It is very apt for me to talk about All Out during June, which is Pride Month! All Out is a collection of queer YA short stories which I received for my birthday back in April.
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.
I absolutely loved this short story collection. As many of you know, I am a big short story fan, so I knew going into this that I would probably like this anthology. It is a bit outside of my comfort zone, however, because I don’t tend to read historical fiction. However, because this was queer, I thought that I would give it a go. And overall, I hugely enjoyed this collection!
Some of my favourite stories included:
- Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (retelling of Little Red Riding Hood mentioned in the blurb)
- And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Margruder (asexual girl discovering her sexuality, mentioned in the blurb)
- Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee (painting apprentice in 1638 Amsterdam is good at painting nudes…until he’s asked to paint the nude of a guy he has a crush on)
- Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler (two girls falling in love at Kurt Cobain’s wake, mentioned in the blurb)
Some honourable mentions have to be Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake (Robin Hood retelling where Robin is trans and dating Will) and The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson (Magicians! Curses! Love!)
The only story that I didn’t like was Willows by Scott Tracey. I was confused about what was going on, and I ended up skim-reading it. It had a cool concept, in that there was a genderless narrator, but there didn’t seem to be an actual plot. A lot of other reviewers have said the same thing.
One problem that I had with the collection is that it was incredibly West-centric. There could also have been more representation of POC in the anthology, in my opinion. Also, sometimes it wasn’t clear what the time period was – if it hadn’t been for the date at the beginning of each short story, some of them could have taken place in the present day. I also can’t believe that a story taking place in the 90s is now considered historical, but that’s just me being old.
Overall, I thought this was a great collection. I really like anthologies like this because it allowed me to sample the writing of different authors who I’d never tried before. And for the most part, the stories were a hit!