By Heidi Simmons
Get in Trouble
by Kelly Link
Tired of reading stories about a normal world with dysfunctional people? Then it’s time for a blast of a dysfunctional world with abnormal people? In Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble (Random House, 352 pages), nine short stories reveal characters and places beyond traditional comfort zones.
The first story in the collection is “The Summer People.” Fran is feverish and her father has left her to find Jesus in Florida. He has also left her with the job of preparing and caring for the summer visitors. Too sick to take care of business, Fran teams up with Ophelia, a rich girl from school who is eager to help.
Up an old road and against the mountain in the deep woods, there is a magical cottage inhabited by fairy-like people who depend on Fran. When Ophelia goes in Fran’s place, the Summer People like Ophelia and Fran sees an opportunity to change her life and destiny.
“I Can See Right Through You” is about Will, aka “Demon Lover”, an actor whose fame came from his role playing a teen heart throb vampire and his subsequent love affair with his co-star Meggie. Now, years later, facing a scandal and divorce, he reconnects with Meggie on the set of a reality television show about ghosts. The two, for the first time, discuss the ghost that haunted their relationship and ultimately destroyed it.
Billie, a 15-year-old girl, goes to New York to meet her online boyfriend, Paul Zell, who is 19 years her senior in the story “Secret Identity.” The hotel is hosting dentists and a superhero convention. Away from home for the first time, the world is strange and she worries what Paul will do when he discovers she is only a child.
A group of wealthy, entitled teens get caught up in a world of Egyptian mythology building pyramids and death masks in “Valley of the Girls” that ultimately brings about their demise and — maybe their immortality.
On a trip to a theme park called “Land of Oz”, two old friends, Bunnatine and Biscuit, discuss their childhood and the bizarre events that shaped them in “Origin Story.”
Harper and Thanh are expecting a child in “The Lesson.” Their surrogate is 24 weeks along and is ordered to stay in bed. When Harper and Thanh reluctantly go to a friend’s wedding on a remote island, their fears of a premature birth come to fruition. They discover how much they love their child and that they truly are dedicated fathers.
“The New Boyfriend” is the story of jealous high school girls who order dolls instead of having real boyfriends. When one friend falls in love with another girl’s boy toy, she discovers love is real and painful – even if it’s not with a human.
In “Two Houses,” space explorers party and tell ghost stories that the on board computer, Maureen, generates visually. Eventually, they see the ghost of themselves and their missing sister spacecraft.
“Light” is set in the Florida Keys during hurricane season where giant iguanas roam and singing mermaids swim in the canals. Lindsey works in a Sleeper facility – where humans in a deep sleep are stored. Lindsey was born with two shadows. Her husband left her suddenly and her twin brother has come to live with her. With the storm bearing down, it’s more than she can handle.
All the stories are set in odd and colorful worlds where the fantastic and surreal are the norm. It’s as if author Link has traveled into the future where young people dominate the population in a new earth epoch. There are remnants of our world and people are similar, yet things are strangely different.
Ghosts and superheroes are reoccurring themes. Most of the stories are dominated by selfish people looking for opportunities to prove they exist in a world that has evolved too fast. “The Lesson” is the only story that might be set in our world today and is the collection’s most normal tale.
Link explores not only new worlds, but also different voices. Although most of the characters are young and female, the narratives are written with a fresh and intriguing style. This is important because so much of the collection could be considered as young adult literature. However, Link is clever and daring in her story construction in a way that is the antithesis of YA.
Some stories are out there and require a second read to fully grasp the narrative. But I enjoyed the second time through, getting more subtle detail and nuance of the world and characters.
Don’t look for metaphors or blazing themes. However, if I had to say what the collection is about, I’d say no matter the dimension, humans must be flexible to survive.
I like Link’s strange and ephemeral worlds. It’s a challenging read at times, but it is also refreshing, intriguing and fun. I encourage you to go ahead and Get in Trouble.