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Monday, December 3, 2012

Alabaster by Nick Hirsch

Alabaster by Nick Hirsch
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (15 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewe by Astilbe

Alan turned to stone as a boy, and now he’s started cracking. His father left when he was a kid, his mother is impossible to talk to, and he’s always been bullied at school. One day he meets a boy on the bus named Luke, and things start to change. Will his feelings for Luke finally cure him, or will he simply fall to pieces?

For some people the passage of time does not heal all wounds. If anything it makes them worse!

The idea of love transforming us into better versions of ourselves has long been a cliche. By pushing this concept from metaphor to a literal act Mr. Hirsch breathed new life into this concept. Alan’s emotional trauma is evident in every inch of his cold, grey skin and he has lived with the effects of it for so long that he’s forgotten what life is like for people without his affliction.

Magical realism is a slippery genre. Inject too much magic into an otherwise ordinary setting and one risks distracting the characters (and audience) from what might happen by the peculiar things going on right now. If too little time is spent on the mystical elements, though, the reader will be left wondering if the narrator is a reliable witness to what is happening. Happily Alabaster strikes a good balance between these two extremes. While I wondered why no one in Alan’s life comments on the condition of his skin this can easily be explained away by the long period of time that elapsed between him turning to stone and the beginning of his relationship with Luke.

I had some trouble determining an appropriate age recommendation for this story. It contains offensive language and includes a briefly violent scene. Although the altercation is not described in great detail and the slurs were necessary in order to explain why Alan finds certain memories so painful they do make this selection inappropriate for younger or sensitive readers.

Repeated punctuation errors were only reason why this book didn’t receive a much higher rating. So many sentences included misplaced commas and spelling and grammar errors that I had trouble understanding the meaning of some of them.

Alabaster has a heart of gold, though. I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in a sweet tale of a boy’s first taste of love.

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