One Death, Nine Stories - Edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith

Nicholas, Kevin. Age 19. Died at York Hospital....

There are a lot of short story anthologies out there for young adults these days. And they're all very different. Usually they revolve around a particular theme (Geektastic, Losing It, etc.) or they centre on a particular pair of opposing themes (Zombies vs. Unicorns, for instance.) In this particular case, the book focuses on nine people who knew and were in some way affected by Kevin (Kev) Nicholas.

I like to think that when a body is dead it can't lie anymore and all that is left is the truth. So I make up stories as I am filing the nails of stiff-fingered dead people, putting on foundation or lipstick, or combing their hair. I try to imagine who they were and if they can (or should) be forgiven for what they did in their lives. I want to believe there are good people and bad people and that in the end we all get what we deserve, but the dead always remind us that is not true.
Each story focuses on one character in Kev's life, and each is told by a different author. This has the welcome effect of making sure that each character has a completely unique voice to offer as part of the larger narrative. At the same time, because each author has their own idea of where the story will go in relation to their own character, it does feel slightly disjointed at times, and secondary characters never have the chance to become fully realized individuals. That's not to say that the book isn't cohesive, but simply that there are moments where I sort of wish it was one full novel with multiple narrators, interchanging voices over the course of the text. What this particular style does, though, is allow readers to catch brief and powerful glimpses into multiple lives and see how they are affected by the death of one person in such drastically different ways.
And now he knew whose body he had collected, driven, and rolled down the ramp that led to the workroom down below. How could he not know? He'd seen that face, more or less, on a much taller guy. Yes. He knew the deceased. Or he knew of the deceased. The brother. So, in a way, he knew the sister without actually knowing her.
Kev had a very different impact on everyone he spent time with. His best friend misses him, but is also very mindful of the ridiculous and often dangerous hijinks they were involved in. A young man working at the mortuary comes to some startling emotional discoveries when he understands whose body he just helped carry inside. And the people he spent time with as an altar boy reminisce about the things they got up to in the cemetery late at night.
Mick knew Billy from school—he was another quiet loner, which is probably why Mick had noticed him. Candy and Kevin were older, so went to middle school. Kevin's charisma was magnetic, and he immediately claimed the role of leader. He was tall, with the same dark eyes as his sister and a feral smile that concealed the angry energy he harbored inside.
Besides the fact that I felt there were a few disjointed moments throughout the collection, overall the stories work together to create a tapestry of voices that explore a range of different themes, from love to suicide, from jobs to farewells, and from grudges to feelings of great loss. Aronson and Smith have brought together a great group of authors to work their magic, and I think you'll be pleased with the results.


Featuring: Chris Barton, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Maina Budhos, Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King, Torrey Maldonado, Charles R. Smith, Will Weaver, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

(Note: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out August 26, 2014)


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