Sunday, May 20, 2007

Book review: This Is PUSH

This Is PUSH: New Stories from the Edge
edited by David Levithan (2007, Push)

Ever since I read David Levithan's exceptional Boy Meets Boy (Knopf, 2003) a few months back, I have wanted to read more of this author's work, so when I found that he had edited this recently released anthology of stories by other authors of Push (an imprint of Scholastic Books aimed at teen readers), I snapped up a copy. Despite the excellence of Boy Meets Boy, I thought that the overall quality of this collection would be similar to most such collections: it would be the usual grab bag of some good, some bad, and most merely passable stories.

I am happy to report that I was wrong wrong wrong: every story in this anthology represents quality work. While this consistent quality of This is Push makes it difficult to distinguish any one story as "the best," Billy Merrell's "My Boyfriend Refuses to Speak in Iambic Pentameter" is, I believe, an instant classic and I would be surprised if it didn't show up on next year's Lambda Awards. This is an amazing little gem in the form of a play in blank verse that portrays the relationship between two teen boys and the struggle toward expressing emotion, which represent the teen struggle toward self-expression but also a defiance of social pressures for individuals to maintain a "don't tell" silent complicity in exchange for token acceptance. Iambic pentameter's classical roots in subversive speech have rarely, in modern poetry, been made so starkly apparent.

Blank quote start
You think I speak like this because I can? Because without the beat there is no heart?! My form is not my structure, it's my mode: it's how I handle love....I hope you sing — but not because you think I want you to. Because you can't hold back, so much unsaid, because you've looked so deeply in my eyes that you can't see much else. Because instead of wanting your life the same, you realize that maybe it can never be again. And that's okay.
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Other favorites are likely to be based, as mine are, upon personal preference, and there is a wide rang of storytelling modes to choose from. "Six Killers" by Markus Zusak is a story told from the perspective of a quirkily original goth teen who works as a gravedigger in a cemetary, while "People Watching" by Chris Wooding gives the classic first date story a fantasy spin.

The story I fell in love with, however, is Christopher Krovatin's "Ginger," in which a young girl has a crush on a red-headed punk boy who hangs out in her father's used record store. The characters are smart and believable and did I mention smart? (Up to now, I had not really thought about the idea of the "first date book," even though I have one of these stories myself.)

Having fallen in love with Christopher Krovatin's writing, I went looking for other works by him, and was pleased to find he wrote a book titled Heavy Metal and You (Push reprint edition, 2006), which features a protagonist who spends the story explaining why he loves heavy metal, a story idea I find particularly appealing after having read Joe Hill's _Heart-Shaped Box_, which got me thinking about the mythic and narrative possibilities of metal music. Krovatin also has a new book coming out titled _Venom_, but I have not been able to locate any information about it.

Whether you are a fan of YA fiction or not, This is Push is an outstanding collection of short stories, and I recommend it strongly to anyone who craves the experience of falling in love with some new writers.

- The Blind Bookworm Blog


Anonymous Erica said...

You're terrific.

Monday, May 21, 2007 10:49:00 AM  

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