Review Blog

Mar 08 2011

The Kissing Game by Aidan Chambers

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Bodley Head, 2011.
(Age 14 - Adult) Highly recommended. Aidan Chambers is an author whose writing seems effortless. When you read his stories it feels as though he's in the same room, relaying them to you alone. His style is simple and direct, forcing the reader to sit up and take notice. In The Kissing Game he presents an exquisite collection of stories, some amusing and others starkly shocking. There's plenty to ponder on and three have left a lasting impression as I just can't stop thinking about them.
The title story is particularly powerful, opening as it does with a shy boy feeling tongue tied in the presence of a pretty girl; fairly run of the mill you might think, but nothing could prepare me for the chilling conclusion. Also exceptional is Sanctuary, the story of a young man fighting agoraphobia to attend an interview for university and becoming embroiled with a Ukrainian girl imprisoned as a slave and desperate to escape.
There are sexual themes, hence the age guide, and the range and depth of writing make this a crossover titles with equal adult appeal. I particularly liked the contrast between the longer, meatier stories and what Chambers describes as 'Flash Fiction': stories which act like a spark or flash of light allowing a quick view of a whole scene, person or event. In The Kissing Game his flash fictions tend to take the form of dialogue - edgy and immediate.
There is plenty here to appeal to both boys and girls. Try it with teenagers who enjoy Bali Rai, Siobhan Dowd, Tabitha Suzuma, and Nicola Morgan.
Claire Larson

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