What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of “he said/she said” stories-he tells it from the guy’s point of view, she tells it from the girl’s. These are stories of love and heartbreak. There’s the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flipside, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen.
Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated-because there are two sides to every story.
Tell Me More: The premise behind this anthology is so beautifully simple that it does make one wonder why writers haven’t attempted it before. Teen romances make bank, and I enjoyed the fact that these authors were willing to delve deeper and talk about perspectives and choices and the way these two things intertwine.
As this book is a short story collection, I’d like to discuss each story using a scale of 1-10 (according to how well the story was constructed, its organic unity, and enjoyability). I’ve paired the stories together by arc.
“Love or Something Like It” – 6: By the halfway point, I felt confident in saying that John and Wanda’s story would have been better served by a full novel. John is interesting, but the length constrained his character development. His realizations are too hurried, his decisions built on shallow foundations. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these two stories comes from how it’s never made clear to the reader why John even likes Wanda.
“Some Things Never Change”- 4: You know those people who talk just because they like to hear themselves? Wanda’s narration drove me up the wall with her inane chatter and too-cool-for-school attitude. Writing unlikable characters is fine, but the key is to also make them sympathetic. If readers are too busy wishing Wanda would shut up and go away, they’re not going to be able to reflect on the reasons behind her attitude.
“Falling Down to See the Moon” – 4: The great thing about short stories is that the word “short” isn’t really restrictive. They can get up to 30 pages, single space, and still be considered short stories. Unfortunately, it seems that the writers in this anthology may have tried to write the shortest stories possible for their entries. I barely had enough time to get to know Bobby before I got to the last scene. All I knew about him was that he was bullied and that he kind of had a thing for Nancy Whitepath. I saw no connection to the title or a reason to root for Bobby.
“Mooning Over Broken Stars” – 7: Definitely an improvement over the last story. Cynthia Leitich Smith made it clearer that Nancy and Bobby’s arc in this collection was only going to touch on the potential for a relationship, and not the whole thing. I would have appreciated knowing that early on in the story, but her take on Nancy is far more compelling and complete enough to sell the budding love story.
“Want to Meet – 8: This was the first story I truly enjoyed. That said, it has a highly problematic plot. As an LGBTQ piece, it’s stark and honest. I had Will Grayson, Will Grayson flashbacks during the first half, which is always a great sign. The second half builds up the tension wonderfully, but the twist ending? That was a bit of a disappointment. By the last line, the vibrancy of the characters felt contrived and lost.
“Meeting for Real – 7: I have mixed feelings about this story, mostly because there just wasn’t enough Alex to justify the plot. There are hints as to her own character development, but for a story about a girl who helps her brother find someone to love, her own personality isn’t fleshed out. She’s pushed to the side to focus on Cal and her brothers, which was disappointing. I genuinely liked her and I wanted to know about her issues and her life.
“No Clue, AKA Sean” – 7: Raffina’s confidence gives this story life. I loved her no-nonsense view of the world and the sheer strength in her narration. Her interest in Sean is palpable, and it’s clear from the start that she’s the kind of girl who knows exactly how to get what she wants. It was refreshing to find that the story can stand on its own.
“Sean + Raffina” – 9: Possibly the best story in the entire collection. Both Sean and Raffina were well-developed, and for the first time, I felt like the author actually understood them. I was also pleased to find that the previous story wasn’t just rehashed from a different POV–it gave the reader the chance to see what happens next. That potential, combined with stellar dialogue, was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise rather murky collection.
“Mouths of the Ganges” and “Mars at Night” – 7: I could write sonnets about how much I love these titles, but the stories themselves are a bit of a buzzkill. I liked the romance, but it could have used more page time to really grow into something swoon-worthy. That said, the descriptions are taut and vibrant, and the cultural dynamic is discussed in a sensitive, accurate manner.
“Launchpad to Neptune” – 10: I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that this story was placed last in the collection. On one hand, if I’d this story first, I might have been extremely disappointed in all the others that followed. On the other hand, I didn’t expect to find a truly excellent story at the end of this uneven anthology. The first paragraph hooks you almost immediately, and will keep you enthralled until the startling ending. My desire for well-written characters was fulfilled in Gavin and Stephanie, the descriptions were lush, the dialogue snappy and smart. “Launchpad to Neptune” makes me wish all the authors had written their stories in alternating perspectives instead of separating them completely, because when it works, it really works.
The Final Say: The concept might be simple, but this slightly uneven collection highlights the complexities of love in all its forms. I would definitely recommend this book to readers looking to start reading short stories.