Friday, April 12, 2013

YA Friday: A review of Sightings: Stories by B.J. Hollars

A few times each school year, high schoolers in our community come to the library in pursuit of short stories; their English classes require them to read, analyze, and write about a short story by an author they do not read in class. Thus I am always on the lookout for short story collections that will a) appeal to teens, and b) provide ample fodder for textual analysis. I think Sightings: Stories by B.J. Hollars provides both appeal and substance.

Sightings is a collection of ten short stories, all of which loosely touch on those life experiences that prove to be very meaningful after the fact--the watershed moments when we realize something about how the world works. Hollars writes about the year Sasquatch played for the high school basketball team; a father's obsession with the pioneer past of his forebears, which embarrasses his young son; and the summer new neighbors shook things up in the neighborhood. All of the stories are vividly told, and as a result they feel entirely relatable--I can envision teen readers thinking, "Yes! Something like that happened to me, too!" While Hollars didn't set out to write short stories for young adults, they are just as much a part of his audience as adult readers.

Hollars is at his best when his stories are told from the perspective of boys on the cusp of growing up, and he deftly captures what is feels like to live through a seemingly ordinary experience--the stuff of everyday life--that ultimately becomes part of a personal mythology. "Dixie Land," the story I found most intriguing in the wholly enjoyable collection, has an air of Vonnegut to it that rings of deep, unsettling truth. Hollars provides plenty of material in these pages for both enjoyment and close reading.


The review copy was provided by the publisher, Indiana University Press. I first became aware of Hollars's fantastic storytelling when we worked at the same summer camp in 2006; he remains one of my top two favorite tellers of the Buckethead legend.

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