Friday, October 24, 2014

How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity

Michael Cart, Editor
Harper Teen
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


A girl thought to be a boy steals her sister's skirt, while a boy thought to be a girl refuses to wear a cornflower blue dress. One boy's love of a soldier leads to the death of a stranger. The present takes a bittersweet journey into the past when a man revisits the summer school where he had "an accidental romance." And a forgotten mother writes a poignant letter to the teenage daughter she hasn't seen for fourteen years.

Poised between the past and the future are the stories of now. In nontraditional narratives, short stories, and brief graphics, tales of anticipation and regret, eagerness and confusion present distinctively modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification. Together, they reflect the vibrant possibilities available for young people learning to love others—and themselves—in today's multifaceted and quickly changing world.

My Review

I couldn’t pass up this anthology, especially after learning that Margo Lanagan is one of the contributors. I was also thrilled to see other well-known writers I haven’t discovered yet, like Francesca Lia Block, Emma Donoghue, and Julie Anne Peters.

This collection of stories focuses on teen GLT experiences from a variety of perspectives. These are well-crafted stories, filled with conflict, growth and change. Because I enjoyed the majority of these stories so well, I will forgive the omission of bisexual experiences.

My favorites in this collection:

A Word From the Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan

This short story was the basis for Levithan’s later novel, Two Boys Kissing. This was gorgeous, both in its short form and its longer form. It examines the lives of a disparate group of teenagers and is told from the perspective of the men who lost their lives to AIDS.

My Virtual World by Francesca Lia Block

This is a beautifully written, honest story about a friendship that develops online between two troubled teenagers. They talk about art, pain, sexuality, gender identity, and gradually grow to trust and love one another.

Dear Lang by Emma Donoghue

This is a letter written to 16-year-old Lang by her estranged mother. Even though Lang doesn’t remember she once had two mothers, her mom’s pain and loss is still apparent. I cried so hard and called my mom after I was done reading.

The Missing Person by Jennifer Finney Boylan

14-year-old Jimmy knows he’s a girl before he knows the wordtransgendered. One summer he dons his sister’s skirt, applies some lipstick and goes the local horse show as Jenny. I loved the vivid descriptions that allowed me to get immersed in the festivities while seeing Jenny’s unique personality emerge.

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