Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling
By: Monica Valentinelli & Jaym Gates (please click title to see full list of contributors on Goodreads)
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.
Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more…then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.
Join Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralmbi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, Alyssa Wong and many other authors as they take well-worn tropes and cliches and flip them upside down.
Relationships with anthologies and short story compilations can be a seriously complicated matter. It seems that regardless of who is contributing, there will be highs and lows. From my experience, this is unavoidable, and I approach each collection with this knowledge in advance. Such was the case with Upside Down.
This varying collection of work ranges from short stories to poetry and offers multiple approaches to addressing all too familiar tropes. It attempts to place a new or unexpected spin on them, providing the reader with an unanticipated read.
Perhaps to better understand what the overall goal is within Upside Down, we should exam tropes momentarily. So what is a trope? As a reader, many of you are painfully familiar with them. Some we come to love, others we avoid at all costs. Tropes can perhaps best be explained as overused and recurring themes or plots that we find within stories. A few common examples include:
- The love triangle.
- The tortured protagonist who must rise above.
- The chosen one.
- Damsel in distress.
- Insta love
I think you see where this is going, and I am sure you have encountered them all at some point. This is a very small list. Feel free to elaborate and share your own favorite or least favorite tropes. I often see dystopia listed among tropes, but I will adamantly disagree. In my opinion dystopia is a sub genre/genre. I stand by that statement.
I have discovered that YA titles often feel like a never-ending stream of tropes. Perhaps this is why YA is a love or hate relationship. As many of you know, I am struggling significantly with it of late. I attribute this to my disdain for the “love triangle” and certain common tropes and themes.
Upside Down has endeavored to evolve the trope. We are presented with a collection of shorts that begin with your typical and expected themes, but manage to end in a less that typical way. A new spin on the old classic if you will. Unfortunately for myself, each scenario still resonated too heavily with predictable. I did not feel that the authors fully accomplished the common goal here. There was still a solid presence of the cliché and foreseen. I was not caught off guard and the “twist” really did little to inspire a feeling of change or the new.
I am not going spend time dissecting each story, poem or essay. If I am being honest, which I always am, most were engaging or satisfying to an extent but not of the caliber that will leave a lasting impression. There was only particular story that was the highlight of my experience with Upside Down and that was Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place. The writer takes what is comparable to the world of Sesame Street and turned into a dystopian tale of death and sorrow. This short was the most successful in accomplishing the general goal of the anthology for me.
“1,2,3. I am angry that’s okay. 4,5,6. Count to ten and breathe today. 7,8,9 and 10. Now I’, fine and I can play.”
I became hopeful at this point as I picked up a Black Mirror sort of vibe. For those of you who are not familiar (and I do recommend you remedy that) Black Mirror is a spectacular British television series that features standalone episodes that are satirical tales addressing technophobia or paranoia. It is dark and very clever. It also happens to be available on Netflix currently. You can thank me later. Back on track, I was hoping this vibe continued moving forward but it was lost and so was I.
The quality of writing varied as each story felt it was written for an entirely different audience. Ranging from captivating to mediocre, this anthology was at times an uphill read. It was transparent that the choice of writers ranged for debut to more experienced. But there was one redeeming asset in the end, the index of tropes. I actually enjoyed reading through this small section more than I did the rest of the collection. Here within the index, each writer provides a detailed explanation of the trope contained in their contribution.
This is an anthology that I might struggle to recommend to most, but it has seemed to have found an audience among many others. I did however, manage to muster up a certain amount of appreciate for a few of the more solid attempts and how well the collection was actually compiled. It was a promising concept that just did not fully hit the mark for me.
*My appreciation to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this copy. This review is my own, unbiased opinion and thoughts.
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