Sunday, 15 January 2023

Short Story Spotlight 15th January

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles 

A diverse collection - in the wonderfully wide representation, in the styles of the stories, with Walter Dean Myers's play script and Gene Luen Yang's graphic story, illustrated by Thien Pham, as well as the prose stories, and in the genres represented, with historical fiction, sci-fi, and contemporary all making an appearance here. This has a tremendous amount of superb authors, including a few absolute favourites of mine in Sara Farizan, Aminah Mae Safi and Jason Reynolds.

Personal favourites:

"Why I Learned To Cook" by Sara Farizan - Utterly gorgeous story about a young Iranian girl getting cooking lessons from the grandmother she adores, as she tries to build up the courage to introduce her to her girlfriend. Both the chemistry between the two girls here, and the sweet relationship the MC has with her grandmother, are beautifully done and it's an ultra-sweet read, one of my favourites for ages.

"Super Human" by Nicola Yoon - When the world's only superhero announces he would see humanity destroyed unless someone can convince him otherwise, Syrita - the first girl he ever saved - is given the task of pleading for mercy. There's something far more fascinating about heroes gone bad than about straight-up villains, for me, especially when their motivations for doing so are believable. In this story, Nicola Yoon gives us a thought-provoking meeting between the two characters which shows exactly why X, the hero, has lost his faith in people. The dialogue between the pair here is very strong, and it's an emotional read tackling topics of racism and police brutality.

"Catch, Pull, Drive" by Schuyler Bailar - The story of a transgender swimmer awaiting a mastectomy, swimming for the last time prior to the surgery, and looking forward to the future, but dealing with transphobia from a teammate. Bailar was the only author here I wasn't familiar with prior to reading the book; he's a transgender swimmer himself - the first openly trans competitive swimmer in the US, in fact. His story holds its own here with a bunch of renowned authors - quite an achievement for someone's first published work. Tommy is a wonderful main character and, despite the prejudice he was dealing with from one person in particular, I loved the support he got from his mom and from a fellow teammate. 

Up All Night edited by Laura Silverman

I love the variety here, going between a number of sweet love stories, attempts to rekindle friendships, or start new ones, a shocking discovery in a game of dares, and a chilling tale of a night in an abandoned asylum. This is one of the ones where I've found it incredibly hard to pin down my favourite three - in addition to the ones mentioned below, editor Laura Silverman's own "Creature Capture", a blossoming friendship story based around a Pokemon Go-type game, Amanda Joy's gorgeous romance "Kiss The Boy", and Nina LaCour's stepsibling bonding "A Place To Start" are all delightful, while Maurene Goo's "Like Before", in which a girl tries to heal a rift between her closest friends, came very close to making me cry at times.

Personal favourites:

"Old Rifts and Snowdrifts" by Kayla Whaley - very sweet 'ex-friends to lovers' story, as main character gets trapped in the florists' shop she works at along with her best friend's twin brother, who she used to be close to but hasn't spoken to for a year. Super romantic and lovely.

"When You Bring A Dog To Prom" by Anna Meriano - gorgeously sweet prom story, in which Noemi goes to prom with her best friend and her date, along with her best friend's brother (who she's seriously crushing on), his date, and their emotional support dog. Despite a momentary panic when the dog gets loose and runs away, this is a delightful read about an awesome friendship group and the dog, Suka, is super-cute.

"The Ghost of Goon Creek" by Francesca Zappia - another real charmer, as main character Sydney, who collects local ghost stories, is persuaded to let Grace, a reporter for the school newspaper, come with her as she follows her yearly tradition of looking for the Ghost of Goon Creek. Other people coming along definitely wasn't part of the plan - but as Sydney talks to them during the night, she starts to realize she may have been wrong about people in her class, and begins to form lasting friendships.

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