When a little adds up to a lot

I’ve always loved anthologies because they present snippets of various writers’ styles, especially if the stories have a common theme. There are a number of good anthologies out there, but these three I thought were especially interesting. Hope you enjoy them.

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First up is a compelling group of stories that will wrench at your heart. It’s definitely worth a read.

Diverse Energies: The Future is Here. Are You Ready?

Edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti

This anthology speaks to inevitable jumbling of the world’s cultures, frequently using dark dystopian stories. The horror exploded in Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII haunts “The Last Day,” Ellen Oh’s not particularly well written story tells of human survival and loyalty to friends. In “Freshee’s Frogurt,” which will appeal to boys, Daniel H. Wilson tells of a police officer questioning a teen who survived an attack by an-out-of-control robot. One of the better stories, “The Uncertainty Principle,” by K. Tempest Bradford, is about a girl caught up in a time warp, where the world constantly changes around her. In “Pattern Recognition,” Ken Liu tells of a boy who discovers the compound he lives in is full of lies. Greg van Eekhout’s “Gods of the Dimming Night,” is a compelling mix of improbability and mythic intrigue about an Indonesian-American boy who ends up fighting and killing a warrior from Odin’s army. “Next Door,” by Rahul Kanakia, pits “squatters” against property owners. Malinda Lo’s “Good Girl,” looking for her brother in the tunnels where non-purebloods live, falls in love with a mutt girl and finally realizes her brother is dead. “A Pocket Full of Dharma” is all the protagonist of Paolo Bacigalupi’s story wants but instead ends up with a data cube containing the conscience of the nineteenth Dali Lama in his pocket. Kidnapping a privileged Taiwanese girl not only nets Cindy Pon’s protagonist lots of money, but also creates a longing in the girl to see “Blue Sky.” “What Arms to Hold Us,” by Rajan Khanna, has the main character driving his robot to freedom. Finding one’s place in the universe is the well-written theme of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Solitude.” The stories do offer love, hope and family obligation, but enough with the dystopia.

BIBLIO: 2012, Tu Books/Lee & Low Books, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-60060-887-2

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Though not strictly an anthology, all of the stories could be told separately and still hold their integrity. The characters all have sympathetic qualities to keep the reader engaged and rooting for them.

Tales from My Closet

Jennifer Anne Moses

Five girls are entering 10th grade at the West Falls High School, each with her own emotional baggage and an interest in the clothes she wears. Short Justine, the new girl at the school, wears a paper dress she bought just before her family moved from San Francisco—super cool there, not so much in New Jersey. Tall and drop-dead gorgeous, raven-haired Becka is missing Paris and twenty-six-year-old Arnaud, the stereotypically debonair French heartthrob she met there. She wears the scarf he gave her and the raincoat he’d lent her as part of her first-day-of-10th-grade ensemble. Becka’s best friend, Robin, a “shopaholic,” lands a summer internship in Manhattan with Becka’s aunt, super famous fashion designer Libby Pine. Banned from spending money, Robin gets creative with pajama tops or bottoms paired with classy looking belts and tank tops—all bought on sale with babysitting money. She loves her internship and is complemented on her style. Becka and Robin’s friend Polly is a swimmer, who obsesses over the size of her butt and any money her mother spends on her, since her father split from them many years ago. She and Mommy visit her paternal grandfather in his nursing home at least once a week. Ann’s parents want her to focus on academics so she gets into Princeton as her sister has, but Ann wants to be a fashion blogger and do all the drawing. She is super petite and feels she looks like a ten-year-old. Plus she has a tendency to be a blabbermouth. When her maternal grandmother gives her some vintage clothes, Ann feels transformed. The girls of course change during the school year and come to terms with themselves and their problems. This is a nicely told story, with real characters and real dreams.

BIBLIO: 2014, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-51608-2

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I really enjoyed this one. It’s full of life and intrigue. All the stories have common elements to them.

Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands

Edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner

It is amazing the number of subcultures existing within our overarching culture. The culture of this anthology is probably well loved by “goth” kids. It’s the magical region between the human World and the Realm of the faeries (Elves) who prefer to be called the Truebloods. When the Way to Bordertown is open, runaways and kids looking for affirmation of hope flock there. But be careful, the elfin magic is quirky in this region and the Truebloods can be arrogant or cruel. Also know that time slows down here—two weeks in Bordertown equate to thirteen years in the World. A number of the stories are very matter of fact about sexual encounters amongst the teen protagonists or their use of drugs. No consequences discussed for these choices. But, for the most part, the characters are well drawn and the stories are compelling, though Cory Doctorow’s “Shannon’s Law” was confusing and “Fair Trade” (written by Sara Ryan and drawn by Dylan Meconis) took a second reading. And perhaps the best was saved to last: “A Tangle of Green Men,” by Charles de Lint, about a young Native American who goes to Bordertown to find the way across the Realm to the land where his dead wife waits for him. Instead, he finds a reason to live. Fantasy always opens a way to discuss life forces with kids and this collection of stories reaches out nicely to those looking for hope. The other authors are Terri Windling, considered the font of fantasy stories; Patricia A. McKillip; Catherynne M. Valente; Amal El-Mohtar; Emma Bull; Steven Brust; Alaya Dawn Johnson; Will Shetterly; Jane Yolen; Janni Lee Simner; Tim Pratt; Annette Curtis Klause; Nalo Hopkinson; Delia Sherman; Christopher Barzak, Cassandra Clare and Neil Gaiman.

BIBLIO: 2011, Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 14 +, $19.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-375-86705-7

ISBN: 978-0-375-96705-4

ISBN: 978-0-375-89745-0

3 thoughts on “When a little adds up to a lot

  1. Sarah, what a fun post! I love anthologies, too. They are especially fun beach reading. Tales From My Closet appeals to me because it revolves around high school girls and their “stuff”. But I have to say, the one in which I am most interested is Welcome to Bordertown – those subcultures are intriguing! Thanks for sharing!

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