Epigraphs rarely feel undeniably necessary to me; they are interesting, but I assume they mean more to the author than the reader in most cases. Casey Plett’s epigraph for her debut collection of short stories (an excerpt from Michelle Tea’s The Chelsea Whistle) so perfectly sets the tone for the book and provides the title that I really can’t imagine the book without it:
I loved that dream of a girl, the Beautiful Girl, calm and wild as water. I loved her like I loved the Psychic Girl, another paperback myth, because she was a safe girl to love, a fantasy that I could own. When I grew up and began to meet so many diﬀerent real girls. I met beautiful girls, calm and wild, who had grown up beside trees and pools of water and I hated them instinctively. They hurt my feelings. I had thought these girls were imaginary, but no, they were real, and I could have been one too, and possessed that water-fed grace. I didn’t know who to be mad at for not giving me a river.
The stories in this book are centered around young trans women, and there are themes of loneliness and alienation, the characters struggling to achieve a sense of belonging or fully being seen. The longer stories beneﬁted greatly from the additional development, as the shorter ones were sometimes too brief to make a full impression. But Plett has decisive, grounded voice, and I look forward to hearing more from her.