57. Odder Than Ever by Bruce Coville
Publication: Harcourt Paperbacks (October 4, 2000), Paperback, 176pp / ISBN 0152024654
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, YA
Read: March 6, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
Beloved for his hilarious and unexpectedly moving novels, Bruce Coville is also a master of the short story. In this follow-up to Oddly Enough, he again presents a collection of unusual breadth and emotional depth. A ghost who died under uproarious circumstances haunts a kitchen baking “Biscuits of Glory,” while in the grand tale “The Golden Sail,” there are unexpected consequences when a young teen goes in search of his seafaring father. The collection includes a heartbreaking new story from Mr. Elives’ Magic Shop, “The Metamorphosis of Justin Jones,” and the bittersweet title story from the critically acclaimed anthology Am I Blue? A perfect introduction to Bruce Coville’s magic for the uninitiated, Odder Than Ever also has a treat for his die-hard fans: three never-before-published stories.
I’m already pretty familiar with Bruce Coville’s books, though I’ve mostly stuck to his middle grade books like Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher and the A.I. Gang series (which I adore partly because it’s so outdated now). I liked them well enough, but Odder Than Ever was a pleasant surprise because it was a little bit more adult than I was expecting it to be.
Not that it’s only suitable for adults, or that kids can’t enjoy it. But the writing seems a lot tighter, more precise and just overall more grown-up than some of Mr Coville’s other books are. I really enjoyed reading Odder Than Ever; it’s got some definitely good stories in it. On the other hand, there are some duds in there as well.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m too old for some of these stories or they just can’t stand up to the stories that are truly great, but I distinctly remember being unimpressed with “Am I Blue?,” the story where everyone who has some bit of gayness in them turns blue for a day. It’s an interesting concept, and I get what Mr Coville was trying to do, but I don’t think it went far enough with the concept. Okay, so people you don’t expect to be blue turn blue. So what? We’re already pretty familiar with closeted folks in unexpected places– that senator dude from a few years ago, for instance. Having visual confirmation doesn’t really change anything except that they’re forced to uncloset, and while I’d prefer everyone to be comfortable with their sexuality and for everyone else to not give a crap about other people’s sexualities anyway…I’m kind of uncomfortable with people being forcibly uncloseted.
Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this and maybe I’m just wrong, but having the story end where it did, with nothing about what happened after people turned blue (was it mass chaos? did people finally give up on homophobia? did the uncloseted people stay uncloseted?) both disappointed and annoyed me. I wanted more.
A story I did like was “Biscuits of Glory.” I actually think I’ve read that one before somewhere, because it sounded really familiar. Kid hears someone in his kitchen, it’s a ghost who makes biscuits every night because she cursed herself with her pride, he fixes it. It’s funny and quirky and really Southern, and I loved it. I also liked “The Stinky Princess,” which you really just need to read for yourself because it was AWESOME.
So I guess I liked about half the stories and either disliked or didn’t care about the others. In such a short book that’s not so huge a problem, and as you can tell by the rating the stories I did like, I liked a LOT. If you’re a fan of Bruce Coville this is a great book to read if you haven’t already– for nothing else than to see a different side of his writing, if you want.
Other reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll link to it from my post here!