I received and ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Published by University of Iowa Press, October 1, 2014.
The title and cover of this book are deceptively light, even ironic; there are actually very heavy themes running under that twee drawing and childish font. There is humor, but it is of a very dark, cynical variety. This is not a negative, but causes a bit of a gut-punch reaction when you get past the intentionally silly premise of the opening stories (for students to write essays in which a mystical creature solves a great world problem). Written in essays, letters, emails, stories from multiple POVs, and even mock advertisements, When Mystical Creatures Attack! looks at life in a poor border town, full of kids with very little hope for the future, and adults with none. The form is tricky and often very ironic, and even occasionally heartbreaking, without losing the edge of pitch-black humor that carries through each story. This is the second collection of short stories I've read from a University of Iowa Press author this year (the first being The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons). Both books could be said to be "experimental" and intentionally disorienting, but I preferred this one for it's inventiveness and the eventual cohesion of elements that first felt very piecemeal. Both collections have different intentions- different values- but coming out of the same press in the same year, I can't help but make comparisons. I would recommend both to different types of readers, but Mystical Creatures felt like a much newer, more exciting approach to the short story/ epistolary novel form.