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Kids’ books aren’t cool. Unless you’re super young, a super nerd, or old enough to justify it or call it ironic. I guess I fall into a couple of these categories, but Lisa Heggum was right when she called it–older teen readers aren’t going to the kids’ section to pick up books. Heggum is an award-winning teen services librarian so she would know.

All Sleek and Skimming brings together a bunch of stories by adult authors who write about protagonists in their late teens. And it’s not condescending, which is big. The language and writing style aren’t unchallenging or uninteresting, but the characters’ lives aren’t alienating either. For the most part it’s current, engaging and sometimes suicidally complete.

Contributors include Sheila Heti, Derek McCormack, Anne Fleming, Joe Ollmann, Stuart Ross and a whole range of others. It’s an anthology, so it’s not all good, but even the cringe-worthy 27-pager about the guy with the head shaped like a football was stylistically written and compelling, albeit content-questionable.

Most overriding as a defining feature is that the book is dark. Without having made it explicit, Heggum collected stories that are sad, funny-in-a-horrible-way and deal with rejection, despair and mortality, and it works. It’s hard to claim as an all-encompassing theory that it’s what older teens want, but it’s what I seem to like, and you probably want to read it now, no? (Tara-Michelle Ziniuk)

edited by Lisa Heggum, $19.95, 214 pages, Orca Book Publishers, Box 5626, Station B, Victoria, BC, V8R 6S4,

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