Editor: James Howe
April is almost over, and I’m reviewing something new—a collection of short stories. Thirteen is a collection of twelve short stories and one poem, all of which were edited by James Howe.
Authors are Bruce Coville (What’s The Worst That Could Happen), Meg Cabot (Kate The Great), Alex Sanchez (If You Kiss A Boy), Rachel Vail (Thirteen And A Half), James Howe (Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses), Lori Aurelia Williams (Black Holes And Basketball Sneakers), Stephen Ross (Picky Eater), Maureen Ryan Griffin (Suck Foolishness), Ellen Wittlinger (Noodle Soup For Nincompoops), Todd Strasser (Squid Girl), Ron Koertge (Angel And Aly), Carolyn Mackler (Nobody Stole Jason Grayson), Ann M. Martin (Tina The Teen Fairy), and Laura Godwin (Tina The Teen Fairy).
To be honest, some of the stories were very boring, like Ross’, Williams’, and Strasser’s. But others were very funny, like Coville’s and Koertge’s. Although the book is published under fiction, some of the authors claim their stories are real.
Coville’s story is about a body named Murphy Murphy who’s always had bad luck (he feels Murphy’s Law describes him perfectly) and a case of stage fright. Despite this fear, he agrees to do a skit for his school’s drama club—only because his crush Tiffany is in it. Murphy knows his lines pretty well by opening night, but he chokes on a Hostess cupcake (during the show!) and he falls off the stage, breaking his leg. In the hospital, he learns Tiffany has a boyfriend named Chuck who was in the audience.
Cabot’s story is about a girl named Jenny Greenley who begins babysitting for the first time. Her older best friend Kate comes by when she has a job, and starts telling Jenny how babyish she is and how she’ll never survive high-school because of her hand-me down clothes and because she doesn’t wear low-ride jeans. For the first time, Jenny stands up to her, and Kate, embarrassed, leaves. Kate’s new friend Patrick comes by and tells Jenny how Kate lied to her about high-schoo because she doesn’t have any friends besides Patrick, and Kate wanted Jenny to feel like she needed Kate’s help her freshman year. Jenny forgives Kate after hearing this, but they don’t make up.
Sanchez’s story is about a boy named Joe and his best friend Jamal. One day at the movies, after sharing jokes and tickling each other to death, Joe kisses Jamal. At first Jamal kisses him back, but then he pushes away from Joe and asks why he did that, but Joe doesn’t know. The next day at school Joe is terrified Jamal will tell everyone what happened, and kids at his school are scared of gays. Joe—who is not speaking to Jamal—is asked to stay after class with Mr. Bonita, a teacher the kids swear is gay. After being questioned by Curt, a frenemy (friend who’s a secret enemy), Joe—who’s finally had enough of him—punches him. The story ends with Jamal saying he didn’t tell Curt, and with Joe accepting the fact that he’s gay.
Vail’s story is about a girl (unnamed) who goes over to a new classmate’s house after school. At her house the classmate (Ashley) discovers her budgie (Sweet Pea) is dead. She is really upset because she’s had this bird since she was three years old. Her mom comes in and tells her that Sweet Pea sn’t who she thinks he was. Ashley’s mom explains that Ashley got a budgie for her third birthday, but it died soon after they got it. Her mom didn’t know how to explain death to a three-year-old, so she bought a second bird. The second bird died when Ashley was five, and the mom didn’t think it was a good time to explain death. So Sweet Pea was a series of birds. In the end, the girl and Ashley have a funeral, and the girl’s mom picks her up.
Howe’s story is told from multiple voices. It’s basically about this kid named Jeremy who is nervous about his bar mitzvah. Viewpoints include his ex-best friends Adam B. and Adam L., Chelsea (another ex-friend), the rabbi Dave, and Jeremy’s mom Denise. Jeremy is nervous about his bar mitzvah because his older brother Neil had this massive party everyone talked about. Jeremy doesn’t quite know how to live up to that expectation. The bar mitzvah goes fine, and it ends with everyone dancing in a huge circle and singing looney tunes that have no words.
Williams’ story is about a boy named Malik who is growing up in the hood, and he’s kinda poor. His mom works hard to support Malik and his five sisters. Malik is teased at school for wearing hand-me-downs and for not having the new sneakers all the kids have, so he decides to ask his mom to buy them for him. She can’t afford them. So Malik talks to Carl, a high-schooler who is like his big brother, and who knows what it’s like to have the short end of the stick in life. Carl assures Malik they can get the sneakers for him, but his plan is to steal them from a white kid, saying that since blacks have it harder, it’s justified. The story ends when Malik turns down the shoes and walks away from Carl.
Ross’ story is about a boy named Woody, living with his mom and his brother. His dad, a cop, is in prison; he has been for two years. A neighborhood kid named Nelson, an asthma sufferer (and an easy target for bullies), tells Woody he should visit his father when his mom goes monthly, and Woody says that he’s a bad person since he broke the law. Nelson says that breaking the law doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad person. The next day at school the principal comes into Woody’s English class and says Nelson had a bad asthma attack and he died. Woody thinks about Nelson and his dad, and the next time his mom goes to the prison, Woody goes with her.
Griffin’s poem is about leaving your childhood behind, and becoming a more adult person. Since it’s not a story, that’s all I can really say about it.
Wittlinger’s story is about a girl named Maggie Cluny who has been best friends with a girl named Liza all her life, but she’s been feeling left out ever since a girl named Harper showed up. Harper is boy-crazy, a shopaholic, and very popular. Liza slowly moves toward her and changes, and Maggie feels her friendship with Liza slipping away. After writing an essay for her seventh-grade honors English class, Maggie’s teacher Mr. Chrisman asks Maggie to write for the school newspaper, and he makes her the advice columnist. She uses a pen-name, Faustina Intelligentsia, and she names the column Noodle Soup for Nincompoops. Everything is going great until Maggie receives a letter from Liza, saying she’s having a problem with Maggie, and the letter says that Liza’s made some new friends and they’re quite different from Maggie. She wants to know what to do, because she feels stuck between Maggie, who’s quiet, and Harper, who likes party. As Faustina, Maggie writes that she should hang out with Harper, and Liza takes the advice. Eventually, though, Liza bangs on Maggie’s front door, demanding how Maggie could write such cold advice, revealing she found out. They make up in the end.
Strasser’s story is told in second-person, which is interesting for a fiction story. It’s about a girl (unnamed) who dreams of meeting this boy on a beach. To be honest, it was very boring.
Koertge’s story is about twin girls Mona and Angel, who are very different. Mona is a tomboy; Angel is environmentally friendly. Mona’s and Angel’s parents are very busy and therefore don’t pay close attention to their daughters. One day their mom comes home with an alligator puppet, saying it belonged to a girl who died. Mona says the puppet is for babies, and she tells her mom to give it Angel, since she likes that babyish stuff. Their mom agrees, and Angel names the alligator Aly. This starts a new friendship, where Aly looks out for Angel, and having this puppet changes Angel. She starts eating meat (she was a vegetarian in the strictest sense), she starts fighting at school (she was a pacifist before), and becomes more like Mona. In the end, Mona explodes, saying her parents have no idea what their lives are like. The parents get the girls cell phones, and they promise to communicate better. In the last scène, Mona and her dad are watching a movie while Angel’s mom helps her with her homework. Mona thinks about Ally in a corner of Angel’s room, simply a toy.
Mackler’s story is about a girl named Abby who lives with her father, and she’s not too happy with life. Her mom left six years ago, and her dad doesn’t know much about teenage girls. Abby has a crush on the most popular boy in school, Jason Grayson. Unfortunately for Abby, Jason already has a girlfriend. His girlfriend, naturally, is the super-popular typical mean girl, Daytona McCauly. One day, as she is leaving school late, Abby notices Daytona’s locker is open slightly. After checking the locker out, Abby steals a picture of Jason. The next day Daytona notices and freaks out, and Jason, who’s had enough of her attitude, breaks up with her. Since Dayton’s father is the vice-principal, he and the principal do a random locker search. Luckily, Abby has the photo in her backpack, which she has with her. When the picture isn’t found, the principal starts calling every student into her office to see what they know about the picture. While waiting for her turn to talk to the principal, Jason walks into the office, Abby tries to wave at him but knocks all of her schoolbooks on the floor, and Jason calls her a “dork.” This helps Abby realize she never really liked Jason for him; she only really liked the boy she thought he was, the one she constructed.
Martin’s and Godwin’s story is about a fairy named Tina who visits a girl named Maia on her night before her thirteenth birthday. Tina takes Maia, who is relcutant to turn thirteen, to Teen Land, and they talk about why she doesn’t want to turn thirteen. Even though she’s getting more privileges, she doesn’t see herself as growing up, since the “real” grownups don’t have bedtimes or curfews, and they don’t have anyone telling them what to do. She’s not really a kid but she’s not really an adult, and according to Maia, that stinks. Tina says that the teenage years are for experimenting and that making mistakes is just a part of the game. Tina explains that Maia should value her teenage years because if she doesn’t she’s never going to get them back. She won’t be able to experiment and try new things once she’s an adult, because she’ll have too many other responsibilities by then. The teen years are for finding out who you are and what you’re good at, according to Tina. Tina takes Maia to the library, and she shows her a videotape of her mom dyeing her hair an unfortunate shade of black, which was a mistake. Maia tells Tina that she wanted to dye her hair green but her mom said no, and Tina says maybe her mom was remembering her own mistake. When Tina takes Maia back home five minutes before her alarm goes off, she feels happier about turning thirteen.
I really liked this book of stories. I got the book for my thirteenth birthday and simply loved it. The stories were very funny and though I’m not sure I can relate to any of them, they were fun to read. If asked for my fave story, I have no idea which one I’d pick. The choices are between What’s The Worst That Could Happen?, Angel And Aly, and Tina The Teen Fairy.