Short stories have never really been my cup of tea. Just when I’m getting attached to the characters, just when I’m immersing myself in the plot, everything gets wrapped up really quickly and then it’s all over. I like to spend time getting to know my characters, spend time losing myself in the story. Yet the thought of a book containing works from authors like Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Melissa Marr, Gabrielle Zevin and Laurie Faria Stolarz was too good to pass on, and I felt like I just had to give Love is Hell a go.
The title says it all. Each story has some kind of supernatural, warped love story at its centre. Each writer brings something unique and different to the compilation, showcasing a whole variety of characters. Out of the five stories, two in particular – Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Stupid Perfect World’ and Melissa Marr’s ‘Love Struck’ – stood out for me.
Stupid Perfect World is set in the future. The humans take ‘vitamins’ which help alter the human body so things like excessive emotions are kept in check, sleep is not only unnecessary but also unheard of, and disease and illness are non-existent. In Scarcity class, Keiren has to choose a condition from the ‘olden days’ to experience and report on. Inspired by Hamlet and never having slept a day in his life, Keiren decides to give the whole sleeping thing a go. Maria, Keiran’s classmate decides to turn off her hormonal balancers so she can experience the full force of teen angst. Stupid Perfect World follows the pair as they progress through their projects. The ending – which I’m not going to divulge – has a healthy dose of the warm fuzzies and left me smiling like a goofy kid. I fell in love with Keiran instantly, and developed a soft spot for Maria just as quickly. More importantly, I got everything I wanted from this story and as Westerfeld brought the tale to a close, I found myself feeling completely satiated.
Melissa Marr’s ‘Love Struck’ is the tale of Alana, an average teenage girl who is forced into courting Murrin, a Selchie from the sea. On the way home from a party one night Alana steps on Murrin’s discarded skin, therefore binding her to him indefinitely. Murrin hadn’t intended for Alana to step in his skin; he wanted her to fall in love with him naturally, but of course, in matters of love, things never go as planned. Alana is angry that she has been lured into such a commitment and resents Murrin’s advances initially. But like all fey folk, Murrin’s allure is too seductive to ignore. Love Struck follows Alana’s journey as she falls in love with Murrin, both cosmically and naturally. Melissa Marr writes beautifully and I found myself going back to the beginning to read it again as soon as I finished. Like all of her fey characters, Murrin made my stomach flutter and my heart beat just a little faster. He’s sweet, sexy and everything a girl could possibly want in a boyfriend.
Love is Hell is an easy read. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that short stories can be just as great as lengthy novels – you just have to read the right ones, by good, talented authors!