It wasn’t until I was sat down to read FORESHADOW introductory issue that I realized I had never read a YA short story before.
This seemed strange–I like short stories. I’d taken an entire course on them in college, not to mention the annual units on the form in high school English. And most of my fiction diet is YA. I run a YA book blog and try to read a range of genres across the Young Adult category.
But I tried to think of any short story I’d read that focused on teenaged characters or concerns of adolescence and came up empty. Considering all the coming-of-age stories in classic novels, it seemed unlikely that I had never come across similar themes in short stories. Yet, here we are.
After the first issue of FORESHADOW, however, finding more YA short stories has moved up very high on my to-do list. That was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had in months, and it took just part of a single afternoon.
FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology is the brainchild of Emily X.R. Pan, fresh off the success of her debut The Astonishing Color of After, and Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us. While similar in many ways to a literary magazine, with short, monthly selections, FORESHADOW is technically a serial anthology. It is a limited project that will run twelve issues throughout 2019, then end, forming one large collection. The entire thing will be available to all readers for free online.
Pan and Suma have been very thoughtful about designing this project to have the most positive impact possible on the wider YA ecosystem. They are committed to keeping every issue free and paying contributors a nominal fee at the very least, though they hope to be able to pay writers and the FORESHADOW team competitive rates. To make this possible, they’re running an Indiegogo campaign for the next month, offering small perks like enamel pins and tote bags along much larger ones like critiques and phone calls with publishing professionals.
The team is also making a deliberate effort to use FORESHADOW to lift up minority and marginalized voices as well as authors new on the YA scene. Each issue will include two stories from established YA authors as well as a selection from a “new voice” in YA chosen by a known YA writer. The showcase issue, for example, includes a story chosen by Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything and one of my personal favorites, The Sun Is Also a Star.
Also slated to appear as curators or contributors are big names in YA like Becky Albertalli, Laurie Halse Anderson, Roshani Chokshi, Dhonielle Clayton, Brandy Colbert, Stephanie Kuehn, Nina LaCour, Justine Larbalestier, Malinda Lo, Samantha Mabry, Bennett Madison, Adam Silvera, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Courtney Summers, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Wendy Xu.
The first regular issue is planned for this coming January. In the meantime, you can find the debut “showcase” issue online now.
The following reviews will be as spoiler-free as possible–with stories of only a few thousand words, it doesn’t make sense to give more than a vague idea of the subject matter. I’ll be giving content warnings and genre descriptions, but no star ratings. Since these are the only YA short stories I’ve read, I don’t feel that I have the context to do that. (If I were to try to compare my reading experience with these stories to my rating system for novels, I’m confident these would each be four or five stars.) As a newcomer to the form in YA, I’m easily impressed, but I still found all three of these to be extraordinary reads.
“Prepare yourself for your heart’s true story.”
A young couple undergoes a medical procedure to weigh the love in their hearts.
This one was probably my favorite of the three, mainly because it’s closest to the type of story I like to read. The distant, constantly shifting third-person perspective gave the story the breezy feeling of events watched from afar. This is an interesting style choice since the story’s focus is very internal–an interrogation into a relationship that wonders whether love can ever truly last or truly fade.
Expect a little light science fiction. A peppering of tiny details let me know that we were in a near, advanced future without letting unnecessary worldbuilding get in the way of the real story: Grace and Marcus, who we find facing that favorite crossroads of YA, the impending end of high school.
I expect the placement of “Weight” as the very first FORESHADOW pick was very deliberate; it’s a great first short story.
“Hover” – Samantha Mabry
“Is it here now?”
Rebecca’s twin sister, Daisy, says she sees a ghost in their new house.
It’s a ghost story, everybody! And a very good one. Sometimes stories like this (heavy on the psychological mystery, light on the exposition) make me feel stupid, but this one seemed to take me by the hand and lead me slowly, creepily, into the unsettlingly mundane world of Rebecca’s new home. It’s a quick paranormal thrill that, at its heart, is a story of siblings struggling against change and loneliness.
While I enjoyed reading it curled on my couch, I suspect its best method of transmission would be whispered from across a campfire by a serious face illuminated by a flashlight.
I am okay now.
Laila struggles to face past trauma and the prospect of leaving home for college.
“In the space of just a few pages, ‘Solace’ takes us on the beautiful, hopeful journey of a young woman trying to find her way back to herself. It’s a lovely story of new love, recovery, and a magical garden.” —Nicola Yoon
“Solace” is quite unlike the first two stories. While they were mainly driven by a concept, a device, a plot, this one is mostly concerned with character study. The arc is almost entirely internal as we, through Laila’s first-person perspective, watch her fight to find purpose and meaning in the wake of public loss and private battles. This story is significantly longer than the other two, and Elghazzawi makes good use of the extra words to craft several rich relationships. It’s painful and human and lovingly written.
Read no further if you want to go in absolutely blind, but I wanted to mention that this story (while probably not the first of the three that I’d recommend to friends) contains my favorite paragraph in the issue, one that just gutted me:
I’m okay, and that’s what makes this so much worse. When you’re a mess, no one expects anything of you. But I’ve been so good. There’s beautiful, beautiful stuff I’d be throwing away if I screwed up now. Because I’m okay.
And it’s so, so hard to be.
Ouch. I don’t think of myself as having a lot in common with Laila, but there’s some very raw honesty in that story that went straight into my soul.
Content warnings: eating disorder; death of a family member/survivor’s guilt
Have you read FORESHADOW‘s first issue yet? What was your favorite story?