Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan

"In the winter you come to the pit to warm your feet in the tar. You stand long enough to sink as far as your ankles - the littler you are, the longer you can stand. . . But in summer, like this day, you keep away from the tar . . . Ikky was tall, but she was thin and light from all the worry and prison; she was going to take a long time about sinking."

So begins the first story in this collection of short stories; this story's title is "Singing My Sister Down". Even before the story begins, you have a sense of unease about it, and the description quoted above only confirms your suspicion. But it is a wonderful story about family, and gives you a glimpse of what this society is like. As in every short story told here, a glimpse is all we are given. At times it feels like the world that is being described could be our own, as in the story of the elephant trainer, in "Sweet Pippit". In most of the stories, however, there is introduced an aspect of reality that is so fundamentally different from our own that it cannot possibly take place in the world we know. And yet the characters are all very human, and react to these strange, unsettling situations in the same way any of us would.

The beauty of this book is that each story opens the reader up to a different sense of what reality can be. Each story makes the reader question how they would act in the situation being presented. The stories are technically simple, yet very morally complex, making them an excellent choice for any teen who wants to think a little bit. Readers of fantasy and horror, as well as regular fiction, will appreciate these stories, as they offer something completely different than most teen books in these genres. Each of the tales stays with you for much longer than expected, as your imagination continues to work on the situation presented by the story. In this way, you are never finished with Black Juice.

*This review also posted at hip librarian's book blog*

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