There are a few gems among Kelly Link’s short story collection Get In Trouble that are certainly worth the trouble of reading
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Kelly Link’s short story collection Get In Trouble. I never read a short story collection before it and I had my apprehensions. However, after just hearing praise after praise about the book and watching the anthology movie “Wild Tales,” I was convinced.
Diving into the book, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that each story has a supernatural element to it. Reading the first story “The Summer People” was a great representation of the rest of the stories in the book. It tells the story of Fran, a teenager in rural North Carolina who takes care of the homes of the people who come to vacation in the town in the summer. However, after her mother mysteriously disappears, she is in charge of taking care of the “summer people,” a group of fairy-like creatures who enjoy playing tricks, but also help provide you with the magical remedies you may need.
The story sets up Link’s distinctly “en media res” style that gives you more background on the characters and stories that take some novels 50 pages to do. Despite the high-concept of a lot of the stories, Link anchors each in the characters.
For example, “Origin Story” opens on a 15-year-old from Iowa, as she arrives at a hotel to meet up with an older man she met online. At the hotel, two vastly different conventions are occurring: a dentist convention and a superhero convention (like actual superheroes with superpowers). However, the girl thinks nothing of the superheroes. That’s the thing with Link’s worlds. What would be abnormal or supernatural in ours are mundane in hers. The superheroes fade into the background and in the forefront is this “who am I?” exploration of this 16-year-old girl.
However, there is one thing that I couldn’t get past that hurt the book as a whole for me. While each story is such incredible deep dives into the characters, and the worlds are realized with such soft strokes but are still easily visualized, the plots of each story don’t seem to hold up. I understand each story is its own short character study, but each story doesn’t feel like it has a payoff. They almost feel incomplete save for a couple that felt full circle.
Maybe I’m just not built to read short stories or maybe I tried too hard to find some satirical meaning behind each narrative, but if you enjoy them then, by all means, you might love Get in Trouble.
Despite my issues with some of the stories, I will say that Link’s prose is some of the most beautiful I’ve read in recent memory. Passages like,
“The boy is loved. The loved one suffers. All loved ones suffer. Love is not enough to prevent this. Love is not enough. Love is enough. The thing that you wished for. Was this it?”
After this wave of YA, easy-to-digest prose, it’s refreshing to read such mature writing that doesn’t patronize the reader. Kelly Link is such an incredibly talented writer. Her world-building is unlike any other author I’ve read recently. She does it with such ease and without the bulkiness of exposition. If you’re looking for an impeccably written set of quirky fairy tales, then Get in Trouble will do the trick. But if you’re looking for twists and payoffs, then I’d stay away.