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Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales

Review

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales

I don’t like reading stories about monsters. MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS is a collection of 15 short stories about monsters. When I opened the book, I thought I’d be reading a dozen stories about vampires, werewolves and ghoulish creatures. Instead, I read stories about needy Hills (yes, the green, grassy kind), mothers that spoke inside your head, and ultimately, about the monsters in all of us. There were a few stories that changed my perspective on monsters, such as “Moriabe’s Children” by Paolo Bacigalupi and “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” by Holly Black. However, there were just as many, if not more, stories that confirmed my belief that monsters tend to be unbelievable, flat characters that detract rather than add to my reading experience. 
 
The anthology starts with a quick quiz about what you believe about monsters. None of the answers are deemed “correct or “false,” and there isn’t a graph at the end showing how the answers you choose define who you are, but simply a suggestion to look back at the answers when you’ve finished the book to see if you have any changed opinions. I had never filled out a quiz like this before, but I quickly decided that this “Pop Quiz” should be in every book. The question that grabbed me most was: “Are you a monster?” Really? Why would I be a monster?
 
This book taught me that even though we may have a monster inside of us, we can learn to live with and even love the “Charkazak” or “kranken” in everybody.
 
The first short story, “Moriabe’s Children”, was my favorite. It began with a description of a “kranken,” a beast that lives underwater that “...could encircle a sailing ship and crack its spine. Kranken snapped masts like kindling, and swallowed sailors whole.” (pg.1) The story then talks about Alanie, who had a father that hunted for a kranken and died, leaving her mother widowed.  When her mother remarried and Alanie met her new stepfather, Eliam, she heard the kranken whisper to her, “we do not hunt the blueback, -- we hunt the blueback’s young…” (pg. 9) implying that her new stepfather is attracted to Alanie. But this is not the only thing the kranken whispers.  In fact, without the addition of the kranken throughout the story, it would have been a tale we have all heard: father dies, mother remarries, stepfather turns out to be a psychopath. The kranken shows that the scenario is more complex and that no character is simply “evil” or a “victim”.  In the end, we understand that the kranken is in all of us because everybody has a monster in them. It’s only human.
 
The third short story, “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” was surprisingly sweet. A intergalactic smuggler (a person who smuggles things between galaxies) named Tara was going to go on her first space mission with her uncle and she was sure that they would be the best smuggling duo of all time.  Soon after they boarded the ship, it was raided by space pirates and they killed her uncle. Tara hid in the cargo hold and soon learned that the package that they were told to export to another galaxy was a Charkazak, a dangerous alien.  She had no choice but to let the alien free to kill the pirates and also herself. The alien then scampered off and proceeded to kill every pirate on board. Yet, the alien didn’t kill her. More than that, the alien charmed me in a way I thought that monsters couldn’t.  
 
This book taught me that even though we may have a monster inside of us, we can learn to live with and even love the “Charkazak” or “kranken” in everybody. So yes, Introduction Pop Quiz, I am a monster

Reviewed by Maya B., Teen Board Member on September 9, 2014

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales
Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant