My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Anthology (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Magical Realism)
Short story anthologies are notoriously hard to rate, because each of the stories kinda needs to be considered alone, so I’m going to do just that. Overall, though, stories like that make me pretty proud to call #OzYA my YA. I mean my country has got some pretty incredible voices, and honestly they deserve a lot more attention…
One Small Step by Amie Kaufman -★★★★
Okay but this was a pretty incredible way to kick off the stories – first kid born on Mars and the decisions she has to make about her future. Also a super super cute F/F romance, and a lil bit of action and science to round it out. I liked how diverse the world on Mars was, while also being a pretty realistic and limited space colony. I think one of my favourite parts, outside of the very very cute relationship, was the media attention? I think that’s pretty much exactly how we’d act to a kid born on Mars, and I liked that she both appreciate and resented the attention. It was a pretty sweet way to ground the story while keeping it also, well, not on Earth. Really need to read more of Amie’s stuff if this is anything to go by (and not just cause our names are kinda close). I only wish the time shifts had been a little clearer, cause I think I kept missing them and that made the story confusing af at first.
I Can See the Ending by Will Kostakis -★★★★★
Honestly??? I loved this! I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for stories that are very rooted in reality (I mean you could practically feel the grease of the food court, and Adam’s house – especially his room) with a touch of something not so real (or at least as far as we know…). I just really really liked the balance this story had, and the way his power was brought into it. It had just enough limitations and real life consequences to make it compelling but also fun? I dunno, I think that’s a wicked sort of power. I liked the way it was presented too, with us given little snippets of what he knew and what he did not, and how the others in his family had controlled it. I think the whole message is pretty sweet, (spoiler)I mean often when characters can see the future they get a little cynical about how pointless choices can be? And even though he knew there was little to change it, I loved that the message was like? Prepare for it, then? Get caught up in it? Enjoy it? (And the advantage you have to look good!) (spoiler) Also 11/10 mum and son relationship.
In a Heartbeat by Alice Pung -★★★
This was pretty cute, and I really liked the voice of the narrator. Again, it was grounded quite strongly in reality, and felt very young teenage girl in the voice. I mean it captured that high school feeling and that drama very well. But the issue wasn’t suuuper compelling to me, I guess in part because I’m not religious, so one of the compelling drives for the characters actions was lost on me. (Also, weirdly tend to be a little more pragmatic when it comes to these things?) Maybe if we’d had a little more to develop the story, and really build up the decision. Make her reasons a little clearer beyond a sense that she shouldn’t abort.
First Casualty by Michael Pryor -★★
I did really like some elements of this but it was quite heavy handed. Like I absolutely think the message is an important one (cough cough Australian government get your shit together cough cough) but some of the discussions between characters about the issues did not feel real. Like they’d make good tweets, but they don’t sound like something people actually say casually. I think I’m going to reiterate what I’ve seen other reviewers say – that this would have much stronger as a full novel. I get that short story doesn’t really lend a lot of space to expand on issues like refugee aliens, and so it lacks a bit of the heart it needs to make this really hit home. Which is a pity, because the world was pretty cool, and it could have made for a very pointed commentary if we’d been able to really connect with these aliens. That makes me seem a little callous, but I guess I was kinda a little iffy, and then the political talk really turned me off. I guess that might just be me!! Also, the relationship didn’t reaaally grab me… which I think was another thing that could have been really good if it were longer? It had the bones for it, it was just a little jumped.
Sundays by Melissa Keil -★★★★★
OMG YES I love groups like this?? I don’t really know what it is but big groups of dysfunctional friends becoming a sort of found family is such a soft spot for me. I especially love it when they kinda start to rely on the group and it, made of imperfect people, can’t hold up to it. I just really loved how well and how quickly this diverse group of characters was developed into compelling people I kinda wanted to be out adventuring with (even with all the drama). I think the resolution was what sold it for me. (spoiler)That the characters can be this family, but also change and shift apart and?? like that two are able to go their own way at that moment, but it doesn’t mean end of the group(spoiler) Also kinda loved Lou (what a big softie????) and Tommy (loveable hot mess nerd). Kinda want like an entire book of them?
Missing Persons by Elie Marney -★★★
Oof I’m not sure about this one. The thing was I liked it, and I liked the characters? Or at least, I liked what I was starting to see, but I felt like I was missing a lot. I’ve found out now that this is actually a prequel to the Every series by the author, which sounds awesome and I should check out. The problem is that without the backing of the series and knowing these characters, I feel like it wasn’t as impactful as it could have been? Buuuuut that being said, the missing person sentiment was a really lovely one, and I felt the heart ache of leaving a place behind, and trying to start anew.
Oona Underground by Lili Wilkinson -★★★
Loved the fantasy vibes in this one! It was another one of those starts out very real feeling, grounded in a graffiti covered drain and then kinda dipping into a fae like world. You know, like they’d stepped into the mushroom ring at some point. I also liked the relationship between the two girls (another F/F relationship, good job #OzYA!), though I have to say I wasn’t a super big fan of <(spoiler)the motivation for going into the drain. I mean wanting to know someone will follow you anywhere is not awful on its own, but when it endangers their life…(spoiler) Was kinda confused by the ending, but also pretty satisfied by it?
The Feeling from Over Here by Gabrielle Tozer -★★★★
Oooh I love the whole trope of two people who used to be close but then something went terribly wrong and they’ve been avoiding each other until now, when they’re stuck together for some reason. I’m sure there’s a better name for this trope, but I’m all about it. I love the tension, and the unravelling of past wrongs and misunderstandings. I really liked Lucy, and her balancing act between strength and fear, and grudges and forgiveness. Also Cam was a sweetheart (aside from his dickhead moment, but everyone has at least four in their lives so…)
Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory by Danielle Binks -★★★★★
The feels!! This had that found family sort of vibe that I love, mixed with actual family (really really good family, actually), and nostalgia. Also a Deaf character surrounded by people who signed and spoke (or tried their best)! I mean there was a whole small town of dickheads who didn’t, but I always appreciate characters that give a shit? I guess as the eldest in my family I really empathised with King – torn between his plans for his future and the ache of leaving family behind. I loved that it wasn’t running away that motivated him, but running to? Also Bowie was a pretty lovely character, and I really felt her desire to keep up and the fear of everything changing and everyone leaving. I dunno, this story was just really sweet and soft.
Competition Entry #349 by Jaclyn Moriarty -★★★★★
This was too good! For one, I very much enjoy stories in unconventional formats/with unconventional prompts, so a competition entry is off to a pretty good start. And then time travel! I’m absolutely sold. I guess what I liked most about this was its entirely new take on time travel? Done in a series of ten minute intervals, with five sessions to the same time, and breaks in between, and with no ability to change the past. It’s the perfect solution to paradox avoidance?? Like why has no one tried writing it like this before? The ability to kinda walk back through memories, almost, but not your own? And the ability to change perspective and interact directly? Also, gotta say I’m a fan of the way she used her time travel opportunity. What a solid family? What a good romance plot? 11/10 would make her the winner of this competition.