Long Lost Review: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 24th April 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

With Anthology August underway I was fortunate to even have an anthology in my “read but not reviewed” pile. Begin, End, Begin is a fantastic example of Australia’s talent and YA capabilities. I loved all of these stories which is so rare with anthologies and I found some great new authors that I may never have discovered.

With a theme “Begin, End, Begin” there are so many ways it can be interpreted and I was astounded by the creativity of these authors. I think I loved almost every single one of these stories which is so rare with an anthology but with this calibre of talent who can really be surprised. I knew of, but had not read, a lot of these authors when this was first released and it was a great chance to see their writing style in small snippets, with a fabulous and engaging story. I still think about a lot of these stories two years later and is a testament to the quality and imagination of these writers. I’ve definitely read a lot more of their works since and it was a real benefit getting a chance to see their styles and fall in love with them first.

Some of my favourites would have to be ‘One Small Step’ by Amie Kaufman and ‘I Can See the Ending’ by Will Kostakis; both are amazing and certainly ones I have thought about often since. They aren’t the only great ones as there are some beautiful stories in here filled with heart and imagination.

There’s only ten contributors so there is a chance at a longer story from them all, but even so with a few short pages you are brought into these worlds or science fiction, contemporary, romance and diversity. If you are new to the #LoveOzYA phenomenon this is a fantastic way to get introduced to some great authors and see their talent in small, entertaining snippets.

Speaking Out!: An LGBT Anthology edited by Steve Berman

Published: 20th September 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Speaking Out features stories for and about LGBT and Q teens by fresh voices and noted authors in the field of young adult literature. These are inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (against intolerance and homophobia) and experiencing life after “coming out.” Queer teens need tales of what might happen next in their lives, and editor Steve Berman showcases a diversity of events, challenges, and, especially, triumphs.

This collection of thirteen stories tell a variety of stories from a variety of own voices. These are fictional stories but each author has a small bio at the start of their story which lets you see a little into their lives and their own experience being part of the LGBTQTIA community. These small paragraphs are an extra inspiration for readers who may be experiencing their own hardships and having these authors of all sexualities put their own experiences down are real life references outside of these fictionalised stories. The authors are American but a lot of the stories have a focus on the people rather than setting. There is a lot to gain from reading these stories even if you are from outside the States.

I found myself becoming quite invested in some of these stories. When they ended I wanted to know more, I wanted to see the scene after, the scene where they tell, where they act. I had to remind myself not only are these short stories, but they are short stories that capture the moment of speaking out, the events that lead them to have the confidence to do so. This is a testament to the power of these stories, and certainly some were better than others as all anthology readers will attest to. I found myself enraptured by the strength of these characters against homophobia by friends and family, and the danger that that homophobia can have.

The stand out stories to me were Sparks of Change by Dia Pannes which was a powerful read about family and changing the small mindedness of small towns; another one was the beautiful and mystical imagery of Steve Berman’s Only Lost Boys Are Found. One story I particularly adored was Forever is Composed of Nows by Will Ludwigsen; a story about returning back to the place where you had bullying and trauma as a teen, only to return as an adult. It was incredibly well done and insightful to read.

As I said, there are a range of identities and sexualities represented in this anthology and each one is explored in so many different ways. Seeing these characters discover who they are, who they are publically prepared to be was uplifting and something I can imagine teens and young readers would find not only empowering but comforting. Personal stories and essays about experiences by the LGBTQIA are important literature to have, but having fictional worlds to escape to and relate to are also important. This is a great collection of stories and one I found an absolute delight to fall into.

You can purchase Speaking Out! via the following

Book DepositoryDymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Vera: A Tale of Pelythia by J. A. Knight

Published: 24th June 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Independently published
Pages: 54
Format: Book 
Genre:
 Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The time has come for Vera to complete her Ceremony, a coming-of-age tradition of the mountain people of Torsti. To claim her place as an adult of her village, she must use her wits to survive a week of isolation in the wilderness of the mountain.

I was loaned a copy of this book and I was pleasantly surprised. This easily stands alone as a short story, there is impressive world building and character development and with a few lines and few words Knight can convey meaning and intent. I understood who Vera was, what she wanted to achieve and why, and I understood the villagers and their opinion.

This is also a wonderful introduction to a bigger, longer series if that’s where Knight is headed. There is space to grow and the events after Vera’s journey to unfold. The ending leaves you with questions and curiosity and while it’s impactful on its own, there’s a temptation to find the answers and further the story.

Vera’s a character who is young but isn’t looking for pity. Her own coming-of-age journey is one she ventures into with pride and determination. Her youth and naivety is evident but so is her strength and intellect. Knight brings her to life with her vulnerabilities, jealousy, and her insecurities that are relatable even for this fantasy world.

While I wasn’t expecting to hate it, I was impressed at how much I enjoyed reading this short story. I look forward to reading more about Vera and Pelythia if that is on the cards. Knight has the beginnings of a well thought out and creative world, not to mention strong and relatable characters like Vera.

You can purchase Vera: A Tale of Pelythia via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

More Than Friends by Liv Devereaux

Published: 5th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 47
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dana and Hope used to be best friends in elementary school. When they got to high school they lost touch. Dana got busy with soccer and Hope found a boyfriend. When they are paired up together for a project, Dana and Hope get the chance to get to know each other all over again. They’ll realize that both girls have changed in the last three years of high school. 

I picked this not looking at the page length, rather by the summary. I could easily see this as a full novel though, Devereaux easily could expand this into something longer, the bones are there. As is it is sweet, a bit rushed and easily solved, but at 47 pages you can’t expect anything but happy coincidences and easy solutions.

Despite this, it was a nice story, and even though it was short it felt established and rounded and a satisfactory read. Dana and Hope were good characters, the dual narration offers two perspectives and two stories, a great chance for readers to see the misunderstandings and hidden secrets which make young romance so lovely.

I would read this again if Devereaux expanded this into a full novel, but for the time being it was a lovely story about young love and repairing friendships.

You can purchase More Than Friends via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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