This book has something sorely lacking in YA fiction - a protagonist who is overweight. But while her weight does (realistically) lead to snap judgments from people and bullying, there is SO much more to her (e.g. a love of dance, an awesome relationship with her Dad) and it's wonderful to read her portrayed in such a positive light. The other protagonist, Jack, struggles with some typical teen boy issues of "why am I compelled to do shitty things when I want to be a good person?" and some not-so-typical issues including a rare neurological disorder that renders him unable to recognise faces. It's a love story, but it's much more than that. It's about how we judge each other, and how we maybe *should* judge each other.
I was so unsure how to review this. As a whole, or individual stories? 5 sentences each? Just the highlights? In the end I went with 5 sentences overall plus 2 for each story. But the short version is: read it!!!!
I loved this book. An amazing selection of stories, and while there are some in genres I wouldn't normally enjoy (SFF, I'm looking at you!) each story had something to keep me reading and was very well written. Putting Jaclyn Moriarty's at the end was a great move for me, because she's my favourite author so it was like a reward for finishing or something - the dessert after the meal. Short stories are underrated and especially good for young readers who can squish one in on the bus on the way to school or between homework and netball or whatever. An excellent opportunity to find yourself a new favourite author (or 10).
One Small Step... The first girl born on Mars reveals the pressures of being a part of history, while trying to save her best friend/crush. Not something I'd ordinarily pick up but there were so many fascinating things to think about in this story and I've found myself recommending it many times since reading.
I Can See The Ending Another cool premise, where a teen psychic witnesses his own divorce and must work out why it's worth falling in love anyway. Great characters and believable relationships, in what is ultimately a story about finding joy and taking risks.
In a Heartbeat Teen pregnancy makes for a simple, often cliched story, but it's the execution that makes this shine. The main character's relationship with her own mother is depicted in wonderful detail for a short piece, and for me as a white reader, reading a somewhat familiar plot with an unfamiliar cultural background made the story fresh.
First Casualty Another sci-fi, which is not my cup of tea, but a great example of how alternate or futuristic worlds can be used to to explore social issues in our world. For anyone familiar with Australia's asylum seeker policies, this will leave you despairing over politics and the immoral behaviour of people with power.
Sundays Straight-up romance isn't really my thing either, but this wasn't bad. There's something very relatable about teenagers pinning their worldview of relationships on "that" one couple, and how something simple can trigger all kinds of anxieties about the future.
Missing Persons A contemporary for anyone who has ever had to move away from home. I didn't find this a particularly memorable story, but I could relate to the main character and the settings were very well established.
Oona Underground This is a bit of an odd one, where magic realism is used to help two friends realise that their love for one another is more than platonic. I found myself drawn into it like the characters were drawn into the maze underground.
The Feeling From Over Here A contemporary that I really enjoyed, with a very straightforward premise - 2 people with a history get stuck next to one another on a very long bus ride. There's an important lesson here, about how good people can do horrible things and the long-term impact our words can have on others.
Last Night At the Mount Solemn Observatory This is another that is character driven rather than plot driven, as a girl struggles to say goodbye to her older brother before he begins his adult life away from the family. Again, I wouldn't list it in a "best of the year" or anything, but it's a sweet story that doesn't rely on romance, which is rare in YA fiction.
Competition Entry #349 Time travel which doesn't change the past or make heros - instead, the main character gets to go back for ten minutes at a time to witness her first kiss and work out what went wrong. Everything I love about Moriarty in condensed form, this is quirky, well-thought out, clever and fun.