The Dirt Chronicles definitely lives up to its title. It is a collection of short stories that tell the story of homeless queer kids in Toronto, and y0u can practically smell the exhaust come off the page. The stories begin as separate and free-standing, but characters begin to repeat, and by the end, all of the stories weave together into one narrative. The beginning stories all feature a small happiness or humiliation in a disaffected urban landscape: A cubicle worker finds himself biking away from a minor car crash to follow a mysterious, handsome delivery man. A teenage lesbian couple dumpster dive for birthday party supplies and are confronted by the most powerful and sadistic cop in the city. I really enjoyed these stories, though I should tell you that the majority of them are about gay boys (including a trans guy). They are subtle, and very easily draw you into their world. The characters are very different, but all relateable and interesting.
As the collection goes on, however, the stories begin to become more intense. The stakes get a lot higher. (And the lesbian characters take center stage.) The change of tone was a little jarring, but the result makes sense in retrospect. I really enjoyed this collection overall. The writing is efficient and engaging, and the stories and characters are compelling even when they only get a few pages to develop. I highly recommend this one, and I will be checking out Kristyn Dunnion’s other books as well!
(The only minor complaint I could have–and is it ever minor–is that there is a story called Toddlers and Tiaras that describes the show, but doesn’t get it quite right. I’m ashamed to say that I have seen enough to know that they compete on a per episode basis, not in a America’s Next Top Model style.)