With the heat of summer comes the full bloom of young love in Duet’s first collection of stories. This anthology of nine new authors features short stories of young adult LGBTQ love from across the country and across the spectrum. In “The Fire-Eater’s Daughter,” an immigrant’s daughter falls in love with a carnival worker who only comes back once a year, forcing her to decide if she can run away for love or stay with her family. “Beautiful Monsters” features a story of a young politico meeting the part of himself he most fears when he’s assigned to coordinate volunteers for a pride parade. “What the Heart Wants” finds Noam falling in love with the figure model in her summer art class, forcing her to come out not only to her friends and family but also to herself. In these and the rest of the collection, young love springs forward with fullness and vibrance.
The collection has moments of incredible heart. Standout stories include “What the Heart Wants” and “The Fire-Eater’s Daughter” for their depth and ability to move the reader in these bite-sized tales. Further, it does a great job of putting forth people from across the LGBTQ spectrum: three stories involve lesbian or bisexual women, five stories gay or bisexual men, and another a story of a female-to-male transgender teen.
Overall though, the collection suffers from stories that share a repetitive and predictable structure. Many of the stories take place on the beach or near water. Nearly all of the stories feature an inexperienced protagonist meeting an older and more LGBT-experienced love interest who coaxes them into feeling more comfortable. The story closes on a kiss (with the exception of the platonic “My Best Friend”) almost universally. All friends and family in the collection are almost preternaturally supportive of queer relationships. It tends to come off as a too precious and common. Another problem is that the protagonist of “The Most Handsome” as “transgendered.”
This book is recommended for libraries seeking to boost their LGBT offerings intended for young adult audiences. It fits into a niche of YA LGBT romance short story collections that currently has few titles. However, a repetitive structure and lack of depth may allow for libraries with smaller collection budgets to skip this title.
-John Mack Freeman