We’re thrilled to be part of the review tour for Volume III of the YA literary magazine Sucker Literary. There aren’t enough venues for young adult short fiction out there, and we’re so glad that Sucker Literary is one of the few. And since our great love at Literoses is YA in all its shapes and sizes, it’s only natural that we’d want to review and spread the word about such a wonderful publication. Christina’s sharing her thoughts on this edition of the magazine – see them below!
(NOTE: I received this issue for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: G+G Books
Age Group: YA
Genres: Any and all genres in the YA age group!
Pages: 204 (paperback)
Format/Source: Kindle, Received from publisher (Thank you, Sucker Literary/G+G Books!)
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Eleven stories that delve into the depths of our experience—driven by fierce and untouched love that makes us seek, lose, fear, desire, long, reflect, survive, steal, protect, fall, and confess.
I’ll be reviewing the stories one by one, as they’re all so different, and in the order in which they appeared in my review copy.
“Her Tree Boy Blaze” by Lina Branter
Bullied and alone, Ainsley seeks refuge in the arms of a strange boy.
This was, in a word, haunting. The mix of fantasy and reality was perfectly jarring, and the third-person present tense narration did wonders for that blend. No doubt everyone’s familiar with my high standards for writing style, but Branter hit the spot with her talent for infusing mundane descriptions with mystery and power. While dealing with very real issues of cyberbullying, offline bullying, sex, and harassment, “Her Tree Boy Blaze” also weaves in a magical, earthy romance and the development of a teenage protagonist in ways even she didn’t think possible. This is one of those stories that presents itself as one thing – in this case, a contemporary “issue” story – and then slaps you with a quick “oh, never mind” and takes you on a ride completely unlike anything else out there. I would read a whole book of this, no lie.
“A Different Kind of Cute” by Hannah R. Goodman
“Pasty and chubby” Charlotte makes a public play for the “Tan and Smooth” king.
Effervescent, snarky, and almost painfully relatable, Charlotte is the main highlight of this funny and wistful short story. She deftly and subtly explores the idea of “conventional beauty” in her high-school setting with an irrepressible verve, and there’s nothing that she can’t be honest about. She is thoroughly, lovably teenage, and proud of it, too. Most importantly, she feels real, and that is the great achievement of “A Different Kind of Cute”. Though I wish the plot had been more drawn out – so I could read more, of course – that is thanks to this girl’s narrative voice. Even the parts that seem shallow really aren’t, and Charlotte’s pining for the ultimate popular/handsome boy is really a frame for a much deeper undercurrent. This story is irreverent. This story sparkles. This story will pack a punch in a part of your heart you didn’t even know existed.
“Just a Matter of Time” by Charity Tahmaseb
Time is slipping away for overachieving Sadie Lin, but reigniting an old flame might help.
This premise! Oh man. Though the one-sentence synopsis up there might not be the best descriptor for this story, let me sum it up for you: TIME THIEVERY. I could totally understand Sadie’s panic in the beginning – I’m often called an “overachiever” in school myself, and it does feel like there’s never enough time to get everything done. But making that very terribly literal? Now there’s an awesome setup. The character dynamics are so well done here as well. Maybe it’s because of my shared characteristics with Sadie, but I connected with her right away. I felt like I was getting a whole novel’s worth of development for all the central characters despite the story’s brevity, and this contributed hugely to my enjoyment of an already-great idea. This, just like “Her Tree Boy Blaze”, was a keenly observant blend of fantasy and contemporary fiction – and yet it had a wildly different flavor.
“If It Rains” by Kristina Wojtaszek
Scarred by a pressuring ex, Alexandra finally faces the rain.
This was such a freeing story. That’s how it felt the whole way through: completely and utterly free of restrictions. It was edgy. It was a breath of fresh air. But it wasn’t loud or obnoxious – it knew what it was worth and it let that value simmer in my mind. It came and went subtly but powerfully. I loved that this story mixed friendship and romance in equal proportions and tied them together so they didn’t clash. The greatest thing about that friendship-romance mix? It was about as cliché-free as it gets, and so much fun to read because of that uniqueness – adorable yet very meaningful. The voice was bittersweet and reflective in the very best ways while still capturing that YA feel perfectly. That balance is really hard to get a feel for, but it was definitely achieved here. This story certainly knew what it was doing, which made it truly a fulfilling experience to read.
“Halfway From” by Shelli Cornelison
A halfway house is no home for Dawn—or is it?
“Halfway From” was quirky. Like, its quirkiness knows no bounds, okay? But that was the appeal of it – the way it made seemingly disparate elements fit together. It had heart and it was messy. It wasn’t afraid to be all over the place. It was glorious in a way that took some getting used to. It wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I admit, this story may not appeal to all readers. There’s distinctive anger in its narration and a tendency to ramble. But I really appreciated its broken-glass tone, its light-on-fire approach. Dawn was the kind of person I’d be afraid to talk to in real life, but somehow finding her sharp and vulnerable in the lines of a short story felt right. This wasn’t a pretty piece of writing. It wasn’t a cleanly cut piece. It wanted to snap things in half and leave its readers for dead at some parts. But it was certainly a strong piece, in all the ways that matter.
“Superpower” by Mary Malhotra
How will Dana survive knowing everyone at school thinks she’s a monster, when they just may be right?
Ooh. SO MUCH YES. The mind-reading superpower is something encountered by readers all too often in every corner of literature. It’s so common and therefore so difficult to get right. But this – it’s sensitive. It’s unassuming. It’s very deeply emotional. And this is its strength. Dana’s not a flashy narrator. She doesn’t need to get her thoughts across in violent or overly colorful ways. She’s filled with regret and some resentment, but it doesn’t make her lash out. She doesn’t feel obligated to call attention to her mind-reading ability, but it’s present all the same. The magic is only weird for a moment – and then it melts into Dana’s reality. This story centers much more around the delicacy of person-person relationships and how difficult it is to repair them. Plus, it features a truly original way of introducing the mind-reading skill – adding a standout speculative bonus to what’s already a great mix of elements.
“Valentine’s Day” by Claudia Snow Classon
JJ and her crush finally get a moment alone—at his girlfriend’s hottest party of the year.
This story was hilarious and confident in its security (whoops, oxymoron). It was fun, flippant, and – dare I say it? – flirty. JJ definitely knows how to bring some fresh, vivacious light to a tried-and-true situation. It’s true that getting near your crush at his girlfriend’s party might not be the most groundbreaking premise in the world, but JJ and her bubbly narration never seem to care. This is some seriously cute contemporary fiction (and no, I’m not particularly ashamed that that’s another horrendous oxymoron). It’s like the infectious smile that spreads around the room despite everyone’s best intentions. If it were a song, it would be the one with a catchy beat and lyrics that everyone wants to dance to. Classon has done some good work with “Valentine’s Day” – sure to bring a laugh and a lighter heart for anyone who’s been reading Le Serious Shiz for a little too long.
“The H8TE” by Lilliam Rivera
Sixteen-year old Sarah prepares for her first day of school by chaining up her Mamí in her bedroom.
Chills. CHILLS. This is gritty, dark, dangerous. It is matches and switchblades and things gone wrong. Everything gone wrong, in fact. And it’s a knockout story for sure. A virus known as “the H8TE” has been spreading in Sarah’s region, infecting people and turning them into feral shadows of their former selves. And Sarah’s mother has it and is slowly crumbling before her eyes. The desperation and grief wrapped up in this is achingly human and universal despite the obvious science-fiction element. It’s full of panic, blind white panic that left me shaken. This story plummeted and soared in zigzags that made me heartsick and hopeful. It was spellbinding in a razor-sharp, tragic, brutal way. There was nothing it barred from me, nothing it avoided colliding with. This story fell apart in front of me and I loved it.
“How to Fall” by Kacey Vanderkarr
Alyssa’s life is a well-rehearsed ballet until a tragedy sends her hurtling towards a fall.
This was so well done. DANG. It’s a tight, complex weave of flashbacks and reality – a sweeping downward spiral. The way the flashbacks were placed and maneuvered within the present moment was breathtaking and beautifully, honestly written. This was especially noteworthy because many stories have trouble with shifting back and forth between timeframes. And the movement of the words, spun with such finesse, was a privilege to read. The layers of Alyssa’s complicated relationship with her mother were peeled back one by one using glimpses into the past. The ending was triumphant and perfect, like the sun coming out after rain, and truly satisfying. There was dance, there was sadness, there was an undeniable, brilliant hope, and most of all, there was one girl learning to pick herself back up. This story was a sigh and a death and a birth all at once. It was… pretty awesome.
“The Chemistry of You and Me” by Evelyn Ehrlich
Loving a boy is as simple as chemistry . . . unless that boy is an unstable element.
Okay, whoa. I’m in love. Madly. This was scientifically poetic – which is one of my favorite descriptors for anything ever. I’ve always had a fascination with the periodic table anyway, because I’m nerdy like that, but this combined an emotional, pure, thorny relationship with that interest, and it worked so much better than I ever could’ve imagined. Just… chemistry. Chemistry has such a capacity for telling stories. And the way it all tied together – the story is told in a series of vignettes about the narrator and her boyfriend, Cameron, and I have a weakness for vignettes. These snapshots feel like the truest portrait of life sometimes, and Ehrlich did a superb job of capturing that. Above all, her writing took power from the past, and there was weight in the narration. Reality is a thing with many folds, and that was apparent here. I can do nothing but applaud.
“Black Lacy” by Kimberly Kreines
The beautiful girl in the black, lacy push-up bra says that it’s time for Brenn to stop lying . . . at least to herself.
Dang. I mean, I haven’t read that much LGTBQ+ contemporary literature, but I’ve pretty much liked all of what I’ve seen so far. And this is no exception. Brenn spends the majority of the story feeling weak about her sexuality, trying desperately to deny it despite the obvious signs. Her self-realization is done very smoothly, and I loved watching her accept that she was attracted to girls – very gradually, but that was what made it so brilliant. It felt organic. It felt almost anonymous – this situation could apply to any girl discovering her sexuality in any school in any area – and that’s what really ensured that its impact was as far-reaching as possible. I felt as if I was experiencing this along with Brenn, and that introductory but deep aspect of it pulled this story closer to me. It was readying itself, and now that I’m finished with it, I feel that preparing sort of feeling myself.
GO. YOU NEED THIS MAGAZINE IN YOUR LIFE.