cover image Hardly Children

Hardly Children

Laura Adamczyk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-16789-9

Adamczyk’s accomplished debut collection pulses with an underlying sense of menace. The short opener, “Wanted,” has a quiet depth that moves it away from what is traditionally thought of as flash fiction. The narrator is obsessed with children and may (or may not) have crossed over into predatory and/or pedophilic behavior. “Danny Girl” feels authentic to the young title character with its jumpy structure and present tense prose. There is a dark undercurrent in Danny’s family that Danny doesn’t understand en route to a shocking ending. “Black Box” starts pleasantly enough, on Christmas morning, with a father proudly showing his adult children his “infinity box.” The strange twists in the story follow the father’s accelerating addiction to his device. “Gun Control” works various disquieting riffs on the theatrical maxim “if there’s a gun in act one, fire it in act three.” Surrealism pervades “Wine is Mostly Water,” in which a man performs for an art exhibit by being hooked through his skin to a ceiling 30 feet in the air—there’s an affair and a psychological loss of identity, blurring with a physical loss of identity. Adamczyk never writes the same story twice, giving this collection a sleek and unnerving feel as readers know something bad is going to happen, but are uncertain of what it’ll be. (Nov.)