books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story by Kelly Milner Halls, et al

Short stories told from the perspective of both the guys and girls, 12 YA authors lend their voices to this collection.  The stories run the gamut, from first love to first heartbreak and everything in between.  The lesson at the end is that relationships are messy, complicated, and never easy, and that there’s always another way to see the same events.

I’ve been putting off writing this review because I was so disappointed by this collection of stories.  The problem with creating an anthology featuring a wide variety of writers is that the result is a wide variety of skills.  The result of this particular anthology was uneven pacing, plotting, and characterization.  There’s not enough here to allow the book to stand out.  What’s more is that while it is a book that could definitely appeal to both male and female readers, the overtly-girly cover is going to alienate nearly half the potential audience.  Also, how uncomfortable does that pose look?

While the first set of stories, by Chris Crutcher and Kelly Milner Halls, were the most powerful for me, they’re more likely to irritate most readers.  They feature two incredibly damaged people who are disastrous together, despite their undeniable chemistry.  I thought Milner Halls did a particularly excellent job of creating a female character who thinks she’s tough and has seen it all but is in fact incredibly needy and vulnerable. Crutcher’s portrayal of the boy she finally falls for is astute, too, and he manages to capture the helplessness of being caught in a bad relationship.

One of the other stories that stands out features a gay teen who agrees to meet his online crush only to find out that things aren’t exactly what they seem.  This one was sad and smart, but because the stories are so short, it’s hard to form connections to the characters.  Things have to be conveyed quickly, and I couldn’t help but feel like the stories were overly didactic and relied too much on stereotypical characters.

That being said, this is a unique concept for a short story collection, and it’s likely to work for teens who are looking for accessible YA short stories.  There’s plenty here for all interests and tastes. I just wish it had been executed better.

Girl Meets Boy by Kelly Milner Halls, et al. Chronicle Books: 2011. ARC accepted for review via author.


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