Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Maybe it was because it was Pride weekend or something, but the gayness continued with Not The Only One a book of lesbian and gay YA short stories edited by Tony Grima.

Now, I have a few issues with short stories. I have read some fantastic ones (The Lottery, To Build a Fire, Nightfall, The Lady or the Tiger, etc) but for the most part I much prefer getting lost in a novel. Many modern short stories I've read seem to be either understated with small, but supposedly life-altering, turning points, or they are self-consciously arty and pretentious and it's all about playing with the form. The same can be said for modern fiction as well, but I guess I notice it more in short stories because they are compressed by the limitations of space and I don't have the time to get used to the author and her style (although the short exposure to some styles in certain short stories is definitely a Good Thing). There are some great short stories being written (Adam Haslett comes to mind, as does DFW) but I have found them to be the exception to my usual preference.

But when it comes to YA fiction and short stories, authors and publishers assume that teenagers won't put up with all that crap and they just tell the freakin' story. Not that there isn't depth or character growth or any of that in YA books, but things seem to get dialed back a bit; the story is left to shine (or fail) on its merits. And with the impatience and short attention span that has flourished in teenagers (and adults, to some extent - internet, video games, etc) the story has to be engaging to hold their interest. I find YA novels and stories to be a quick palate cleanser; they distract me from the last thing I read, good or bad, are quick and filling without being too heavy, and don't require a huge commitment. Which perfectly describes Not the Only One. These are stories with kids coming to terms with gay family members, teachers, friends, or with being gay themselves. Not all the stories are happy - several are very dark and some are bittersweet, but there are enough moments of joy and love to make the whole experience pretty positive. The stories themselves aren't anything new, but they are well-told, with appealing narrators and characters who have to come to terms with homosexuality in their lives.

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