Book Reviews

[review] The Anatomy of Curiosity – Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff

anatomy of curiosityRelease Date: October 1, 2015
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: e-ARC received from publisher

In an unassuming corner of Brooklyn, a young woman learns to be ladylike, to love context, and to speak her mind from a very curious sort of tutor.

In a faraway land convulsed by war, a young soldier hears the desert’s curious hum as he disarms bombs with the person he doesn’t know how to love.

In a place so shriveled by drought that any drowning is a curiosity, a young writer tries again and again to tread water beneath the surface of a vast and unusual sea.

Three new stories—complete with commentary on the creative process—from three acclaimed young adult authors working at the height of their powers.


Tell Me More: I imagine I wasn’t the only lit theory geek who had a bit of a flail when news of this anthology came out, and with good reason. YA fiction is an explosive genre, growing and developing every day, but rarely do we see writers stepping back to really talk about how they craft their stories and evaluate their own poetics. The Anatomy of Curiosity gives Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton an opportunity to take apart their own work and show the reader how each paragraph of a short story is constructed, all with a specific final goal in mind. It’s an alluring experience for both writers and readers.

Maggie Stiefvater–of The Raven Cycle and The Scorpio Races–starts the collection off with “Ladylike,” and it’s not a story you’ll be able to leave once you’ve started. There’s a short discussion of characters and Stiefvater’s focus on them in her own writing process, and it provides context for the annotated comments within the story. Petra is a very relatable heroine in his almost-crippling shyness, and I appreciated the points where Stiefvater highlighted the tiny details that helped to shape Petra’s character arc. “Ladylike” takes personas and turns them inside out, poking at them until we see what they’re made of, and why it’s so easy for us to believe in them. Likewise, Stiefvater discusses some of the scenes that challenged her, and how she reworked them to highlight specific moments or details that contribute to the strength of the story.

“Desert Canticle,” Tessa Gratton’s offering, focuses on world-building and how. It’s a lush story, and I dislike using that adjective for anything other than stories that are truly comprehensive and full in how they describe their settings and people. I can guarantee you that the term is just right in this case, and it’s an excellent example of Gratton’s style. The setting becomes a character before you’re ever really introduced to or feel comfortable with the actual protagonist, though I don’t know that I felt like I did know the protagonist by the end of the story. I definitely wanted to know more about the society that created this war, and I think that if Gratton ever wrote a novel in the same universe, I’d definitely be a fan.

Brenna Yovanoff is one of my favourite authors and a writing style role model, so I was very excited to get to her story, “Variations on Drowning.” Yovanoff’s focus was on ideas, and how they can shift in every draft of a story. As an idea girl myself, I wasn’t looking so much for a completely fleshed-out story as I was the possibility of one, and a discussion of how it can still develop into something completely different. I don’t always need a world to be very detailed, or for characters to be open books themselves, but I do like stories to be beholden to an idea or theme that influences the rest of the piece. I got this in “Variations,” with the added enjoyment of seeing how Yovanoff’s thought process builds up her ideas and reshapes the plot.

The Final Say: The Anatomy of Curiosity would be a great supplement to high school and university creative writing classes, to offset the usually set literary canon and provide genre perspectives, though readers of all ages will find much to enjoy in these three short stories.

tessa grattonAbout Tessa

Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. Alas, she turned out too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for a someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in Gender Studies, then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog. She now spends her days staring at the sky and telling lots of stories about magic.

Follow Tessa on Twitter @tessagratton | Visit Tessa’s website

maggie stiefvater

About Maggie

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Follow Maggie on Twitter @mstiefvater | Visit Maggie’s website

brenna yovanoffAbout Brenna

Brenna Yovanoff is one third of the Merry Sisters of Fate along with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton, whose flash fiction can be found at She has published The Replacement, The Space Between, Paper Valentine and Fiendish. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Follow Brenna on Twitter @brennayovanoff | Visit Brenna’s website

Add The Anatomy of Curiosity on Goodreads | Order The Anatomy of Curiosity from Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters


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