The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories by A.C. Wise
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this book in Storybundle’s LGBT+ Bundle and the title and description of this book are what got me to pick up the entire bundle. I didn’t even realize I already knew A.C. Wise’s work from its appearance in Clarkesworld Magazine. As I mentioned during a couple of the status updates, Wise seems to be a thematic protege of Philip K Dick. A lot of her short stories involve unreliable narrators who often aren’t sure if they’re dreaming or remembering things correctly or even being honest with themselves. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve come across unreliable narrators, but with how intimately Ms. Wise writes her characters it’s even more jarring not to know how much of the story is “real” and how much is not even real to the narrator. It really does put the reader into the position of TRULY being in someone’s head, with all its messiness; a strong contrast to other books that are written from a 1st Person POV but are very clear-headed.
As usual with anthologies, here’s the status update I wrote for each story:
“The Poet’s Child” – While it’s not the kind of story I like (it’s like 100% metaphor), it is still pretty powerful and could stand in for the power of naming things, alzheimer’s, or simply refusing to speak about the tension between two people.
“Juliet & Juliet (te)” – A fantastical journey through a relationship kindled in an unlikely place.
“And if the body…” – A neat SF story that did more for my understanding of body dismorphism than any non-fiction account I’ve ever read
“The Pornographer’s Assistant” – A steampunk story about how important fiction can be if you don’t fit in.
“For the removal…” – My absolute favorite story so far. Sorry Quirky and great although I’m not sure what it has to do with the theme of the anthology
“Evidence of things…” – A steampunk WWII story. Very emotional.
“Evidence of things unseen” – reads like erotic fiction written by Philip K Dick
“Sisters of the…” – a clever story, one I might share with my oldest when she’s maybe 8 or 9.
“The kissing booth girl” – the titular story, the one that convinced me to buy the bundle. It was worth it. A bit of steampunk and a world that begs more exploration. I’d like to see the further adventures of Beni.
“Final girl theory” – I didn’t like this one, but it is neat seeing the narrator change through the story
“The astronaut…” – another dream logic like story where the rest isn’t sure if there’s magic at play, an unreliable narrator or both. This anthology is definitely get PKD with less drugs
“The last survivor of the great sexbot revolution” – I first came across this story in a 2013 episode of the Clarkesworld podcast. Enjoyed it then and now. Fits in well with the other themes of this anthology about unreliable memories.
“After Midnight…” – I thought I’d seen every retelling, but Cinderella as noir, incorporating the crazy stuff from the original version is a great read.
“It’s the end of the world…” – this captures the way the end of high school better than anything else I’ve ever read or seen on film. Really transported me. Also great fun. I’d love an anthology season of all these short stories on a TV show.