Vend U. by Nancy Springer

Vend U. by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (8 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jocelyn is a complete pest, She’s constantly playing practical jokes and has no problems beating up boys. Not quite the person you want around you when you’re trying to enjoy your summer art class on a college campus.

When Jocelyn decides to take out her inner aggressions on the cafeteria’s vending machines, it’s not just the students who decide it’s time to do something about the biggest bully on campus. After all, even a vending machine has feelings.

Jocelyn is about to learn a very dangerous lesson. Sometimes the least healthy item in a vending machine isn’t the weeks-old chocolate, but the machine itself.

Do bullies ever change? If so, what’s the best way to get them to see the error of their ways?

Disruptive peers can make childhood feel like it’s going to last forever. The narrator of this piece reminded me of what it feels like to be stuck in this situation, and their descriptions of endless frustration ring true. Adults can see the bigger picture, but kids tend to focus on everything they’re missing out on by being stuck in the same activity with a hyperactive or cruel classmate. Ms. Springer did an excellent job at capturing what this is like, and her detailed descriptions of the abuse Jocelyn inflicts onto her peers make the narrative come alive.

It would have been helpful to have the logistics of Jocelyn’s encounter with the vending machines described in more detail. Certain passages made it a little difficult to figure out what was happening, and I had to reread them in order to understand what everyone was doing. This is a minor critique of an otherwise memorable story, though.

I certainly didn’t start reading this tale with the expectation of finding something funny in it, but there were some wonderfully humorous passages that popped out when I least expected them to do so. The idea of a kid taking her aggression out on a vending machine is amusing enough, but what happens next makes this piece something I will be recommending to everyone I know who loves science fiction and fantasy novels.

Vend U. kept me on my toes until the final sentence. This is a great choice for anyone who loves surprises in a plot.

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