Teen Stuff: Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Floating somewhere between graphic novel and short story collection is the fantastic Teen Fiction book, Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan. "Outer" describes these stories fairly well, for their quirky and sometimes other-worldly cast of characters may inhabit a very familiar suburban setting, but what happens within each tale is definitely outside the neighborhood norm.

Take one of my favorite tales called "Stick Figures" -- which as the title denotes -- is about a group of innocuous stick-figure beings with tufts of grass for heads who regularly get beaten into pieces by neighborhood boys. Also intriguing is the story "Alert but Not Alarmed," where every house in the community is issued a home missile to keep at the ready, except that day never comes, so the residents find other uses for the government's arsenal. The illustrations are essential to the stories and are incredibly diverse, ranging from (what appears to be) found poetry snippets to lavishly detailed charcoal sketches that allow this outer suburbia to come alive in many imaginative ways.