ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
First off, I did enjoy this, but this collection uses the term “love triangle” very loosely, in my opinion. Some of the stories could have probably benefited from a stricter use of the word. It was so very diverse in race, sexuality, settings, social structures, and more, and I really appreciated it. I honestly felt like the majority of these stories had a queer aspect to them and that brings so much joy to me. A few of the stories even beautifully showcases budding polyamorous relationships, which is almost unheard of in YA! But like all anthologies, this was a mixed bag, yet overall, I really did enjoy reading this anthology for the most part. I also feel like there is a big enough variety that most people will come out with at least a couple five star stories out of the sixteen.
And I stuck to my Fantasy roots, because my personal favorite in the whole collection was Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton, who was a completely new to me author before this anthology! Their story was a high fantasy short that beautifully features an open-minded start of a polyamorous relationship, set in an amazingly unique world, that also features a kingdom that heavily believes in their religion at all costs. This was smart, this was sexy, this was emotional, and this was honestly perfect for me and my tastes. Please, give me more from this world in a full-length version. But I also want to state that Julie Murphy’s Lessons for Beginners was a very close second (and so worth everyone’s time to read)!
But moving on, I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!
➽ Riddles in Mathematics by Katie Cotugno – ★★★★
This was such a good opening story, oh my word! This is a queer short story, set at Christmas/New Years’ time, and stars a girl that has just recently came out to her family. She is struggling with how they perceive her, even though they are really lovely and accepting, and she is struggling to stop feeling so lonely with her unrequited crush, who also happens to be her brother’s best friend. This felt so authentic, and real, and was able to evoke a lot of emotions from me. I loved this completely, and the only reason I gave this four stars was because I never really felt a love triangle! But this was still so amazing.
➽ Dread South by Justina Ireland – ★★★★★
Okay, this was an extra good read for me, because I just read and loved Dread Nation last month! Well, this short story is part of that world, where an alternate history is taking place after the American Civil War! The blacks and Native children in this world have to go to combat schools to eventually protect the whites from the zombies that now walk among us. And our main character, Louisa, is gifted a girl to protect her, by the boy she thinks she is destined to marry. Louisa, slowfully and painfully, starts to realize her privilege, and then starts thinking about what she really wants from life. Oh, and in case you couldn’t tell, this is also a queer story! And that ending was honestly perfection.
➽ Omega Ship by Rae Carson – ★★
This was a… very unexpected love triangle for this collection. Basically, an asteroid was going to destroy Earth in nine months time, so a space ship was launched with a bunch of kids so that that they could repopulate a new habitable planet. Well, this story is about how only three of those kids made it out alive and were able to get to the escape pod to land on the new planet. The three survivors are one girl and two boys, and the girl now feels the weight of the world on her shoulders (literally), because she is going to have to repopulate the human race with only her womb. And she has to pick what boy she wants to repopulate with first. This story just… felt not good? Like, it was trying to take a feminist angle on everything, and how the girl should be in control of her body, but it just felt like three hot teens were hanging out and excited to have sex with each other. But if this turns into a full length, NA, polyamorous story… sign me up for that.
➽ La Revancha del Tango by Renee Ahdieh – ★
I really didn’t enjoy this one. It’s about a girl who just graduated high school and traveled to Argentina alone, to stay in a hostel for one night before her brother meets her. She is still grieving from her dad’s death, and she makes a few book references, and she… likes to salsa dance (all of these just feel so forced and random. But the main character, despite traveling alone and going to a nightclub with people she just met at a hostel, also felt so rude all the time to me. And, I’m still desperately confused as to who was the other point of the love triangle. The dancer? I honestly didn’t like anything about this, I’m sorry.
➽ Cass, An, and Dra by Natalie C. Parker – ★★★
Cass is obsessed with the different paths in life a person can take. She is constantly thinking and analyzing what her choice(s) will lead to, since she can kind of predict and/or see what is going to steam from the choice(s). But the one thing Cass is always certain will be a constantly in her life is An, that is, until she meets Dra. This was a bit weird, and it felt really disjointed while reading, I also didn’t care for Cass not being completely open with her feelings and actions. And the ending really left a lot to be desired. But I loved seeing a genderfluid love triangle point, and everyone used they/them pronouns! But now, after I talked about this with Destiny, I’m questioning if this was just a huge metaphor for Cass’ self-identity because, CassAnDra…. And now my mind is blown, and I’m just unsure how to interpret this! But maybe that’s the beauty of it.
➽ Lessons for Beginners by Julie Murphy – ★★★★★
Our main character is an expert kisser, and gives kissing lessons to other kids from her school. She has a website, and sets up everything online, so her identity remains anonymous until the teaching begins. Ruby only has one real friend, Paul, and everyone is always really surprised to find out that she is the “Kisser Fixer”. And then one day a childhood friend of hers and her boyfriend require her services. This was perfect. Heartwarming, emotional, everything, and had such good representation (queer, body, and race). I loved this so much. This is actually the first thing I’ve ever read from Julie Murphy, and now I want anything and everything by her.
➽ Triangle Solo by Garth Nix – ★
This one just didn’t work for me, probably because it’s about two high school boys lusting over the beautiful new girl they knew in their youth. And even though this is sort of an SFF short, because they live and go to school on a planet that is not Earth, it still read like basic horny teenage boys. And I’m just not about that life. Especially when they are viewing something as lesser until they realize they can use it as a way to get the girl.
➽ Vim and Vigor by Veronica Roth – ★★★★★
I really enjoyed this. This is about a girl picking between two boys to go to prom with, and then she realizes her value and how friends can love you just as well as any boy ever could. This was so pure, and I honestly just had fun reading it. Also, it’s about girls in a comic club that draw and love their fandom, while also grieving the loss of one of their members. This was just heartwarming, and easily one of the best stories in this collection. And give me all the stories about girls picking their friends who unconditionally love them!
➽ Work in Progress by E.K. Johnston – ★
I’m not sure what would possess this author to think that writing three separate stories, all told in 2nd person, all feeling and sounding like the same person, even though they are all completely different points of view, would be a good idea. But needless to say, this did not work for me in the slightest. The third story was the strongest, but I was too annoyed, irritated, and confused at that point to even care.
➽ Hurdles by Brandy Colbert – ★★★★
This story had so much good packed inside of this short little story. This story heavily talks about being the person your parents want you to be, while also trying to balance being the person you want to be. It talks about parents putting too much pressure on their kids, and maybe even trying to live vicariously through them. It talks about addiction, alcohol abuse specifically, and how we treat people once they come back from getting help. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this story meant a lot to me, and high school Melanie would have been able to connect with this story immediately. My only problem was the ending. I’m not saying that cliffhangers or open-ended endings are the worst thing ever, but I just wanted more. Like, write me this full-length novel, please, Brandy Colbert. I’m honestly begging you. This story was great, the characters were fully fleshed out (which is beyond impressive for a short story), and the writing was completely addicting. This was the first thing I’ve read by Brandy Colbert, but now I want to read everything. I really enjoyed this.
➽ The Historian, The Garrison, and the Cantakerous Catwoman by Lamar Giles – ★★★★
Okay, I really enjoyed this one. Morally grey main protagonist, who is learning the life lesson that not everyone will love you the way you love them, while also being a story filled with monster hunting. Like, sign me the hell up for a full-length version of this. I’m legit only giving this four stars, because this could have been such a beautiful polyamorous relationship that would have given me everything I would have ever wanted.
➽ Waiting by Sabaa Tahir – ★
Okay, this is going to sound horrible and petty, but… she picked the wrong guy. Like, I’m all about how you can’t tell people who to love, but like, no. This story is a perfect example of what I do not like in a love triangle. And that’s why it never truly feels like a love triangle and the girl picks the dude she first laid eyes on first anyways, because… reasons Seriously, Fèlix deserved so much better.
➽ Vega by Brenna Yovanoff – ★★★
All the different names just being dropped at the start was really off-putting. But this short story does take place in Vegas, which is where I live, so I wanted to enjoy it, but it’s filled with the Vegas stereotypes of gambling, drug use, and addiction. I mean, I know that’s an important and very really discussion for many, but it’s a reality for many people in many cities, not just Vegas. I don’t know, maybe I’m being biased, but I just wish it didn’t feel so bad for me to read. I will say that this book feels very much like Vegas, and the author does a wonderful job teleporting you there. I also feel like this is a type of story that I really like though, and I think the love triangle between that stars a girl picking between a boy she has loved her whole life and a city is pretty genius. And it was a much different read than most in this collection, so I appreciated it.
➽ A Hundred Thousand Threads by Alaya Dawn Johnson – ★★
This was just really boring to me and I honestly felt like I had to force myself to finish it. Maybe it was because the format was told in messages, but I’m not even sure I can blame the disconnect on that. Basically, the only thing I enjoyed was a Mexico City set in the future. And I can see some people really enjoying the plot twist, but I thought it was really predictable.
➽ Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★★
I do think this was the high fantasy polyamorous short story that I was after while starting this anthology. Safiya is Moon Eater’s Mistress and her position is very important among her people. Her blessings mean the difference between everything, while her family also sits upon the throne. Unfortunately, Safiya is also unable to take a male lover named Enver, because she must be dedicated to their God. Yet, her best friend, Farah, has sworn her life to her. But Safiya and Farah both want Enver, and Safiya doesn’t want Farah to miss out because of her and the station that was placed on her. This was so freaking amazing. This was smart, this was sexy, this was emotional, and that first kiss, holy moly, that first kiss blew me away. I loved this. This was my favorite of the collection, and I’d love to have a full length story of these characters and this world.
➽ Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen – ★★★★★
Um, this is about undead vampires at a Catholic boarding school who are thinking about a polyamorous relationship. It’s diverse with race and sexuality, the characters were phenomenal, the writing was excellent, and it’s pretty much the only thing I wanted for Christmas this year. I don’t want to say too much, because this story is definitely best to go into blind, but that ending was so damn shocking, but perfect in and of itself. I really loved this one.
I gave Three Sides of a Heart 3 stars overall, because out of a possible 80 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 16 stories) this collection accumulated 51 stars (~63%).