Brace Yourself is the first collection of short stories by Alysia Angel. It is about the people you see but don’t want to see. It is about the secret lives of those people, the darkness and fire brightness of the terrible mind, and the longing we all feel but cannot name. Brace Yourself is for the twisted, and everyone is a little twisted. Even Grandma.
If you like your fiction not just perverted but also sick and twisted, I highly recommend this anthology. Alysia Angel takes old-ball collections of personalities, places and perversions and makes them so believable you’ll start looking at your neighbors differently. To say these characters are deviant is to use understatement the size of a skyscraper. They do the things you and I (probably) only daydream about, they follow the impulse, strike the match, take that fatal last step across the line between safe and sorry. But are they sorry? Mostly not, I’m thinkin’. The author is especially adept at writing from the perspective of the observant outsider, so much so that it’s not hard to conclude she inhabits that role naturally.
“The thing about the person who is rarely seen is, we know how to be even less seen when we want to. We can will the world to pass us by and the world is rarely ever the wiser. You will walk by us as we shadow along crumbling walls and feel a chill.”
These stories may be fiction, but they are steeped in truth, the truth and reality this talented writer has lived, experienced and created anew for us to enjoy. Or not. I’m not sure enjoyment is the goal. Seeing, witnessing, may be closer but you’d have to ask her.
“Frank stepped out sniffed the morning air. He looked at Margie sitting on her stoop. The two regarded each other with a lazy sort of hatred, the kind that glazes over year after year, eventually becoming hardened amber between them.”
Some of Angel’s characters have lodged themselves in my brain like parasites, stealing thought cycles as I ruminate on them and the lives they lead before and after the snippet we are invited into. Her stories are populated by an ardent creepiness that reminds me a bit of Clive Barker and John Waters and something else, something like a itch that won’t go away but you’re embarrassed to scratch at in public. I’m reminded of Geek Love, where the most unlikely characters and motivations are normalized and made sensible in the context within which they live. Angel shines a strong light into the nooks and crannies of that which we call abnormal, deviant and strange, but these characters have much more in common with us than we do with the illusion of “normal” our culture force feeds us.
“Her red angry stretch marks screamed across her side and his mouth filled with saliva from his wanting tongue…”
The stories in this collection are a train wreck you can’t look away from and I think that’s because we can relate all to well to the all the little things, all those moments when you’re glad no one is watching, all the perversions you’re sure you alone are tormented with. But is it true that no one’s watching? After reading this collection of stories, you may find yourself paying more attention to those you haven’t been paying attention to.
This book earns 4 of 5 boots, well worth the bargain price of $3.99 to get it on your Kindle or other book reader. Get a copy, dive into the worlds Alysia Angel has created and I am sure you’ll never look at the world the same way again.
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