of Defiance and Flash Fictions
stories, some of conventional length - about 5,000 words - and
some in the new form of 'flash fiction' (see below for a note
of explanation). The central characters are aged between 14
and 18, living now and facing up to some of life's challenges
and difficulties as they grow into adulthood.
From early reviews:
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Kissing Game is classy, thought-provoking, witty and
always provocative. It's recommended by Bookbag. - Jill
Library Journal: These 16 stories focus mostly on dangerous
or awkward difficulties that can underpin a burgeoning relationship.
Half of the selections are "flash fiction"-a punch to readers,
delivered in less than 1000 words. (The author points out these
are ideal for reading on small screens such as e-readers and
smart phones.) Five are short plays that could be useful exercises
for theater classes. Witty dialogue and ordinary situations
gone awry abound. Impetus for reading through the collection
as a whole comes from recognizing the pattern; there will be
a twist, and readers may have to look again for the true "ah-hah!"
As individual tales, three stand out: 'Cindy's Day Out' gives
a modern, self-aware Cinderella her due; 'The Kissing Game'
lets its isolated characters ride a current of all-too-real
emotional pain to a horror-story climax; and 'Sanctuary' draws
readers into the sordid world of immigrant sex slavery. A few
stories are very funny in a dry, British way; but most are simply
intended to make readers think - about trust, religion, moral
duty, and most of all about the give-and-take between people
that we call "relationships." The selections are perfectly readable
by middle schoolers, but more meaningful discussion and deeper
understanding will only come from teens with more life experience,
and there's real potential for possible use in high school English
classes. - Rhona Campbell, formerly at Washington, DC Public
The Kirkus Review: . . . a provocative and varied
collection of shorts for teen readers. The author isn't one
to shy away from the more sinister aspects of life, nor is he
heavy-handed in his treatment of them. Touching on a wide scope
of topics, his spare, succinct prose prods readers out of complacency
and gets them thinking critically on a varied number of issues:
death, sex and violence, among them. Whether asking readers
to ponder the meaning of life and religion in the almost Beckettlike
'The God Debate', re-evaluate their own attitudes toward the
planet and our increasingly use-once-and-dispose attitude in
'Thrown Out' or consider the harsh realities of human trafficking
that permeates all walks of life with 'Sanctuary', he introduces
readers into the chaotic and often ugly world of adulthood.
His sophisticated yet simple style is perfectly suited for an
exploration of the new form of flash fictions-multi-genre drabbles
that top out at 1,000 words as well as standard short-story
form. Thoughtful, challenging reading for teens on the cusp
Far from the romance suggested in the title, this short-fiction
collection from the author of the Printz Award-winning Postcards
from No Man's Land (2002) explores dark, volatile territory
in selections that often lead to explosive, bomb-grade conclusions.
Avid readers may notice a few reprints here, including 'The
Kissing Game', but most of the entries are new, and in an author's
note, Chambers discusses his interest in the flash-fiction form
of writing, which he employs in several stories. There are a
few twists of magic realism; in 'The Tower', for example, a
teen boy tries to save a girl from a fire that occurred a century
earlier. Most stories, though, are realistic glimpses of young
adults grappling with mistreatment and brutality in a contemporary
world. As in most collections, not every story is equally strong,
but the variety of experimental formats, including scripts and
letters, is refreshing, and teens will want to talk about the
recurring themes of betrayal, violence, and shifting identities,
and the fleeting moments of connection and mercy that can change
a life's course. - Gillian Engberg.
Weekly: Chambers takes an almost microscopically close
view of teenagers' thoughts and interactions, with characters
grappling with issues of faith, authority, relationships, and
identity . . . The briefest stories consist solely of dialogue,
yet those written in prose can also have the feel of a script
. . . Vladimir Nabokov's description of the Russian word 'toską',
included in a story of the same name, perhaps best captures
the spirit of the collection, which is permeated with 'a dull
ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick
pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning.' Chambers
leaves readers with much to contemplate.
Bookseller Magazine: "Aidan Chambers offers thought-provoking
short stories for older readers in The Kissing Game.
Playful or intriguing, each provides food for thought as he
explores the nature of betrayal and revenge - wonderful stuff."
- Marilyn Brocklehurst.
A Note on Flash Fiction
Several of the stories in this collection are a kind that are
now called flash fictions. Along with many writers, I've become
more and more interested in them as a modern form that is at
the cutting edge of literature. This is what I like about them:
are like a flash of light, a spark, which allows one quick
view of a whole scene or person or event.
are usually less than 1,000 words long.
can be of any genre so long as they are stories.
can be autobiography, biography, poems, letters, diaries,
mini essays, news reports. . .
can be prose with or without dialogue, or only dialogue.
can be in the first person, or third person, and in any
other words, they can make use of any aspect of language
and written expression.
must be complete, and not a mere anecdote.
often leave as much for the reader to do, making the story,
and "making the meaning," as the author does.
have a neatness and a rhythm that are apparently simple
but, when you think about them, you realize are very dense
and full of possible meanings.
of the greatest authors of literature wrote flash fictions.
For example, Kafka, Chekhov, Hemingway, Raymond Carver,
Italo Calvino, John Berger, and Kawabata, which he called
"palm-of- the-hand" stories.
of the reasons why they are so popular and are such a very
modern kind of literature is that they are suited to writing
and reading on the small screens of computers, iPhones,
published March 2011
USA by Abrams Amulet Books,
UK by Bodley Head Random House,