Book review · contemporary · Short fiction

Review: Color Outside the Lines, edited by Sangu Mandanna

40960763Color Outside the Lines is an anthology about interracial relationships across time and genres. It’s about the ways these relationships are both different and the same as the ones that aren’t interracial; it doesn’t only talk about love, culture, and prejudice, but also about family, friendships, communication, expectations and legacies, from many different points of view.

I thought this was a solid anthology. As usual, I didn’t like every single story, but while the ending was a bit weak, I found some favorites in here.

Turn the Sky To Petals by Anna-Marie McLemore – 5 stars
This might be my favorite McLemore short story? I’ve loved Roja from All Out and Glamour from The Radical Element too, but not as much as this one, and I don’t think this even had magical realism elements – the atmosphere and themes made this perfect and just as magical as her stories that actually had magic in them.
It’s a story about a Romani boy who once played the cimbalom and a Latinx girl who liked to dance, brought together by their experiences with chronic pain. They meet while they’re helping their town to prepare for a rich man’s wedding, and said wedding includes the most beautifully described rain of flowers ever.

TK by Danielle Page – no rating, not in the review copy

What We Love by Lauren Gibaldi – 2.5 stars
This story is about a Jewish girl and an Indian boy, and it talks about what it’s like to not fit in and be othered, and how people who are from different backgrounds can experience this in different yet similar ways. It also talks about familial expectations and about legacies – the focus on what we leave behind was what I appreciated the most about this story (and: if you like Star Wars references, read this). However, I found this story disappointing, because the antagonist is the stereotypical Blonde Mean Girl Who Wears Revealing Dresses (she’s wearing a short, tight dress and grinding on a boy!). It’s not that racist bullies who are also attractive white girls don’t exist, but the problem is that she’s racist and a bully, not her clothes.

Giving Up the Ghost by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas – 2 stars
This is the story that worked for me the least. It’s about a world in which everyone has a ghost who is one of their ancestors, and it follows a South Asian boy (I think?), whose ghost is probably the most successful pirate in history, Ching Shih. I loved the worldbuilding here and how it talked about communication and history, but sadly the fearsome Ching Shih read like a bratty ten-year-old and this ended up not being enjoyable at all.

Your Life Matters by L.L. McKinney – 4 stars
The first f/f story! It’s about a black superheroine, her white girlfriend/sidekick, the Black Lives Matter movement, and people changing for the better. It deals with some heavy themes – like police violence and dating someone from a racist family – and at its heart is an hopeful story, which I really appreciated. It made me want to try McKinney’s novels, even though Alice in Wonderland retellings have never been my kind of thing.

Starlight and Moondust by Lori M. Lee – 5 stars
This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. It follows Hlee Khue, a Hmong girl, and it’s a story about stories (I always love those). It’s not just about Hlee, even though she’s the main character: it also talks about an old woman who is a healer, and a boy with a mysterious past. It talks about the way non-western stories and beliefs are held to different standard from western ones, seen as sillier/more absurd just because they’re not western.
It’s a magical story full of beautiful descriptions (the atmosphere! the food! the dragons!) and now I want to read more from Lori M. Lee, since I never had before.

Five Times Shiva Met Harry by Sangu Mandanna – 4 stars
A not-always-lighthearted but cute story about an Indian girl and a white boy who start dating almost by accident. It’s about how sheltered, privileged people can grow up without ever challenging racist and imperialist assumptions – but they can also change once that’s brought to their attention. I liked how this story casually mentioned that Shiva’s brother is dating a boy who is Zimbabwean-American.

The Agony of a Heart’s Wish by Samira Ahmed – 4 stars
This was heartbreaking. It’s a story about colonialism, following an Indian girl and an Irish boy as they meet on a train in colonial India, and bond over Yeats’ poems. They never meet again, but meeting each other changed their lives.

The Coward’s Guide to Falling in Love by Caroline Tung Richmond – 4.5 stars
Not a Romeo and Juliet retelling!
I loved the setup in this one, the themes, and the main character’s voice. It’s the kind of lighthearted contemporary I love – fun and never lacking in depth. It follows a Chinese-American girl who has a crush on a boy of Montenegrin descent. I remember that I also really liked another short story by this author a few years ago, The Red Raven Ball from A Tyranny of Petticoats, so I can’t wait to read her story in Hungry Hearts too.

Death and the Maiden by Tara Sim – 5 stars
An f/f Hades and Persephone retelling with an Indian main character! This story was beautifully written and it made me want to read more of Tara Sim’s books even though I didn’t love Timekeeper. This had the best aesthetics, atmosphere (the writing reminded me of Strange Grace, which is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read), themes I loved – it’s about life, death, and growth. I want this to become a full-length novel so badly.

Faithfull by Karuna Riazi – 3.5 stars
A story about a girl and her complicated relationships with her self-absorbed mother, who is now marrying a Moroccan man. This is mostly about friendships, food (so many food descriptions!) and what makes a family. I didn’t feel strongly about it but I liked the message.

Gilman Street by Michelle Ruiz Keil – 3.5 stars
This is a story about self-discovery following a biracial, bisexual Mexican girl as she meets a biracial boy who is Filipino, kisses a Mexican girl, and discovers that some people are better left behind. This is historical fiction – set in 1980, I think – and now I want to see what the author will do with her debut novel this year, as I’ve heard it’s historical fiction too.

The Boy Is by Elsie Chapman – 3.5 stars
This is a story about dating as a Chinese-American girl. It talks about the conflicting expectations of family members, yellow fever, and… pros and cons. It was an interesting read, if really short. Elsie Chapman was also a new-to-me author, and I think I like her writing, so maybe I’ll try her novel Caster when it comes out.

Sandwiched in Between by Eric Smith – 3 stars
I don’t think Eric Smith’s writing is for me, and that’s the main reason I’m not rating this story high – I like what this said about family, adoption, communication and “colorblindness”, but I just can’t get into his books.

Yuna and the Wall by Lydia Kang – 3.5 stars
A fantasy story following the daughter of a poisoner and a boy who is hated for his scars. It’s about people finding each other when society doesn’t accept them; I liked its message and what I saw of this world. Like Kang’s Toxic, this story almost read like middle grade, but this time I didn’t have any problems with that because I expected it.

TK by Adam Silvera – no rating, not in this copy

My average rating is 3,80, which is pretty good for an anthology (and I think that if the Adam Silvera story had been there, the rating would have been even higher).

5 thoughts on “Review: Color Outside the Lines, edited by Sangu Mandanna

  1. Great review! Some of these stories sound wonderful. Especially Turn the Sky To Petals, Starlight and Moondust, The Agony of a Heart’s Wish and Death and the Maiden. Which also all happen to have amazing titles! Maybe I’ll add this one to my TBR (if I ever finish the two anthologies I already own, if I not it might be time to admit anthologies are not for me…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I don’t like anthologies that much either – I only end up reading them when I get approved for an ARC, I never end up buying them, there’s so much free short fiction online already! – but I can say that this is the best one I’ve read in the last year.


  2. Oh!!! Anthologies are so hard for me to read but I really want to get this, mostly for the Tara Sim one, not gonna lie, but some of the other ones sound amazing too!
    Great review! 💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! The Tara Sim story was so wonderful it made me doubt my review of Timekeeper? I remember not liking it but it wouldn’t be the first time I read a book at the wrong moment, maybe I’ll give it another chance (and I’m glad that series worked for you!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The first book is kind of typical YA as far as structure goes but I loved it and its writing style so much. And the next two books are just so much More of everything and they have basically everything I like from YA fantasy (well, technically steampunk). I would also recommend the audiobooks but I know you’re not into that dldhdk

        Liked by 1 person

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