Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
Overall Rating: 3.5 STARS
Before I get into my individual ratings for each story, I wanted to have a little introduction. I thought this would be a good review to start Pride Month with. Although the rating isn't extremely high, I did enjoy the majority of these stories and I believe about nine of the seventeen stories had a 3 star rating or higher. I do recommend this book of short stories if you are interested in reading more queer stories and don't know where to start.
Okay now onto the individual reviews!
Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
rep: Latinx, trans
Although a little confusing at first I really loved the writing style. I've read McLemore's book Wild Beauty and like Wild Beauty it just took me a moment to get used to the style of writing and the magical realism. I know I am going to be repeating myself often with my reviews of these stories but I do wish we had gotten more context of some sort, I feel like it would be easier to connect with the story. But that could be me too since sometimes with reading magical realism I have issues connecting to the story. However, the author's note gave Roja more meaning and it helped me appreciate it more. Especially for someone like me who doesn't know a lot about Latin history.
The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker
rep: f/f romance
That was so cute!! I want more! The only reason I feel like it couldn't have a higher rating is because it wasn't satisfying by the end. It felt incomplete and I feel like short stories should be able to stand on their own unless they are a preview for a story to come. Also, I do think that as I kept reading parts of the story have become forgettable for me. So although I definitely think if I re-read it again I'd love it more, I am sad to say that it didn't stick as well as some of the others.
And They Don't Kiss At The End by Nilah Magruder
rep: black, Filipino, asexual
This is one of my favorite stories of this collection. IT WAS SO CUTE! Being demisexual, which is a branch off of asexualty, I loved seeing asexual characters in this story. From the asexual character, to a love interest cute boy who is a great listener and open minded, and to the black and Filipino characters. Plus the roller skating rink setting that gave it this innocent and sweet vibe. I am all about this cute little story and like I have been saying over and over again (and will keep saying) I want moreee!!
Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee
rep: m/m relationship
I've recently read Mackenzi Lee's very well loved book The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virture which I enjoyed but I didn't love. One of my biggest problems was that I felt like the love interest and our main character lacked romantic chemistry. So going into this story I was worried. Fortunately, the characters in this story definitely had romance. It was incredibly sweet and I melted while reading.
The Dresser & The Chambermaid by Robin Talley
rep: f/f and m/m relationships
This one just didn't catch my interest. I found myself mostly skimming, bored and trying to latch onto something to get me excited about this story. Unfortuantely it just wasn't for me. Maybe the writing style wasn't my cup of tea.
New Year by Malinda Lo
rep: Chinese, f/f character
I'm surprised by my rating because I loved Malinda Lo's book Ash, a f/f retelling of Cinderella. With New Year, I felt disconnected from the story and detached from the characters. I was bored.Now looking back on the story I can barely remember the synopsis or general plot.
Molly's Lips by Dahlia Adler
rep: f/f relationship
Okay, this one was cute and heartwarming. I loved the romance and thought it was innocent and sweet. I also really loved the depiction of grieving for a celebrity or musician you don't know personally. Most people have gone through that kind of heartache and I think it can be mocked or not well explained, but Adler definitely does a great job capturing that pain.
The Coven by Kate Scelsa
rep: f/f relationship
This was incredibly cute. I love how confident the main character is of her and her love interest. She is sure of their love and I thought it came off endearing and sweet. Also the mental illness representation was really cool. The main character experiences "fog" which I interpreted as depression. I would have liked more information about the coven personally but overall I thought it was a good short story.
Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake
rep: trans, disability, POC, m/m relationship
WHAT?! THAT'S IT?! I need more! I'm in love with this Peter Pan/Lost Boys queer story. I was hooked almost immediately and felt so drawn to the characters and their dynamics. I am genuinely heartbroken that we cannot get more of this story and I'd do anything for Elliot Wake to write more.The writing was well done, the story was super cool, and I loved the characters.
Willows by Scott Tracey
rep: trans spectrum, m/m relationship
I kind of skimmed a good half of this. The plot was okay at first but I wasn't a fan of the writing style. Once the plot got a bit boring I ended up jumping ship and skimming the rest of the way through. I am not sure what it was but something was lacking in order for me to personally click with the story.
The Girl With The Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe
rep: f/f relationship
This was so cute oh my goodness. I enjoyed the writing style and I really loved the story. It was simple, innocent, and I loved the characters. Plus there was a dog and you can guarantee that makes a story ten times better in my opinion. I think the characters had a good chemistry and it was very magical.
The Secret Life of a Teenage \Boy by Alex Sanchez
rep: Cuban, m/m relationship
Okay so I really hate insta-love, and this story is a texbook example of insta-love, but this was really cute. The summer vibes, iced limeade, cute dachshund named Wanda, and a heartwarming sibling relationship. For me the romance is almost an after thought because it moves so quickly which takes away any substance to their relationship. I couldn't allow myself to enjoy the romance because in the back of my mind the insta-love was bugging me too much. I really enjoyed the writing and the family dynamic. This is definitely a story I wish we got more of so there would be more to the romance and the family.
Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger
rep: demisexuality, f/f relationship
This was super cute! I loved the demisexual representation and I thought the new friendship between the two characters was natural. It was almost a complete opposite of the last story. In both stories the pairs meet for the first time and their romance blooms throughout the story. Where the last story felt rushed and instant this story felt natural and subtle.
The End of the World As We Know It by Sara Farizan
rep: Turkish, f/f relationship
I really liked this story! I do wish the story was just a handful of pages longer because once the romance starts the story seems to end and there wasn't enough build up for me to feel invested enough in their romance. But overall it was a cute story and I loved the Y2K reference. Also, there is a moment where in the story the two main characters are talking about the Columbine school shooting and how that has got to be a one time thing because there's no way anyone would let a tragedy like that to keep happening and honestly I teared up and my heart broke a little.They also talked briefly about Matthew Shepard and his murder, which was another heartbreaking moment.
Three Witches by Tessa Gratton
rep: f/f relationship
I originally wasn't going to read this one because of the controversy that has come up when it comes to this author and how she's treated sexual assault survivors but I decided that I wanted to review the anthology as a whole so I would give it a shot. I think the beginning was written beautifully and I was actually enjoying it. But then I suddenly got bored and skimmed the rest. The plot kind of just started going downhill. However I did enjoy the writing.
The Inferno & The Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson
rep: m/m relationship
This was a bit of a mess for me. I wasn't interested in the plot or the characters which is a bummer because I was really excited for the magician storyline. I thought it sounded like fun. Maybe I didn't like the writing style? I am honestly not sure what it was about this one but I definitely wasn't connected to anything in this story.
Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia
rep: Latinx, f/f relationship
This magical realism story is such a heartwarming one. I have an odd relationship with magical realism.. I love the vibe I get from reading books in the genre and I like the whimsy and magical aspects. But it's also a bit floaty for me. It's hard for the story to feel grounded and tangible which makes it hard for me to picture the story clearly in my mind. However, I enjoyed the plot and the family themes. I wish there was more. The author isn't one I have heard of before but I definitely get Anna-Marie McLemore (her story was the first one in this anthology) vibes.
Like I said, this anthology was a lot of fun to read and I recommend it! I think this was a great way to start of Pride Month and I am so excited to look up some of these authors and read some of their other work because of how much I enjoyed their short stories. If I gave a low rating to an author you absolutely love please recommend me some of their work! I am totally not against giving most of these authors a second chance.