If you don’t know me, I. LOVE. ANTHOLOGIES. I’ve been waiting for this anthology since I saw its cover and knew its importance, and wanted to check it out. As a straight, cis teen of color, I want to educate myself about the world before, and the world today. I want to know what it’s like to be in a queer person’s shoes, and to learn the stories of “queer teens throughout the ages”.
This was such a refreshing anthology, and I love how diverse the LGBTQIA+ representation was. No doubt this is such an important anthology, but there were so many parts that didn’t work for me as a reader, you know what I mean? This was more of a 3.5 star anthology for me, but I’m rounding down to a three for now because the middle part was too slow and so many of the stories didn’t really work for me as a reader. Many of these stories were filled with instalove and were not entirely believable, but to be fair, it’s difficult to create a compelling love story within a short story.
Additionally, I felt that there were far too little people of color in this anthology. Yes, I know this is an anthology marketed as being about queer teens, but at least put more people of color in it. The majority of the story was set in Europe or North America, and I wished that the settings were more diverse (i.e in other continents and countries). I know a lot of people, and in this regard, completely agree with them.
I know this sounds like a lot of complaints, but I still think it’s such an important anthology and that queer teens everywhere should have this as required literature.
Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (El Bajío, México, 1870) ★★★★
This was such a great retelling with McLemore’s trademark gorgeous writing. It was so well done and had fantastic queer rep but for me, did not offer that final oomph that pushed it up to 5 stars the way it did for so many other people. Also, I think the Red Riding Hood aspect was so clever. I do want to check out more of McLemore’s works, but I need a starting point – any help here?
Rep: transgender, Latinx (own voices) MC
The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker (Virginia Colony, 1717) ★★★
This was really funny and easy to read but the romance just felt too unbelievably quick. I adore how badass these girls are, and this was a really fun ride. To be fair, a believable love story is hard to build in a short story but, it’s not impossible.
And They Don’t Kiss At The End by Nilah Magruder (Maryland, 1976) ★★★
This has my favorite title in the whole anthology. It was so refreshing, cute yet missing that oomph – loved the black ace rep and that exploration but again, like many of the other stories lacked development IMO
Rep: black, ace, Filipino
Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee (Amsterdam, 1638) ★★★★
4/5 I feel like this is a similar vibe with Semper Augustus, Lee’s upcoming works. I love being in the world of art (see any patterns?) and I love how conversational and witty Lee’s writing style is. Overall, this was a solid story which I really enjoyed.
The Dresser and the Chambermaid by Robin Talley (Kensington Palace, 1726 (September)) ★★★.5
I love how unique the atmosphere is, and getting that behind the scenes feel of royalty. It’s so fun, but I’m surprised that queerness was so accepted in that time period, and I had to suspend my disbelief a bit, and again, it was full of insta-love yet believable.
<b> Rep: </b> f/f, m/m
<b> New Year by Malinda Lo (San Francisco, January 21 1955) </b> ★★★★.25
CHINESE GIRLS KICKING BUTT YES CHINESE GIRLS. This was so good. I love how it focused on Lily as a character rather than develop a romance for her like many other stories did. Lily as a main character was utterly fantastic and a joy to read from.
Rep: Chinese, f/f
Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler (Seattle, April 10 1994) ★★★
This was such a short story that packed so much within its THIRTEEN PAGES (the shortest story in the whole anthology). Truth be told, I never listened or got into Kurt Cobain at all (not even through my parents, haha!) so I found the incorporation of Kurt Cobain really fascinating. The characters and the writing were both solid, but I don’t think I really got its magic. That opening was so great, especially that opening sentence, so it gets an extra .5 for that opening.
The Covent by Kate Scelsa (Paris, 1924) ★★
When I finished this story, all I remembered was confused. It was something about witches and clearing of depression and Paris? I don’t know, I’m so confused I can’t even remember much. Points for the writing though.
Every Shade of Red by Elliott Wake (England, Late Fourteenth Century) ★★
…. Ok, this didn’t work for me and made me love it the way everyone else did. I was expected to be blown away, as this was many people’s favorite story in the whole anthology, and generally unanimously among the strongest, like, all my Goodreads friends (those whose opinion I truly trust) loved this story to pieces and were crying. I found it boring, unengaging and honestly wasn’t at all invested. The writing was lyrical and though I generally like lyrical writing, it’s a hit or miss for me here. Sometimes I took moments to admire it, and other times I was frustrated with it. Oh, and thumbs up to all the rep here – this short story packed more rep in its 30-40 something pages compared to a lot of 400-page novels that don’t – we have transgender rep, gay rep and deaf rep (with sign language being used on page, which I thought was so important and fantastic).
<b> Rep: </b> Transgender, gay, m/m, deaf, f/f, disability, PoC
Willows by Scott Tracey (Southwyck Bay, Massachusetts, 1732) (dnf)
Before we get into my thoughts for this story – shoutout to me for spelling Massachusetts right! Yay! I’m not leaving a rating for this because this was a dnf. I couldn’t stay engaged with the story, and I was so bored throughout. Honestly, this was the story that took reading this anthology such a chore and taking me nearly a month to pick back up. I was so disconnected, and my general feeling from this is boring.
Rep: possibly? non-binary, m/m
The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe (Northern California, 1849) ★★★★
So many people adored this story, for good reason. The writing was beautiful and atmospheric and captured the setting so so well. It also proves how so much story, development and depth can be shown in so little words. However, I think the pacing was too fast though, and with a tad too much insta-love, yet I still really enjoyed the dynamic between our MC and love interest.
The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy – Alex Sanchez (Tidewater, Virginia, 1969) ★★★
This one really surprised me with how much I liked it, since I had very low expectations of this one. It was super cute, with fantastic family dynamics and solid writing. On the other hand, it was too insta-lovey and after some reflection, I found it had some problematic elements.
Rep: m/m, Cuban
Walking After Midnight – Kody Keplinger (Upstate New York, 1952) ★★★★.5
This was so cool. I loved the setting, characters, and plot. I’m a sucker for 1950s Hollywood (I mean I loved Evelyn Hugo) and this period ALWAYS just … enchants me. The ace rep is fantastic, but it went a little bit fast for me.
Rep: demi, f/f
The End of the World – Sara Farizan (Massachusetts, 1999) ★★★★.5
I really enjoyed this one too. I was rooting for the romance, and adored the representation. It was well written, and utterly fantastic. I don’t have anything bad to say, just that it just wasn’t a five star read. I’d still highly recommend this one though.
Rep: f/f, Turkish
Three Witches – Tessa Gratton (Kingdom of Castile, 1919) ★★★
My favourite thing in this whole story was the writing. It was strong and atmospheric. Admittedly, I was worried about this story and reading Gratton’s story, considering the allegations around her, but decided I needed to review this as an anthology. I loved the history, and the characters were solid, but some of them fell very flat and fell one-dimensional.
The Inferno and the Butterfly – Shaun David Hutchinson (London, 1839) ★★★★.75
To all you Hutchinson fans, I get it now. Oh, oh my God – this was such a breath of fresh air. I loved it so much. I love the setting, the plot, the characters and the writing was solid. This is my first Hutchinson story, and I promise, this won’t be the last.
Healing Rosa (Luna County, New Mexico, 1933) ★★★★★
After reading my favorite story in the whole anthology, I was excited for this because of all the raving reviews, but I didn’t think anything could top this. Man, I was so wrong. This went above and beyond what I hoped and dreamed for. I loved basically everything about this, and it broke my heart. This a fantastic story and I honestly CANNOT believe that this is Meija’s debut, and I’m anticipating with bated breath whatever she comes out with next. This is the only five star I’ve given to any story in this anthology.
Overall, I think this is a well-curated anthology. I have to say, Mitchell’s editing was fantastic. She put the best stories where they needed to be, and the order was so well done. It’s important, with a few standout stories, and was so fascinating, but as a whole, some parts really missed the mark for me. Nevertheless, I would still highly recommend for everyone in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, especially teens. It’s so timely and with that cover, how can one say no?