We take issue with this being touted as Link’s “first major” hardcover release, as it’s being trumpeted by Viking. Link—whose stories steep in her idiosyncratic blend of fantasy and fable—has created an enormous following, and in 2005, her Magic for Beginners came out in hardback on her own Small Beer Press, sold a ton of copies, and won best of the year from Time, The Village Voice and Salon.com. So we beg to differ that this is her first major release.
But to be fair, each new Link book deserves a little hullaballoo, and this new one is no different. Pretty Monsters is Link’s first book for young adults, though aside from some of the darker, sexual themes in her “adult” stories, regular readers won’t notice much of a difference. “The Specialist’s Hat” provides a spooky poltergeist tale that doubles as a study of how kids process death, and “The Surfer” reads as an off-kilter alien-abduction legend.
Link tends to jam sentiments into the reader’s head—commanding us how to feel—and in a book for a younger audience, that proclivity is even more pronounced. But she still excels at the surreal deadpan. In “Monster,” a creature consumes a camper: “There were slurping noises. After a minute it stood up again. It looked back and saw James Lorbick. It waved.”
The main difference between a Link story for adults and one for young adults is just how dark the psychology gets. If her past books make up a haunted house, Pretty Monsters is more of a fun house. Of course, that means it’s still a lot of fun.
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