"GUYS READ: Other Worlds," edited by Jon Scieszka, Walden Pond Press, $16.99, 352 pages (f) (ages 12 and up)
Much like a giant variety pack of candy, a collection of short stories is filled with old favorites, new flavors worth another try, some that are better left unfinished and some that leave you wanting more.
"Guys Read: Other Worlds," a young-adult anthology edited by Jon Scieszka, offers exactly that type of variety.
In true science fiction and fantasy fashion, many of the stories are strange, baffling and — not surprisingly — otherworldly. With famed fiction authors like Rick Riordan, Utahn Shannon Hale, D.J. MacHale and Ray Bradbury, along with a few lesser-known names like Neal Shusterman and Shaun Tan, filling the pages of this collection, the book certainly deserves an award for variety and diversity.
But there's no need to get too carried away with accolades.
Certainly, the book includes some exciting reads — like Riordan's tale of the demigod Percy Jackson forced to work for Apollo to find and save one of his Golden Singers for a concert on Mount Olympus; or Hale's telling of a half-starved young girl who talks a medieval bar/hotel owner into letting her work as a bouncer on the premise that she can use magic she may or may not have to enforce the rules — there are a few that certainly need not be read more than once, or perhaps skipped over altogether.
The fourth in the Guys Read anthology series, "Other Worlds" is appropriate for young readers, preferably young boys (if confused, just take another look at the title) over the age of 12 — the only caveat being that some of the stories do include short scenes of mild violence.
The editor book-ended the collection with its strongest stories. The last story, "Frost and Fire," by the late Ray Bradbury, sucks the reader into another world at a particularly satisfying rate. Another short story worth taking a few minutes to read is "The Klack Bros. Museum," by Kenneth Oppel, where a writer and his son encounter a museum exhibit with truly mystifying and chilling ramifications.
The beauty of a collection of short stories like this one is, readers can never really bite off more than they can chew — they either toss it aside, or just wish there was more.