The Kissing Game: Short Stories


In this brand-new collection of short stories, Aidan Chambers explores moments of truth, when a character or an event suddenly reveals an often-surprising meaning: A girl loses her humanity when she takes a summer job as a theme-park character; a boy tries to save a girl from a fiery death, only to discover the same event happened one hundred years before. And the titular story, in which an innocent game takes a fatal turn, will haunt the reader for a long time. 

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The Kissing Game: Short Stories

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In this brand-new collection of short stories, Aidan Chambers explores moments of truth, when a character or an event suddenly reveals an often-surprising meaning: A girl loses her humanity when she takes a summer job as a theme-park character; a boy tries to save a girl from a fiery death, only to discover the same event happened one hundred years before. And the titular story, in which an innocent game takes a fatal turn, will haunt the reader for a long time. 

These provocative stories beautifully lend themselves to discussion, and once again Chambers treats us to his fiercely intelligent, finely crafted prose and his incisive understanding of the wonderings of young people on the verge of adulthood.

Awards and praise for the work of Aidan Chambers

Michael L. Printz Award

Carnegie Medal

Hans Christian Andersen Award


“Beautifully written, emotionally touching, and intellectually challenging.” —VOYA


“Jam-packed with ideas and passionate characters.” —Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous wordsmith and magical storyteller.” —ALAN Review 

“Disturbing, groundbreaking . . . original.” —Books for Keeps

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 16 short stories—three previously published, one written when the author was a teenager—Chambers (the Dance Sequence) takes an almost microscopically close view of teenagers' thoughts and interactions, with characters grappling with issues of faith, authority, relationships, and identity. Several stories are extremely short—in an afterword, Chambers places them in the "flash fiction" genre. "They are like a flash of light, a spark, which allows one quick view of a whole scene or person or event," he writes, noting they "are suited to writing and reading on the small screens of computers, iPhones, and eReaders." The briefest stories consist solely of dialogue, yet those written in prose can also have the feel of a script. Chambers often employs 11th-hour twists: the titular story veers into horror, "The Tower" into the paranormal. Vladimir Nabokov's description of the Russian word "toskà," included in a story of the same name, perhaps best captures the spirit of the collection, which is permeated with "a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning." Chambers leaves readers with much to contemplate. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
VOYA - Laura Canales
This title offers sixteen wonderful short stories by an award-winning author. Only three tales are truly short stories—most are "flash fiction." These quick reads are meant to grab your attention quickly, tell their tale, and finish in just minutes. They are neat and seemingly simple stories, but they are thick with implication and have many possible meanings. These hit-and-run stories leave the reader with thoughts to ponder for days. Chambers leads the reader down many intriguing paths, and invites intelligent discussion as he addresses difficult topics. Death and mortality are the focus in A Handful of Wheat as a young boy experiences the death of his beloved grandfather. Sanctuary deals with phobias, murder and illegal aliens; and You Can Be Anything takes a hard look at life from the perspective of the wheelchair-bound. All the stories are thought provoking, and some also have humorous twists, as in Like Life, where an unexpected pregnancy leads one couple to breakup and another to make up. The God Debate is a delightful dialogue between two young boys at boarding school who get into a debate over God. Their debate takes them on a circular path back to the beginning of their story. Not to give away all, there is something for everyone—love, murder, fairy tales, adventure, science fiction, politics and more. Chambers makes each story unique and exciting by telling some from first-person, others in third-person and still others are completely dialogue. I recommend this for libraries or collections with a strong contingency of short story lovers. Reviewer: Laura Canales
ALAN Review - Lakendra Scott
This collection of 16 short stories, written by Michael L. Printz Award winner Aidan Chambers, uses seemingly banal circumstances to spark conversations between characters that touch on deep and meaningful topics. In "Sanctuary," a panic-ridden boy finds himself on a wild ride of right and wrong in a suspenseful thriller of abuse and faith. In "Kangaroo," a summer job becomes the site of a teenage girl's struggle with decency and sense of self. "The Kissing Game" gives students the opportunity to engage with how easily a simple situation can escalate to a dramatic and painful end. While all of the stories included might not be beneficial for a young adult curriculum, several would provide more than enough material for a study of major issues relevant to teens. Reviewer: Lakendra Scott
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—These 16 stories focus mostly on dangerous or awkward difficulties that can underpin a burgeoning relationship. Half of the selections are "flash fiction"—a punch to readers, delivered in less than 1000 words. (The author points out these are ideal for reading on small screens such as e-readers and smart phones.) Five are short plays that could be useful exercises for theater classes. Witty dialogue and ordinary situations gone awry abound. Impetus for reading through the collection as a whole comes from recognizing the pattern; there will be a twist, and readers may have to look again for the true "ah-hah!" As individual tales, three stand out: "Cindy's Day Out" gives a modern, self-aware Cinderella her due; "The Kissing Game" lets its isolated characters ride a current of all-too-real emotional pain to a horror-story climax; and "Sanctuary" draws readers into the sordid world of immigrant sex slavery. A few stories are very funny in a dry, British way; but most are simply intended to make readers think—about trust, religion, moral duty, and most of all about the give-and-take between people that we call "relationships." The selections are perfectly readable by middle schoolers, but more meaningful discussion and deeper understanding will only come from teens with more life experience, and there's real potential for possible use in high school English classes.—Rhona Campbell, formerly at Washington, DC Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810997165
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Aidan Chambers has received international acclaim and won every major young-adult prize, including the Michael L. Printz Award and the Carnegie Medal, for his novels for teens and young adults. He lives in Gloucester, England, with his wife, Nancy. To learn more, visit him online at

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Monica Sheffo for TeensReadToo

    THE KISSING GAME consists of 16 short stories, all centered around love and relationships. In one story, a girl attempts to break out of the shadow of her sister, only to find that the key to self-worth lies within. In another, a boy believes that he has rescued a girl from a fiery tower, and then discovers that the same event occurred 100 years ago. Aidan Chambers proves himself to be a master storyteller in this collection of provocative tales dealing with matters of the heart. Each story has its own distinct flavor, and with sixteen in all, every reader will be left feeling satisfied.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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