Book Review: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill


Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2018
Hardcover, 283 pages


When Mrs. Sorensen’s husband dies, she rekindles a long-dormant love with an unsuitable mate in “Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch.” In “Open the Door and the Light Pours Through,” a young man wrestles with grief and his sexuality in an exchange of letters with his faraway beloved. “Dreadful Young Ladies” demonstrates the strength and power – known and unknown – of the imagination. In “Notes on the Untimely Death of Ronia Drake,” a witch is haunted by the deadly repercussions of a spell. “The Insect and the Astronomer” upends expectations about good and bad, knowledge and ignorance, love and longing. The World Fantasy Award-winning novella “The Unlicensed Magician” introduces the secret magical life of an invisible girl once left for dead – with thematic echoes of Kelly Barnhill’s Newbery Medal-winning novel, The Girl Who Drunk the Moon.

With bold, reality-bending invention underscored by richly illuminated themes of love, death, jealousy, and hope, the stories in Dreadful Young Ladies show why its author has been hailed as “a fantasist on the order of Neil Gaiman” (Minneapolis Star Tribune). This collection cements Barnhill’s place as one of the wittiest, most vital and compelling voices in contemporary literature.


I received this book from Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What a strange, magical, and fantastical collection of short stories. This was my first reading selection by Kelly Barnhill – I was actually drawn to the synopsis of her book The Girl Who Drunk the Moon – but I got a chance to review to this book and I jumped to it.

Here’s the thing. I don’t generally read short stories. I have a a conflicted relationship with the reading experience that comes with this reading genre. But in the past year, I’ve had the chance to read a few selections and found myself starting to enjoy the genre. Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories was also a mixed reading experience. For the most part though, I loved how dreary, magical, and out of this world the stories were. I felt that the stories were little tidbits and crumbs of pure imagination. I never really knew that to expect going from one story to the next and it really challenged me to stretch my imagination a bit and delve into a world that’s like but not like our own. In that sense, I truly enjoyed this reading experience – it was nice being pulled out of my comfortable reading zone and being tossed into stories with sasquatches, unlikely matches, scary little girls, and a magical girl who loved everyone, even those who did not love her.

Thank you to Thomas Allen & Sons for sending me this book to read and review.


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