Karen Russell's startlingly original collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, features graceful and seductive prose that transports the reader into surreal and yet utterly plausible realms. Many of the stories are set in Russell's native region of South Florida, but it's not the familiar territory of high-rise condos and golf courses it's a world of alligator-infested swamps, ghosts and spectral moonlight. The adolescents who people these mostly first-person tales aren't hanging out at the mall or gabbing on cell phones. Instead, they seek their identity in a kind of edge world that features such exotic venues as the girls' home of the title story.

Highlights include "Haunting Olivia,"  in which two young brothers engage in a daring nocturnal diving exercise searching for their drowned sister, and "from Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration,"  a one-of-a-kind story of filial devotion. In every story, Russell demonstrates a mastery of her craft, an achievement made even more compelling by the fact that she's only 24 years old.

Harvey Freedenberg writes from Pennsylvania.

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