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Odds Are Good    by Bruce Coville order for
Odds Are Good
by Bruce Coville
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Bruce Coville's two short story anthologies, Oddly Enough and Odder Than Ever, make up the omnibus Odds Are Good. While some recurrent themes run through many of the stories, each one is unique in storyline and subject matter. Some are funny (Dusty's Jacket and Clean as a Whistle), some sad (Old Glory and A Blaze of Glory), some have deep meaning (The Box and Homeward Bound), some are just fun (Biscuits of Glory and The Stinky Princess), and some are rather scary (The Language of Blood and There's Nothing Under the Bed). However the two I enjoyed most, are part of the handful that make the book geared towards slightly older readers (12-and-up rather than the author's usual 10-and-up audience).

The Japanese Mirror is a Dorian Grey style tale about a vain and quick-tempered young man who works at a curio shop after school. One day, the owner of the shop receives a 300-year-old mirror from Japan, and as Jon is helping his boss unpack it, a cut on his finger reopens, smearing a little blood on the mirror. Jon is able to clean it off, but that smear of blood is enough for the mirror to take over his anger. As Jon's rage magically disappears, his image in the mirror becomes contorted with hate until he can no longer recognize himself.

On the other hand, Am I Blue? is a fun little piece about 16-year-old Vincent who is bullied by a fellow classmate who thinks Vincent is crushing on him. Vincent is saved from the bully by his very own fairy godfather, Melvin, who in turn grants Vincent three wishes and offers advice and services. When Melvin explains the 'great gay fantasy' of turning everyone who is homosexual various shades of blue, Vincent, questioning his own sexuality, decides to use this for a wish. The results are more than Vincent had hoped for and even help him feel more comfortable with who he is. While this is one of the lighter stories in the anthology, it does contain strong language.

All the stories in Odds Are Good tackle difficult questions and problems that plague many middle- and high-schoolers. Some offer good advice while others make the reader reflect on solving the problem for themselves. In fact, many of the characters make surprising choices that always turn out for the best. One theme that Coville never tackles but that is prevalent in many of the stories is that of broken homes. Most of the characters who are not old enough to be on their own have only one parent, the other either having died, run off, or being unexplainably absent. Though I don't know why Coville presents this topic in the background of many stories but never touches upon it, it makes the discerning reader think about different backgrounds and the effects they have on how characters handle situations.

This is an interesting collection of stories. Fans will delight in some that are typical Coville fare, and be surprised by others that extend into areas usually not explored by the author. There really is something for everyone in Odds Are Good.

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