cover image The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories

The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories

A.C. Wise. Lethe, $18 trade paper (266p) ISBN 978-1-59021-633-0

Wise's inventive sense of weirdness and wonder comes to the forefront in this intense, graceful collection of stories in which plot plays second fiddle to quietly immersive world-building, longing and obsession are the forces of beauty, and grimness leads not to depressive dystopia but to desperately hopeful and brave, if still unsettling, solutions. Wise brings the reader's empathy to characters striving to find something profoundly real in the midst of artifice. "Juliet and Juliett(e): A Romance of Alternate Worlds" enters the realm of time travelers moving toward forever one moment at a time. Scuba-diving nuns appear in "Sisters of the Blessed Diving Order of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew," faery astronauts navigate the mundanities of parenting in "The Astronaut, Her Lover, the Queen of Faerie, and Their Child," steampunk circus performers confront a mystery they don't understand in the title story, and an elderly woman cherishes a fully functional robot in "The Last Survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution." The voices of the stories vary considerably, though the overall feeling is still cohesive, bound by Wise's ability to make the implausible profoundly relatable, in the way of the best speculative fiction. She lets the reader experience each story's "what if" in a way that speaks to the heart as well as the mind. (Oct.)