Strange Horizons, July 13, 2015

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Strange Horizons, July 13, 2015

It Brought Us All Together” by Marissa Lingen

Reviewed by Nicky Magas

Andrea didn’t know Terra all that well but when Terra suddenly dies, everybody at their school starts acting like they’d been best friends with her all their lives. The ridiculous emotional pageantry is made all the worse for Andrea because no one in Marissa Lingen’s “It Brought Us All Together” understands the pain of losing someone to mucormycosis presto quite like she does; her parents died of the incredibly deadly, plague-like fungal infection not long ago. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with grief, but Andrea is especially irritated by all the fakery being flaunted at her school. Not that she cares to open herself up to scrutiny, oh no. Keeping people at arms length is part of her coping mechanism, and she’ll be damned if she wades deep enough into someone else’s pain to expose her own.

Written in a believable teenage voice, “It Brought Us All Together” explores the pain of loss and the internal and external ways we deal with all the emotions of the death of a loved one. Lingen writes a believable high school atmosphere that is haunted by both the recent demise of a student, and the ongoing threat of the fungal plague. Andrea’s standoffish exterior and hyper cynical attitude toward her classmates exposes her own pain and uncertainty, and only meeting someone who shares a fraction of what she is going through allows her to truly open up again. The speculative elements of the story are downplayed and limited only to brief mentions of the fungus, which is hinted at being a deadly pandemic, leaving the bulk of the story feeling less like science fiction and more like teenaged angst.