Note: I’m trying to post reviews on as many of the short fiction nominees for the Bram Stoker Award as possible before the winners are named April 30th at StokerCon 2017, but I cannot promise to get to all. The full list of short fiction nominees can be found here, including links to those stories available online.
“Reasons I Hate my Big Sister” by Gwendolyn Kiste is told from the point of view of the unnamed younger sister in a family whose elder daughter is inexplicably shedding her skin and transforming into something other than human. It’s a fine example of what Mercedes Yardley calls “whimsical horror”. It’s not silly horror, not juvenile, but it is tender.
Our narrator numbers her complaints against her older sister, Elise, and harbors the resentments common to younger siblings. She is young, jealous and petty, but the reader immediately grasps how insubstantial these complaints are. The narrator’s love and admiration for Elise become more apparent as Elise becomes less human and other humans in the story become more monstrous.
Only siblings, and especially adolescent siblings, can truly appreciate the forces that both repel and bind us to one another during transformation, and Kiste does a super job of conveying that in this short tale. Kiste doesn’t ask too much from the reader. This is a simple and straightforward story that is well written. The ending is heroic. It’s a story I will be happily sharing with teenagers in my orbit.