how it's a benefit.
- Foreigner in a Straight Land by J. Adams Oak: This one is funny to start and light throughout. Another sort of coming of age/coming out story, but innocuous and fine. A little meh, but fine.
- Here Comes Trouble by Randall Albers: I liked it. I liked what he did and how he did it. I liked the realization of what it means to grow up and be responsible. I like the transition, and I like the struggle against it. It felt a little like sour grapes, but just a little, and, regardless, did not detract from the story.
- A Prostitue Comparison by Molly Each: I must have liked this one more than I realized because when I re-read the title to myself just now, a smile came to my face. It was funny. It was disgusting, but just in the right way, and just for the right reason.
- Counting Days by Bobby Biedrzycki: Loved this one. Not because it was so poignant or moving -- I didn't know that it really was. But because it was brave and honest. Because Biedrzycki struggled and moved forward. There was truth in the story, and hope.
- Return Trip by Patricia Ann McNair: This is another one of the stories that kind of went nowhere; yet, this one didn't really bother me -- so I assume it was because it was a well-told, well-written story. I suppose I can see why they ended with this piece... it was an ending and a beginning in and of itself.