Teeth
featuring Genevieve Valentine, Steve Berman, Christopher Barzak, Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Garth Nix, Suzy McKee Charnas, Kaaron Warren, Cecil Castellucci, Jeffrey Ford, Nathan Ballingrud, Kathe Koja, Catherynne M Valente, Melissa Marr, Ellen Kushner, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, Lucius Shepard, Emma Bull, and Tanith Lee; fantasy (2011)
Harper, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-06-193514-5


Another anthology of vampire stories? I know, I know, who needs another one, right? We have seen them bite, sparkle, glitter, preen, brood, sneer, and pout both with and without clothes, so what else is new? Teeth won't break any new grounds, but it is a collection of enjoyable tales of the fanged kind.

This isn't a romance anthology, by the way. The only straightforward romantic tale is Tanith Lee's Why Light?, and while it's a sweet tale of arranged marriage between two teenage vampires, it's one of the more forgettable stories here. Indeed, the contributions of some of the bigger names in this anthology are also the weakest (I'm talking about the collaboration between Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, The Perfect Dinner Party, and Melissa Marr's Transition) because they stick to the formula of romance and chick-lit type of stories.

The best stories are the ones where teen angst mix beautifully - and not often with happy results - with vampirism. In Genevieve Valentine's Things To Know ABout Being Dead, I get a bittersweet story about a young woman who is turned against her will into a vampire, and how her grandmother becomes the only person who helps and guides her as she becomes a vampire. In doing so, she learns more about her grandmother. She also bonds with a ghost. Suyin's story is both amusing and sad as vampirism in this story becomes a stand-in for coming of age. Christopher Barzak has a similar take on Gap Year, but with a completely different approach: heroine Loretta is slowly suffocating as she realizes that she will never leave her increasingly, depressingly mundane suburban existence until she encounters a you-know-what. This one is a short but exhilarating story that manages to capture that oh-so-familiar slice of teen angst in a refreshingly fun manner. Garth Nix's Vampire Weather is bleak, as in this case the allure of vampirism leads to the corruption of an Amish young man with a most devastating repercussion. But for me, the most heartbreaking story is Suzy McKee Charnas's Late Bloomer, where a young man spends his time chasing after his dream of becoming good at something, only to learn too late that he was very good in the very thing he rejected due to shame and fear of discovery by his peers.

And then we have complicated relationships between humans and vampires, not necessarily of the romantic kind. Cecil Castellucci's Best Friends Forever is about the unusual and poignant friendship between a vampire who wants to die and a dying young lady who wants to live. Ellen Kushner's History is tad more adult than I'd expect for a tale in a young adult anthology, as it deals with the love affair of a historian and a vampire, with the historian becoming vexed at how her love refuses to tell her more about the events in history that she conducting her research on. I like this one, because it reflects exactly how I'd imagine I would feel if I were in a relationship with a vampire who would live on long after I'm gone, heh.

I have not mentioned the works of a few authors here, but I don't plan to, as I'd never finish this review if I go through all the stories. I've touched on the ones I really enjoy reading, but the rest are actually quite readable in their own right. Well, except for Neil Gaiman's contribution, Bloody Sunrise, which turns out to be the lyrics to a song he wrote for Claudia Gibson back in 2008, and Emma Bull's My Generation, but that's because I don't do rhymes and verses. I sing along to them, but my eyes cross when I'm expected to analyze them for deep stories and such. There are some action-type "Aiya! I kill vampires!" stories here too, but I generally prefer the ones with more emotions, teen angst, and drippy moods.

All in all, Teeth is a pretty fun anthology with a good mix of readable and entertaining stories for me to sink my teeth into.

Rating: 87


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