It’s a terrible feeling to hear praise heaped upon a new book, read it yourself and…not get it. Your mind starts playing games with itself: Everyone else liked this book, what’s wrong with you? Do you just not understand it? Is that it, you idiot? You focus on the book a little harder, maybe if you squint at the freaking book, all of this praise will make sense. But still…it’s just not there for you. That was my experience with Kelly Link’s collection of short stories Get in Trouble. Ecstatically reviewed, roundly praised by authors I admire, I really thought I would like this one. But as I read, doubt crept in; I started assuring myself that the next story would be better, then the next one. By the time I got to the last story, I was repeatedly flipping to the last page of the book, counting how many more pages I would have to slog through before finally being free.
To me, it was a series of stories that almost worked. Most of her stories seemed to start with the same intriguing premise-that fantastical people, often in fantastical worlds, suffer the same mundane human problems as we do. There are women with superpowers…but they’re single moms making ends meet by waiting tables. Pocket universes are great, but they won’t solve your issues with your brother. Spectral boyfriends have nothing on teenage jealousy. And the telepathic elven creatures may seem cool, but soon enough (like any bad relationship) you realize you’ve given more than you meant to.
I really wanted to like this book. Any book that is this proudly, brazenly, indefinably weird should be celebrated, at least for being different. I loved that Link didn’t care what she was “supposed” to do; she just wrote and assumed her readers would follow her. And maybe some did. But for me, it just didn’t work. The writing is there, the ideas are there, but it rarely coalesced into a proper story. Most of her stories started with a great premise, but by the end, I had stopped caring. This isn’t the worst book I’ve read, but it is one of the most disappointing in recent memory.