The Neighborhood Division: Stories – Jeff Vande Zande

Isn’t it ironic how I keep telling you guys that I’m a quick reader when it took me a while to read a good portion of the books I’ve reviewed so far? Truth be told, I am a quick reader, at least when I’m inside the bubble of my comfort zone: give me some supernatural baddie, violence, gore and sex –Urban Fantasy has been my jam for the past 20 years– and I’ll read your book in a heartbeat. The rest? I need time to adjust.

Did I need to take my time with this book? Yes. Was it worth it? Of course it was! Now, let me tell you why.

Jeff Vande Zande‘s The Neighborhood Division: Stories is, as the title suggests, a collection of 15 short stories. While the first ones can be quite relatable, as the book progresses the tone gets darker and more surreal. This book is a wild ride, one I deeply enjoyed.

What surprised me the most is how well crafted each story is. From my failed experience as a writer, short stories are hard to write: they need to be interesting, and it is hard to keep the reader engaged in such a small space. Jeff Vande Zande has a way with words; his writing style is clean, void of anything superfluous, and he knows for sure how to build tension and make you want to turn the page. Which is one of the reasons why I kept procrastinating instead of gulping everything down in one go. As someone suffering from anxiety, some of the stories made my heart rate spike to the point I had to pause and remember how to breathe.

Others left me wondering for days about the what ifs. What happened to Samantha in Self Defense? Who was the driver in Distance? All I wanted were answers, and all I was left with were speculations. And it was so cool.

Then there were those, like Sleepwalker, that hit way too close to home and left me in need of time to recover from my own memories. They were so relatable it hurt, but, again, in a good way.

In my opinion, a great story should always leave some lingering feelings to the reader. Each of these does so, and does it brilliantly. The only one I’m still having trouble digesting is Sleeping Deeply, and only because somehow I wasn’t able to warm up to this story as I did with the rest.

Truth be told, this is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. Never mind that it didn’t include even one small supernatural element: who cares about vampires when the real world can feel so dark and twisted?

All in all, this book is worth an astonishing 9.5/10, and it might be the only 5 stars review I have left on Goodreads so far. Great job.

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