Readers drawn to this book's provocative title and jacket or to Duncan's (I Know What You Did Last Summer) reputation for suspense may be a little disappointed by the mixed bag of short stories found inside. Often straining to express the preordained theme of being "on the edge," the 12 selections offer eclectic interpretations but usually follow similar formats, mostly tracing an adolescent's response to a shocking event. Author commentaries following each work of fiction help fill in gaps in the story lines, providing needed insight into characters and circumstance. Pieces strong enough to stand on their own literary merit include Gail Carson Levine's "Pluto," which convincingly relates the frustrations of a "good" girl competing with her flamboyant, rebellious sister for their parents' attention; and Graham Salisbury's "The Ravine," in which a boy is prodded by his friends to make a dangerous jump but comes to realize that he is in control of his own fate. The hardest-hitting story, Terry Davis's "In the Valley of Elephants," combines folklore with gritty realism to express the sad heritage and the terror of a 17-year-old mother fleeing her native Laos. Readers may do well to skip to the second half of the volume, where the more accomplished fiction appears. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of twelve short stories depicts teenagers on the verge of making major decisions or changes. Written by respected young adult authors such as Graham Salisbury, Ellen Wittlinger, and Gail Carson Levine, there is not a bad story in the bunch. That is not to say that all have the same emotional impact. Some stories will leave readers thinking long after it is read. Unbalanced by William Sleator is a psychological horror story about not knowing who your true friends are. Seventeen-year-old Linda, a rising ballet star, is made soloist, promoted over dancers who have been with the company much longer. Now someone is sabotaging her by putting Vaseline on the floor and cutting the straps of her toe shoes--dangerous pranks that could cause serious injury. Luckily Linda has Carla and Jimmy to help protect her... or not. An emotionally wrenching story is Terry Davis's In the Valley of Elephants, which is told in screenplay format. Seventeen-year-old May Moua and her nineteen-year-old husband, Yee, are Hmongs fleeing 1975 Laos through the cover of an elephant trench. May must comfort her two young children although she is beyond comfort herself. The Pathet Lao patrol is all around, and elephants could stampede through the trench at any moment. Members of the Moua family will never be the same even if they do reach freedom. Whether reading about a young woman forced to be in a "nuthouse" because of a suicide attempt or a young man who must face his fears before he jumps fifty feet into a ravine on a dare, teens will enjoy these young people who confront their problems head on. This collection is an appropriate purchase for high school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S(Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Simon & Schuster, Ages 16 to 18, 224p, $17. Reviewer: Melissa Thacker
This affordable book packs a lot of action and suspense between its covers. The twelve stories by different writers and in different genres share a common theme. In each well-told tale, a young adult finds himself or herself physically and/or emotionally "on the edge." Ably edited by an author who is familiar with this territory, Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer) explains in her foreword to the book that "the majority of the writers whose stories appear on these pages have interpreted "on the edge" in ways I didn't anticipate." Teen readers will be pleased to find the stories range from the humorous to the terrifying (and everything in between), all the while presenting them with contemporary situations and characters to which they can easily relate. The collected stories are written by a "who's who" of YA fiction—Ellen Wittlinger, Gloria Skurzynski, Alden R. Carter, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Pete Hautman, Winifred Morris, Gail Carson Levine, William Sleator, Liza Ketchum, Rich Wallace, Graham Salisbury and Terry Davis. A brief commentary by the author about the creative origin of his or her story follows each contribution to the collection. Whatever the individual author's idea of "on the edge" may be, each story will raise thought-provoking questions in the minds of teen readers. An added incentive to adding this title to your home, school or public library collection is that a portion of the money generated from the sale of the book will be donated to the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association for the development, publication and distribution of popular reading lists.
Gr 8 Up-Duncan has collected new stories from 12 award-winning YA authors, each of whom interprets the theme a bit differently. In some, the interpretation is humorous as with Alden R. Carter's "Pig Brains," in which Don convinces a 260-pound football player that fried fettuccini noodles are a Lithuanian delicacy called fried brains. Pete Hautman's "Hot Lava" also falls into this category as a boy imagines declaring his love for a girl all the while worrying about a giant zit on his face. Other selections are compelling, such as Ellen Wittlinger's "Stevie in the Mirror," about a teenager in a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt, and "Secret Numbers" by Winifred Morris, about a young man's descent into schizophrenia and its affect on his family. Gloria Skurzynski's "Nethergrave," about a boy connecting to the Internet in a new way; Gail Carson Levine's "Pluto," about a girl's relationship with her family and attention-demanding older sister; and William Sleator's "Unbalanced," about a ballerina being stalked by an unknown saboteur, are definitely edgy and thought-provoking. The vastly different variations on the theme show an amazing breadth of creative energy and there isn't a weak selection in the bunch. Reluctant readers may be drawn to the short-story format and to some of the issues raised. A superlative collection that will grab readers' attention.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Duncan's (Trapped!, 1998; Night Terrors, 1996; etc.) third collection of sizzling suspense tales from YA authors. Each story examines an experience of teens on the brink of some kind of peril, whether emotional or real. Ellen Wittlinger begins with an absorbing account of a rebellious girl sent to a mental institution, where she meets kids who are truly insane. Gloria Skurzynski continues with a shy computer nerd who, literally, finds a new life in virtual reality. Winifred Morris ties those two stories together with her tale of another computer nerd descending into schizophrenia. Comic relief comes from Alden R. Carter with a kid who gets revenge on a bully through unusual cooking, and from Peter Hautman's tale of an enormous zit. Emotional suspense from Margaret Peterson Haddix with a girl undergoing tests for a possible brain tumor, and William Sleator's departure from science fiction into a scary tale about jealousy in the world of professional ballet score strongly. So will Liza Ketchum's quicksand, Rich Wallace's murder, and Terry Davis's escape stories. Authors write a short afterword, explaining how the story was inspired, or how they began as writers. This collection provides a bite of yummy suspense to suit nearly everyone's taste. (Fiction. 12+)