The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers

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The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely collection of short stories from a master of prose. Including some tiny flash fictions and dialogue only entries, they will incite, surprise and stimulate. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Bodley Head
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0370331974

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You don't see that many short story collections in YA circles. But when they do appear, you often wonder why there aren't more of them. And this is absolutely the case with The Kissing Game. Ranging from short pieces of flash fiction to "proper" short stories, each one will incite, surprise and stimulate.

The title story is a tale of the unexpected featuring two isolated adolescents - one stammers because of a traumatic humilation by a girl in the playground at primary school, the other hides away in her aunt's house because of an equally traumatic event that is much more recent. Kindred spirits, so you'd think? Well, perhaps you should think again.

I loved Cindy's Day Out, in which a put-upon sibling finally takes control of her life. And The Scientific Approach, which deals with sexual jealousy and social approval, and bit me right in the bum at the end with such a surprise that I actually applauded - in a room on my own. There's Toska which focuses on adolescent anomie to great effect, and there's Thrown Out, which develops this theme through an environmental twist. Kangaroo - featuring a girl in a summer job as an animal character at a theme park - did make me laugh, but had something very serious to say about man as beast.

The form is quite disparate - short flash fictions to true short stories, but also little dialogues and letters. And the prose is elegant, precise, witty and elegant. Tying it all together is a coming-of-age theme - how we feel in adolescence, the things we discover during that time, the defiance and opposition we put up, and the estrangement we feel. It will give rise to a great deal of discussion about the myriad of possibilities both in the written form and in the ways we look at - and live - our lives.

The Kissing Game is classy, thought-provoking, witty and always provocative. It's recommended by Bookbag.

My thanks to the good people at Bodley Head for sending the book.

Other story collections include Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan, challenging and unsettling, just as you'd expect and Counting Stars by David Almond - absolutely gorgeous with lots of background to Almond's wonderful novels. Youngers ones will enjoy Across the Wall by Garth Nix. And let's not forget Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo. Oh! And of course, the wonderful Losing It - a collection of stories about virginity from some of our best writers. Perhaps there are more volumes of YA short stories than I realised!

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