Review: I See Reality, Edited by Grace Kendall

I See Reality by Grace Kendall

Through prose and comics alike, these heart-pounding short stories ask hard questions about a range of topics from sexuality and addiction to violence and immigration. Here is the perfect tool for starting tough discussions or simply as an introduction to realistic literary fiction. In turns funny, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, I See Reality will resonate with today’s teens long after the last page has been turned.

Contributing authors include Jay Clark, Kristin Clark, Heather Demetrios, Stephen Emond, Patrick Flores-Scott, Faith Hicks, Trisha Leaver, Kekla Magoon, Marcella Pixley, James Preller, Jason Schmidt, and Jordan Sonnenblick. — [X]

NOTE: Okay, the travelling has put a wrench in my plan to finish The Drowning Eyes and review it for this month’s theme so, I will definitely be double posting sometime next week, to make it up you guys! This post is about a book I frantically emailed Raincoast Books’ lovely Melissa for, and then promptly forgot to review. So, here is my overdue (the book was out on January 26th) post on I See Reality!

From what I understand I See Reality is part of Macmillan’s ReaLITy series of realistic fiction for teens and this one caught my attention because a) that cover, I love it, b) KEKLA MAGOON–ever since I read X I’ve kind of been itching to explore her writing– and c) FAITH ERIN HICKS! As expected, neither of their stories disappointed but I was pleased that they weren’t the only ones I loved.

Of the twelve stories, I really enjoyed eight of them. The other four might not have worked for a myriad of reasons, one of which is simply that the stories just weren’t for me. This collection places a huge emphasis on addressing its contents to a teenage audience that may not have had the chance to explore the issues that are so personal to them and/or had the chance to read widely enough about those subjects. So, even if I say the writing wasn’t great but the subject matter was interesting, for readers going through something and wanting some perspective on it, maybe it’s enough that the story exists? Somehow this collection makes me feel rather petty about picking favourites …

… And yet, I do have favourites. Four of the eight stories I enjoyed were completely excellent and yes, heart-breaking. These were the ones that not only had been backed by wonderful writing, but also contained the most genuine, well-rounded characters. These characters, they felt really real and it was almost like reading a journal:

  1. Three Imaginary Conversations With You by Heather Demetrios: The “I” of this story is a high school girl who is dating “You” i.e. an emotionally abusive college guy. The topic of those three conversations revolves around the narrator wanting to break-up with the guy and how difficult and scary that can be, especially when she says, “Wehavetobreakup” and he responds with, “I’ll kill myself if you break up with me”. I think this story explored the issue of power dynamics between couples–especially couples where one person is this-is-kind-of-disturbing young–very well. It’s the first story in the collection and easily my favourite.
  2. The Night of the Living Creeper by Stephen Emond*: After everything I said about characters feeling “really real”, I must confess, the narrator of this one was a cat. I don’t how “real” its thoughts were, but they were definitely fun to explore. The setting is a Halloween party and the characters are in costume and the cat is trying to figure out which of the dudes is a creeper. I guess the interesting thing is, judging by the conversations that the girls and boys have during the party, I felt like pretty much all the guys were creepers? And then I wondered, if that’s just how my mind–and probably the minds of many readers who identify as girls–works now because it’s almost a defence mechanism? Anyway, lots of food for thought here, has some of the most interesting dialogue in the book, some comical illustrations, as well as notes from the narrator: “This guy’s more fun than a ball of yarn and about as smart!”
  3. The Mistake by James Preller: This one deals with teenage pregnancy and the days leading up to a life-changing decision. I’m going to be honest: I almost hated this story. It was mostly told from the boy’s perspective and I think it would have been better, if it had alternated (more) between their POVs. But then, the last couple of pages happened and bam, I fell in love with it. I’m glad Kendall thought to include this story in the book.
  4. The Good Brother by Patrick Flores-Scott: This one had me on the verge of tears. With the never-ending hatred and suspicion of immigrants, I am glad there was an immigrant story in the mix. This is also the story that gave this collection its name. It follows twin brothers, one who is being deported from the States and one who has taken his brother’s place and is returning to Mexico. It is a story of sacrifice–of so many kinds–and second-chances and though this isn’t my immigrant experience, I felt it speak so directly to my heart. I loved it. I wish it were a novel.

Definitely look forward to these stories–and, as I said, more.

Overall, the book was a roller-coaster of emotions, delivering a side of comedy for every story with tragedy. I do think the book could have done with some more intersectional stories because, look, if you want a character who is white and gay and “straight-passing”, I can point you to a few. If you want a character who is brown skinned, latino, and “flamboyantly” gay, I got nothing. If you wanted to read about a physically disabled bisexual girl going on a movie date with the prom queen and being frustrated at the fact that the theatre isn’t wheelchair accessible, I don’t even have a fantasy recommendation. There are so few intersectional stories out there and they are sorely needed. Thing is, this book did so well, with such a range of stories, I do believe the next anthology (if there is a next one, please let there be a next one) will address yet another impressive range of stories. So, yes! Recommended!

Buy: [Print / Ebook] // Borrow [VPL]

*Oops! Previously had the wrong name here! Fixed it! Thanks commenter!

4 responses to “Review: I See Reality, Edited by Grace Kendall

    • Right? Each of the polaroids have something to do with a story in the collection. It’s a very well thought out cover!

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