Underdog: #LoveOzYa Short Stories, Edited by Tobias Madden, with a foreward by Fleur Ferris
This collection of short stories by new Australian writers has been on my radar for some time now (those of you who know me would know I’m a huge #LoveOzYa fan!) Finally I had the chance to read this collection - and happily it did not disappoint. A lot of short story collections have at least a couple of stories that don’t resonate with me – or that I even skip over after a few pages in (gasp! I know I should give every story a chance). But the point is – this did not happen with this fabulous collection, each and every story was compelling and showed remarkable insight into the teen experience. Threaded throughout the collection – even the darker-edged stories – was a shimmering hope. And, of course, hope is what we all need right now.
There is a good balance of light and dark in this collection. Cassi Dorian’s hard-hitting ‘Afterdeath’ will take your breath away, while Sarah Taviani’s dystopian ‘Mediocre Heroes’ emanates humour. If you enjoy stories that give you chills, then look no further than Sophie L Macdonald’s ‘Breathe Me In’, and if you feel like you need a bit of a cry then you will no doubt find the sad but uplifting ‘Living Rose’ by Kaneana May compelling reading.
It is hard to pick favourites, as I loved all these stories, but standouts for me included ‘Meet and Greet’ by Michael Earp – I could totally relate to bookstagrammer Cooper’s fanboy feelings as he waited in line to meet his favourite author. While waiting, Cooper unexpectedly meets someone in line, who might just be able to lead him on the path to healing. I would love to read a whole novel about Cooper!
I also loved ‘The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife’ by Vivian Wei, which takes us on a sensory journey through culinary and mourning experiences from China to Sydney, ‘Variation’ by Tobias Madden, in which ballet dancer Andrew comes to discover a new sense of self, ‘Chemical Expression’ by Jes Layton, which slowly reveals the real reason why Autumn buys drugs from another kid at school, and the lyrically written ‘The Gap Between Us’ by Sofia Casanova, in which Lucy feels caught between following her heart and meeting her parent’s expectations of her. With glittering sentences like “the fading light catches the beads of water on her face, like tiny crystals embedded in her skin” (p.225), I lingered over the sentences in Sofia’s story.
Each story is crafted with skill and shows remarkable talent - l look forward to seeing what these writers do next! Do also make sure to read the forward by Fleur Ferris – there are some inspiring words for aspiring authors as Fleur describes her path to publication. I’ll leave you with this quote: “To the driven and dedicated writers out there who aspire to be published, please know that with the uncertainty comes unlimited possibilities, and this is the most exciting and inspiring thing.”
Published by Underdog Books in 2019.