The Kissing Game

Stories of Defiance and Flash Fictions

Sixteen stories, some of conventional length - about 5,000 words - and some in the new form of 'flash fiction' (see below for a note of explanation). The central characters are aged between 14 and 18, living now and facing up to some of life's challenges and difficulties as they grow into adulthood.

From early reviews:

The Bookbag: - You don't see that many short story collections in YA circles. But when they do appear, you often wonder why there aren't more of them. And this is absolutely the case with The Kissing Game. Ranging from short pieces of flash fiction to "proper" short stories, each one will incite, surprise and stimulate.
The title story is a tale of the unexpected featuring two isolated adolescents - one stammers because of a traumatic humilation by a girl in the playground at primary school, the other hides away in her aunt's house because of an equally traumatic event that is much more recent. Kindred spirits, so you'd think? Well, perhaps you should think again.
I loved Cindy's Day Out, in which a put-upon sibling finally takes control of her life. And The Scientific Approach, which deals with sexual jealousy and social approval, and bit me right in the bum at the end with such a surprise that I actually applauded - in a room on my own. There's Toska which focuses on adolescent anomie to great effect, and there's Thrown Out, which develops this theme through an environmental twist. Kangaroo - featuring a girl in a summer job as an animal character at a theme park - did make me laugh, but had something very serious to say about man as beast.
The form is quite disparate - short flash fictions to true short stories, but also little dialogues and letters. And the prose is elegant, precise, witty and elegant. Tying it all together is a coming-of-age theme - how we feel in adolescence, the things we discover during that time, the defiance and opposition we put up, and the estrangement we feel. It will give rise to a great deal of discussion about the myriad of possibilities both in the written form and in the ways we look at - and live - our lives.
The Kissing Game is classy, thought-provoking, witty and always provocative. It's recommended by Bookbag. - Jill Murphy

School Library Journal: These 16 stories focus mostly on dangerous or awkward difficulties that can underpin a burgeoning relationship. Half of the selections are "flash fiction"-a punch to readers, delivered in less than 1000 words. (The author points out these are ideal for reading on small screens such as e-readers and smart phones.) Five are short plays that could be useful exercises for theater classes. Witty dialogue and ordinary situations gone awry abound. Impetus for reading through the collection as a whole comes from recognizing the pattern; there will be a twist, and readers may have to look again for the true "ah-hah!" As individual tales, three stand out: 'Cindy's Day Out' gives a modern, self-aware Cinderella her due; 'The Kissing Game' lets its isolated characters ride a current of all-too-real emotional pain to a horror-story climax; and 'Sanctuary' draws readers into the sordid world of immigrant sex slavery. A few stories are very funny in a dry, British way; but most are simply intended to make readers think - about trust, religion, moral duty, and most of all about the give-and-take between people that we call "relationships." The selections are perfectly readable by middle schoolers, but more meaningful discussion and deeper understanding will only come from teens with more life experience, and there's real potential for possible use in high school English classes. - Rhona Campbell, formerly at Washington, DC Public Library

The Kirkus Review: . . . a provocative and varied collection of shorts for teen readers. The author isn't one to shy away from the more sinister aspects of life, nor is he heavy-handed in his treatment of them. Touching on a wide scope of topics, his spare, succinct prose prods readers out of complacency and gets them thinking critically on a varied number of issues: death, sex and violence, among them. Whether asking readers to ponder the meaning of life and religion in the almost Beckettlike 'The God Debate', re-evaluate their own attitudes toward the planet and our increasingly use-once-and-dispose attitude in 'Thrown Out' or consider the harsh realities of human trafficking that permeates all walks of life with 'Sanctuary', he introduces readers into the chaotic and often ugly world of adulthood. His sophisticated yet simple style is perfectly suited for an exploration of the new form of flash fictions-multi-genre drabbles that top out at 1,000 words as well as standard short-story form. Thoughtful, challenging reading for teens on the cusp of adulthood.

Booklist: Far from the romance suggested in the title, this short-fiction collection from the author of the Printz Award-winning Postcards from No Man's Land (2002) explores dark, volatile territory in selections that often lead to explosive, bomb-grade conclusions. Avid readers may notice a few reprints here, including 'The Kissing Game', but most of the entries are new, and in an author's note, Chambers discusses his interest in the flash-fiction form of writing, which he employs in several stories. There are a few twists of magic realism; in 'The Tower', for example, a teen boy tries to save a girl from a fire that occurred a century earlier. Most stories, though, are realistic glimpses of young adults grappling with mistreatment and brutality in a contemporary world. As in most collections, not every story is equally strong, but the variety of experimental formats, including scripts and letters, is refreshing, and teens will want to talk about the recurring themes of betrayal, violence, and shifting identities, and the fleeting moments of connection and mercy that can change a life's course. - Gillian Engberg.

Publishers Weekly: Chambers takes an almost microscopically close view of teenagers' thoughts and interactions, with characters grappling with issues of faith, authority, relationships, and identity . . . The briefest stories consist solely of dialogue, yet those written in prose can also have the feel of a script . . . Vladimir Nabokov's description of the Russian word 'toską', included in a story of the same name, perhaps best captures the spirit of the collection, which is permeated with 'a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning.' Chambers leaves readers with much to contemplate.

Bookseller Magazine: "Aidan Chambers offers thought-provoking short stories for older readers in The Kissing Game. Playful or intriguing, each provides food for thought as he explores the nature of betrayal and revenge - wonderful stuff." - Marilyn Brocklehurst.


A Note on Flash Fiction

Several of the stories in this collection are a kind that are now called flash fictions. Along with many writers, I've become more and more interested in them as a modern form that is at the cutting edge of literature. This is what I like about them:

They are like a flash of light, a spark, which allows one quick view of a whole scene or person or event.
They are usually less than 1,000 words long.
They can be of any genre so long as they are stories.
They can be autobiography, biography, poems, letters, diaries, mini essays, news reports. . .
They can be prose with or without dialogue, or only dialogue.
They can be in the first person, or third person, and in any tense.
In other words, they can make use of any aspect of language and written expression.
They must be complete, and not a mere anecdote.
They often leave as much for the reader to do, making the story, and "making the meaning," as the author does.
They have a neatness and a rhythm that are apparently simple but, when you think about them, you realize are very dense and full of possible meanings.
Some of the greatest authors of literature wrote flash fictions. For example, Kafka, Chekhov, Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Italo Calvino, John Berger, and Kawabata, which he called "palm-of- the-hand" stories.
One of the reasons why they are so popular and are such a very modern kind of literature is that they are suited to writing and reading on the small screens of computers, iPhones, and eReaders.
First published March 2011
In USA by Abrams Amulet Books,
ISBN 978-0-8109-9716-5
In UK by Bodley Head Random House,
ISBN 978-0-370-33197-3




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