The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

The Unfinished World and Other Stories is a beautifully written piece of literature filled with a wide variety of short stories. These stories revolve about everything from time travel and space to thrilling tales of kingdoms and magic. I was truly amazed by the sheer creativity and eccentricity which Sparks was able to spill out and expertly mold into eloquent, intriguing, and though-provoking stories. Each story is unique and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Although they are completely unrelated, they all seem to have some sort of other-worldy ethereal sense to them. Maybe it’s because of the style in which it’s written, or it could simply be the creative flare with which the author forms her worlds and characters. Either way, I was completely blown away by this book, and cannot get over how utterly incomparable and ingenious it is.

Because this book is composed of so many stories, I have grudgingly decided to speak about only two of them — The Unfinished World ( I suppose I must talk about this one) and my favourite out of the other short stories: And the World Was Crowded with Things That Meant Love.

The Unfinished World (for which this collection of stories was named) tells the story of a boy named Set. Set is an unusual boy who struggles to find and understand himself and his past as he grows older. When he was younger, he was attacked by a bear, and he died…well, sort of. He ended up surviving the attack, but there has always been something missing…no one can quite put their finger on it. He’s never been the same since; there’s an empty hole in his soul. Set follows in the footsteps of his older brother who travels to Hollywood in pursuit of his dreams. Set becomes well-known, and everyone sees him as a handsome, hard-working young man. Anyone who really knew Set would know that that is just a facade — part of him is missing. Then he meets Inge, and she turns his life around.

And the World Was Crowded with Things That Meant Love is a short, but deep and meaningful love story. Early in their lives, a young man and a young woman meet one another and fall in love. However, both have jobs which require constant traveling. They show their love for each other by sending wood carvings and sculptures to each other. By this means, they continue their relationship. A detail which I thought to be particularly lovely was that one would send an artistic portrait to the other, having remembered, in full and perfect detail, what they looked like.

Despite the fact that some of these stories are extremely short (just two or three pages in some cases), the author has a unique ability to weave in and evoke so much emotion. Some of the stories were slightly confusing, some more intense, and some were pretty dark (I would recommend an older audience for this book). However, I would definitely recommend this book, as it felt as if I was in a completely different world while reading it.

-Elina T.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

wearetheants_shaundavidhutchinsonIf you knew the world was going to end, but you had the power to stop it, would you?

For Henry Denton, this is not such an easy question. The aliens who regularly abduct Henry, referred to as sluggers, gave him this choice. Henry does not think living is worth it: his father left when he was young, his mother lives a terrible life, his grandmother has Alzheimer’s, his older brother quit school, his best friend committed suicide, he has a secret but abusive relationship, and he is regularly mocked for being “Space Boy.” There seems to be no end to his troubles. Wouldn’t everyone just be better off if they were all wiped off the face of the earth? No one would have to suffer, his grandmother’s life would not have to fall apart before her eyes, his soon-to-be niece would not have to grow up in such a terrible world.

We Are the Ants follows Henry as he discovers how to live in this world, which turns out not to be as bad as he thought. People surprise Henry. People encourage him. People help him find closure. They help Henry decide whether or not to push the button to save the world.

What I thought would be a science fiction book about a boy abducted by aliens was definitely not what I ended up reading. This book comments on how terrible life can get but how perfect the little things can seem. My favorite part was the relationship between Henry and his grandmother, who frequently forgets Henry’s name. I loved seeing how Henry transformed throughout the novel to the point that he gave the perfect gift of memory to his grandmother. This novel is a bit strong for younger teens, but reading it certainly alters one’s perspective on life, so I would definitely recommend it.

– Leila S.

We Are The Ants is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive