With the upcoming release of what is sure to be a wonderful short story anthology edited by Neil Gaiman, Unnatural Creatures, I’ve seen many interesting new short storiy anthologies geared towards young adults. Inspired and intrigued by this new spate of collections, I’ve investigated some of the newest and most appealing.
The short story can appeal to the voracious, if slightly scattered reader: it gives you just enough to keep you engaged and excited but leaves you wanting more. One could say anthologies of this kind are like tapas: multiple little delicious appetizers that by themselves wouldn’t fill you up, but put them together and they make a satisfying meal. I’ve spent my time reading through these great new short story anthologies for your tasting pleasure.
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
This is the perfect book for the reader who just can’t get enough dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. All of the selections are set after various terrible and world-ending events have taken place. Whether it be a terrible disease that turns people into vampires who hunt in packs or beetles who eat all metal (including the fillings in your teeth) or a dispatch from a resident of a world where education has deteriorated to the point of nonexistence, all are thought-provoking. This book also includes a story set in the world of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, a treat for fans! My highlight of the book? “The Segment” by Genevieve Valentine, where news broadcasts are scripted and cast as precisely as a Hollywood blockbuster, and a popular news story brings an actor the danger of worldwide recognition.
Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti
This was perhaps my favorite of the new collections that I read. The anthology collects stories loosely based around the idea of the future — good or bad — just as After centered around the aftermath of cataclysmic events. The collection starts off with a eerie description of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, but the alienation and horror of the characters makes it easy to imagine it taking place in the future. Other stories feature kids forced into slavery as human computers and a young girl who becomes a witness to and potential creator of time travel. My highlight of the book? “Freshee’s Frogurt” by Daniel H. Wilson. It’s perhaps no surprise that the author of Robopocalyse writes a tale of a robot revolt inside a frozen yogurt shop, but it’s violent, scary fun.
Girl Meets Boy: Because There are Two Sides to Every Story, edited by Kelly Milner Halls
This set pairs five stories, each from the viewpoint of one half of a couple or potential couple, and with each position written by different authors. This gives each view a distinct voice and lends veracity to the stories. While there is one story that deals with GLBTQ characters, it’s still presented as a girl-boy couple, which may be disappointing for teens looking for gay relationship stories. My highlight of the book? The pairing of “Falling Down to See the Moon” by Joseph Bruchac and “Mooning Over Broken Stars” by Cynthia Leitich Smith. This story of a tall and imposing girl’s basketball star and the scrawny Bruce Lee-wannabe set on a Native American reservation is realistic, funny, and charming.
Life on Mars: Tales from the New Frontier, edited by Jonathan Strahan
A collection partially inspired by Ray Bradbury’s classic The Martian Chronicles, this collection imagines various outcomes for humanity’s experience on Mars. Some stories are more straightforward and imagine the the reaction of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab upon the discovery of life on the red planet. Others imagine that the golden rule is what will make life on Mars possible or comment on how life on Earth goes on despite colonization of Mars. My highlight of the collection? “The Taste of Promises” by Rachel Swirsky, a story where a Martian disorder causes children’s souls to be “lifted” from their bodies and live on in computer networks.
If you’re looking for more anthologies, either by single or multiple authors, check out these older but still great collections:
- Am I Blue?, edited by Marian Dane Bauer, a 1997 Popular Paperback for Young Adults
- The Martian Chronicles by the late, great Ray Bradbury
- Love is Hell by Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz
- Once Upon a Time Machine, edited by Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens
- Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, a 2009 Best Book for Young Adults
- Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
— Anna Tschetter, currently reading Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman