(Cross posted at The Book Mine Set)
Kate Sutherland, the brains behind both the short story discussion blog A Curious Singularity and the Short Story Reading Challenge, already had my respect for championing this underrated form. Turns out (thankfully) that she's also quite skilled.
I chose "Cool," because it concerned dancing and my daughter had her very first ballet class recently. She shuffled about on her toes like a nervous faun, but man, was she cute.
The girls in "Cool" are not, however, four years old. And thanks in part to books like A Complicated Kindness and lullabies for little criminals, the myth of the innocent girl has long been eradicated.
Sutherland takes a slightly different approach. While also starting at the cusp of change (right up front you know this will be a coming of age story), she focuses on what otherwise might be a peripheral character.
"Everything started the day Eva walked into Miss Waverly’s School of Dance."But this is not about Eva. I love when authors are able to pull this off. Sometimes I find that authors try too hard to approach a story from an unexpected perspective (John Bemrose's The Island Walkers comes to mind). Fortunately Sutherland seemed to know to keep Eva, who'd perhaps be the more obvious choice, close.
And that is perhaps the crux of the story: choices. What defines coming-of-age but having to make difficult choices, and hopefully learning from them? Just as Eva would have been the easier choice for Sutherland, she was the easier choice for Beth (the narrator) to follow-- she was, afterall, the cool one. But, as we all know, the easiest, and more obvious choice is not always the best. Sutherland seemed to know that from the get go, Beth learns as the story goes on.
I have but one small complaint: the very last sentence. It seems too much of a summary to please me, too much of a declaration of what I, the reader, should have taken from the story. Granted, it was accurate, just unnecessary and I think the conclusion would have been stronger without it.
1. Girls Just Want To Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper
2. Safety Dance- Men Without Hats
3. Devil Inside- INXS
4. Someone Who's Cool- The Odds
5. It's Cool To Love Your Family- Feist