FICTION

Short Stuff

Duet. Jun. 2020. 192p. ed. by Constantine, Alysia, ed. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781945053894.
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Gr 8 Up–Four short stories comprise a volume that celebrates the idea of the “meet-cute,” even while acknowledging in the introduction that this descriptor is sometimes a stretch. Indeed, Julia Ember’s “Gilded Scales” may not exactly be a love story at all, and qualifies as cute only if the term can be squared with the story’s frequent mentions of stepping on and smelling rotten corpses. Weird can be engaging, and in this case it is; fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona may like encountering this beastly embodiment of female power. The collection’s three other stories stick to more expected locales, with mostly enjoyable results. Jude Sierra’s “The August Sands” is a bit too faithful—with a slow pace and studied setting—in replicating the cyclical thoughts and insecurities of a college-bound teenage boy experiencing his first romance on a family beach trip, but the emotions will strike a chord with readers. Katie Fierro’s “Love in the Time of Coffee” and Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick’s “I Ate the Whole World to Find You” have the broadest appeal. Fierro’s story, despite its brevity, convincingly spans several years and builds investment in the central romance. It is the only entry to venture into any steaminess or explicit descriptions at all and will speak to fans of Becky Albertalli’s Leah on the Offbeat. Comparable in comic tone to books by Tim Federle, “I Ate the Whole World to Find You” is a snappy take on the enemies-to-lovers romantic trope. An Olympic hopeful swimmer is wooed by an aspiring chef at his training pool’s snack bar and plausibility is beside the point when a fun premise is realized so well.
VERDICT A short and appealing LGBTQ+ anthology in a still too-narrow field, this a worthwhile addition to most YA collections.

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