Edited by Stephanie Perkins
Stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, Jennifer E. Smith
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Stephanie Perkins' follow-up anthology to MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME is another set of twelve strong stories by popular and up-and-coming authors, including adult author Lev Grossman. The only repeated author is Perkins herself (who writes a sequel to her story from the first anthology). The theme of summer is a little looser than the theme of winter holidays, and the stories range wider in tone and style as well. There's contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, and historical stories. The protagonists are diverse too, both in skin color and sexuality.
In fact, not all of the stories end happily. "Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block tells of a doomed summer romance. "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle tells of two boys who know they have to break up because one of them is going to college. "Souvenirs" is one of my favorite stories in the collection, for how it gets lots of messy emotions into so few pages, including those little things that make you love someone even when you know they aren't the best person.
Of the speculative stories, my favorite might have been "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman, a groundhog-day tale of a boy and a girl who are trapped in a loop and manage to find shocking beauty in a single mundane (but tragic) day. Close behind is "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo, which taps into my love of mythological sea creatures. The inventive ending gets my approval. Okay, I loved "Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray, too. It's a trippy meta tale about a horror film coming to life and the apathetic cinema workers who are the only ones that can stop it.
The more mundane stories were a bit more uneven to me. "The End of Love" by Nina LaCour is an adorable story about two girls finding their way to each other while one of them goes through a difficult time. "Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron is a farce about multiple couples who need a few tricks to get them to take that leap of faith and ask each other out.
This made for a very fun read on my plane ride home from California. (Can you get more summer than that?) There was only one story I didn't think fit the anthology. "Inertia" by Veronica Roth was a nifty sci-fi romance, but I'm not sure what it had to do with summer. Overall, this was a strong set of stories, although not quite as strong as MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. I hope for fall and spring sequels!