Edited by Keith Gray
Stories by A.S. King, Melvin Burgess, Keith Gray, Patrick Ness, Anne Fine, Sophie McKenzie, Bali Rai, Jenny Valentine, Mary Hooper, Andrew Smith
Available now from Carolrhoda Books (Lerner)
First published in 2010 by Anderson Press without the stories by Smith and King
LOSING IT is a collection of ten short stories based around the concept of virginity. It's long gone for some of the characters, and others don't lose it at all. Some of the characters live here and now, others live long ago or far away. To me, only a few of the stories really stood out, but it is worth buying for those stories.
A.S. King was the name that stood out the most for me, but I love her work. I liked her raw story, about a girl who gets caught shoplifting for the total user she's dating. While the concept of LOSING IT is mildly shocking, it's not really a shocking collection. King's story is probably the boldest. My biggest problem with it is that it ends far too soon.
My second favorite is Patrick Ness' story "Different for Boys." It follows a pretty predictable path, but his teen boy voices are spot on and now that I think about it this story might be a little racy too. I'm twenty four; I'm not sure I'm the best judge. (Also, the Kindle galley I read had no black boxes. Be envious, those who read the final version!) I enjoyed the humor of the story and thought that the structure - centered around figuring out what losing it is for a gay guy - worked very well.
I was also quite fond of "Chat-Up Lines" by Melvin Burgess and "The Age of Consent" by Jenny Valentine. Burgess' story involves a younger boy dating a popular older girl who doesn't know his age and that he's social suicide. Valentine's involves a crazy discussion at a family dinner, where an older relative holds forth on what she knows about sex and choosing who to have it with.
My biggest disappointment was probably "The White Towel" by Bali Rai, which I've seen highly praised. It deals with the horror of honor killings, but it's a family legend related by a relative passing it on to some friends. The concept seems distant, just another story, instead of visceral. I don't think the point of view worked for Anne Fine's story either, which is told by a teacher.
Keith Gray, Andrew Smith, Sophie McKenzie, and Mary Hooper's stories were all okay, although I wasn't big on Hooper's since it was historical fiction. If you're a fan of one of these authors, it's probably worth picking up this anthology. Only two stories were real duds for me, which is a good rate for a short story collection. I think readers will appreciate the range of perspectives and experiences explored in LOSING IT.