- Outside Rules: Short Stories about Nonconformist Youth
As Robson indicates in her introduction to this highly readable story collection, nearly everyone has some claim to outsider status. That doesn't mean, however, that everyone embraces that status to the same degree. These fourteen stories (most previously published but few well known) are not about the teens who brandish their style like an in-your-face freak flag but about ordinary kids who are finding their own idiosyncratic ways through the complex expectations of their families and societies. An overweight girl, for instance, uses her thin, graceful, disapproving mother's ostentatious love for the dance against her as she learns comedic stunts and pratfalls. A displaced boy calls out for the attention he has lost in the aftermath of his brother's tragic accident. A girl learns that she must let go of the care and protection of her twin brother with Down's Syndrome. Another girl struggles to hide the symptoms of her mental illness from her best friend. The collection is broadly multicultural, and the stories are consistently insightful, original, and discussion provoking in addition to being well written. The stilted subtitle may make this a hard sell to genuine nonconformists, but the lyrical prose, subtle yet effective symbols, and complex emotional and moral conundrums found in these stories make it worthy of both book group and classroom.