Queer short fiction (two novelettes and an anthology of short stories) I’ve read lately.
Second Kiss by Chelsea M. Cameron
Queer romance novellas are the best kind of romance. They’re short, so the conflict isn’t so drawn out it becomes unrealistic, and they’re less likely to have trite gendered dynamics and toxic masculinity everywhere.
Second Kiss is the story of Daisy, who works at the Violet Hill Café, and Molly, the girl who was Daisy’s best friend until she moved away for high school. It’s a very cute, fluffy f/f romance with almost no conflict, short even for a novella, and it was exactly what I wanted it to be.
One thing that made this story stand out for me – apart from the fact that no one writes fluffy f/f books like Chelsea M. Cameron – was the food. There were a lot of food mentions and descriptions, and I was hungry. Also some of the food was Italian and I always love when I see it in books because Italian food is the best food, when you don’t put pineapple on it.
There was a scene I didn’t like, one of the few that weren’t about the main couple. A side character tells Violet that romantic love isn’t really for her, and Daisy says something like “just wait”. I know that the sequel will follow that side character falling in love, and now I almost don’t want to read it. I’m aromantic, I had this kind of conversation in real life, and I don’t want romance books to remind me that some people think aromanticism is something you just grow out of (and maybe some people do, and maybe I will, but it’s still… not great to tell people they will). I understand that this is a romance trope and that the side character wasn’t meant to come across as aromantic, but that felt unnecessary to me.
My rating: ★★★¾
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans
Long Macchiatos and Monsters is a novelette that follows the romance between two disabled trans people of color in Melbourne – Jalen, who is genderqueer, and P, who is a trans man – as they bond over bad sci-fi movies.
It’s a really cute story with ownvoices trans representation, but the writing could have been better – the time jumps were jarring sometimes and the dialogue didn’t flow that well – and I have to say that “let’s have sex in random public places” has never been a trope that works for me.
Also, Italian Nitpick Time: “macchiato” means “stained”, not “stain”, that would be “macchia”. It’s a small thing but I don’t like when English speakers get this kind of thing wrong because really, it takes just a moment to check.
My rating: ★★★
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages
All Out is an anthology of historical fiction stories told from the point of view of queer characters. As a concept, I loved it, but the execution could have been better.
Before starting with the reviews of the individual stories, I want to say two things I didn’t like about the anthology as a whole.
There was only one story set outside the US and Europe, and all European stories were – with one exception – set in Northwestern Europe. I don’t know, as someone who is not American, I think this felt really unbalanced, and also: American history just isn’t that interesting if you’re not American.
My other complaint is that there was only one story with an asexual main character, only one story with a main character that could have been interpreted as non-binary, and no stories in which the existence of aromantic people was even acknowledged. I’m tired of seeing this happen, of seeing who is prioritized and who we like to ignore when we talk about queer people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we can finally acknowledge in fiction that queer people have always existed and are not a 20th century invention, but I wish All Out had been more inclusive and intersectional.
Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: El Bajío, México, 1870 – ★★★★★
The best story in the collection, even if it wasn’t my favorite Anna-Marie McLemore short story. It’s the only one set outside the US and Europe, and it follows a magical Mexican girl who wants to save the trans boy she loves, Léon. I loved how there was no naked reveal scene in this, and the beautiful atmosphere and magical realism aspects were as good as usual.
The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker: Virginia Colony, 1717 – ★★★★
Girls run away from their abusive soon-to-be-husbands and avoid marriage to marry each other and become pirates instead. The characters weren’t developed at all but this was funny and very cute and that was enough for me.
And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Magruder: Maryland, 1976 – ★★★★
A story about an asexual black girl trying to understand her asexuality when she doesn’t have a word for what she feels. I loved how this story talked about how you don’t have to know everything about your sexuality from the beginning and have time to figure things out.
Also, I really liked seeing a story about an asexual girl in a relationship with a guy in an anthology about queer stories because I am not there for gatekeeping.
I didn’t care that much about the actual romance in this story, however.
Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee: Amsterdam, 1638 – ★★★★½
If you liked The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, you should read this story. It’s similar and just as funny and it’s great. It’s about an apprentice who is great at painting nudes – until he has to paint the guy he likes. It wasn’t as awkward as it could have been because of the humor and I loved that.
The Dresser & the Chambermaid by Robin Talley: Kensington Palace, September 1726 – ★ DNF
My concept of meet cute does not include fighting over a full chamber pot. The writing was just as awkward.
New Year by Malinda Lo: San Francisco, January 21, 1955 – ★★★★★
About being Chinese-American and a lesbian in 1955. I’ve heard Malinda Lo’s next novel will follow similar themes (maybe the same characters?) and I can’t wait. I loved the writing and how this was more character-driven than the other stories and had no romance. Queer romances are great, but there’s more about being queer than romance and I’m glad that one of these stories talked about that.
Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler: Seattle, April 10, 1994 – ★★★★★
Two best friends who are Nirvana fans are mourning the death of Kurt Cobain and also falling in love. This was bittersweet but also hopeful? I really liked the writing and I believed in the relationship even though this was very short.
The Coven by Kate Scelsa: Paris, 1924 – ★ DNF
How can something about queer witches in Paris be this boring?
Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake: England, Late Fourteenth Century – ★★★★
Robin Hood is a trans boy! This is told from the point of view of a cis gay boy who is in love with Robin, and I loved the concept and the writing but the plot fell a bit short for me. However, I loved the deaf representation and the found family trope here.
Willows by Scott Tracey: Southwyck Bay, Massachusetts, 1732 – ★ DNF
Boring and confusing.
The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe: Northern California, 1849 – ★★★
I wish I had liked this more. This is a f/f fairytale with a beautiful atmosphere, but the characters were really flat and nothing about this surprised me; the only thing I actually liked were the descriptions.
The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez: Tidewater, Virginia, 1969 – ★★★
I liked the narration in this one, but it was also 100% instalove – why does the main character want to run away with someone he has just met? – and the age gap was uncomfortable. On the other hand, I did like the main character and the writing.
Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger: Upstate New York, 1952 – ★
A story about an actress and a waitress falling in love in a graveyard and thinking about their future and possibilities. I found it boring, and also did we really need so many American stories? There was nothing interesting about this setting.
The End of the World as We Know It by Sara Farizan: Massachusetts, 1999 – ★★★★
This felt more like a scene from a novel than a short story, but I really liked it anyway. It follows two friends who grew apart as they meet again and confess their love for each other. I loved both girls and would have liked to know more about them.
Also, Turkish representation!
Three Witches by Tessa Gratton: Kingdom of Castile, 1519 – ★★★½
A story about religion and conversion therapy. It’s darker than the other stories but the ending is powerful – and also, it has nuns that aren’t straight. I love Tessa Gratton’s writing style and while this wasn’t my favorite story she has written (I prefer her fantasy ones, I think), I ended up liking this. It’s also the only European story not set in Northwestern Europe.
The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson: London, 1839 – ★★★★★
“Magicians” – both actual and fake – in nineteenth century London. This was one of my favorites not only because I really liked how the relationship between the two boys developed, but also because I loved the narration and because the boys’ feelings about their mentors were really interesting to read.
Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia: Luna County, New Mexico, 1933 – ★★★★★
This is about a girl whose grandmother was a curandera. She is trying to heal the girl she loves, but her own mother and Rosa’s father make things more difficult. It’s a beautiful story – that writing! – and the perfect ending for this collection, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Average rating: 3.47
Have you read any of these?