Sunday 8 January 2023

Short Story Spotlight 8th January - Summer Love, edited by Annie Harper

Summer Love: An LGBTQ Collection, edited by Annie Harper, published by Duet Books

This book shows various aspects of love in a feel-good collection of nine stories. I just reread this for perhaps the third or fourth time and it never fails to make me happy. There's a delicious mix of characters, settings and stories here, ranging from 1930s England on the eve of war, to contemporary tales, via a carnival in the 1950s. In addition to the romances here, we also have a beautiful platonic love story - "My Best Friend" by HJ Coulter. All of the stories are happy ones overall, although a few are a little bittersweet, and it's great to see a lot of supportive parents here (I especially loved Ruth's mother in The Fire Eater's Daughter by Amy Stilgenbauer, and the parents of trans boy Carter in The Most Handsome.) Overall, really high recommendation as a superb collection for all fans of queer fiction.

Personal favourites:

"What The Heart Wants" by Naomi Tajedler

Noam and her best friend Charlie take a figure drawing class, both finding love. This is the story I've described on various occasions as my absolute favourite YA short of all time, and rereading it has done nothing to change my mind there. As well as an absolute delightful girl/girl romance between inexperienced Noam and the slightly older Amber, there's a super sweet side story as sexually confident Charlie falls for 'hyper-romantic, asexual' fellow artist Peter. I also adore how supportive Noam's mom is as she comes out to her here. 40 pages or so of pure joy and superbly-written characters.

"The Willow Weeps For Us" by Suzey Ingold

In the summer of 1939, as England waits for a seemingly inevitable war to break out, a greengrocer's son who expects to be called up soon falls for another young man in the same position. This is beautifully written, a rather slow and languid story in many ways - if it wasn't for the shadow of the war, and conscription, hanging over the lead duo, it would be an incredibly sweet story. The contrast of the looming war, though, is an element which puts everything into perspective, and really adds to it, as it builds to a touching and hopeful ending. 

"Beautiful Monsters" by Rachel Davidson Leigh 

A shy teen who volunteers for a political campaign is assigned to go and represent them at a Gay Pride Parade, where he meets the leader of the Gay Straight Alliance, and they open up to each other. There's amazingly great chemistry between the leads here and the contrast between them - Cody so timid, and Andre so forceful - and the way in which they care for other people, is gorgeously sweet.

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