Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (eds) – Kaleidoscope

krasnosteinrios-kaleidoscopeWhat do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices:

Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

One of the most buzzed about anthologies of 2014 was Twelfth Planet Press’ kickstarted title Kaleidoscope. Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, Kaleidoscope collects twenty YA stories around the theme of diversity. Diversity of gender, of sexuality, of origin, ability, and race; it’s all present in Kaleidoscope. The result is a wonderful book filled with wonderful stories, some of them funny, some scary, some heart-breaking, but all of them engaging and emotionally touching. None of the stories disappoint, there wasn’t a single dud for me, but the following five were my favourites. 

Tansy Rayner Roberts – Cookie Cutter Superhero
After I finished Cookie Cutter Superhero, I immediately took to Twitter to ask Tansy Rayner Roberts whether there would be more in this world, because I adored this story. Joey, its main character is wonderful. A teen selected to become part of Australia’s Superhero team, she worries about how her missing hand will affect her tenure as a superhero and whether she’ll be the only female hero in the group. I totally loved what Roberts did with the story and happily the answer I received to my query on Twitter was positive: Roberts is definitely planning to do more in this world.

Faith Mudge – Signature
Signature was catnip to me. Centred on a bookstore with the awesome name Nightingale and Priest, this story was a great variation on the Rumpelstiltskin tale. Its protagonist Priya is kickass. I loved the rest of the people at Nightingale and Priest as well, but Priya was something special. This is the third story by Mudge I’ve read and so far she’s three for three. I really enjoy Mudge’s writing and Signature was no exception. The way Priya comes into her own in the course of the story was wonderful. I look forward to reading Mudge’s next story!

Karen Healey – Careful Magic
Healey’s treatment of OCD was fantastic. Embedded in a world where magic users are classed either Order or Chaos and most teens identify as Chaos workers, her main character Helen is the exception to the rule and is a declared Order worker. Yet the fact that she’s an Order worker doesn’t seem to be the cause of the fact she’s clearly dealing with OCD. Healey captures the unease, unrest, and even full-blown panic when Helen’s routines are broken very well. As someone who has mild OCD as well, I identified strongly with Helen and I loved how she works with and around her ticks. Careful Magic was a great story one that shows that OCD is more than just having to things in threes or in a specific order.

Sofia Samatar – Walkdog
Written in the form of a research assignment for school, Walkdog is a strangely compelling and deeply touching exploration of what it means to fall in love and how hard it is to see the one you love hurt by the rest of the world just for how they look. The genuine anger Yolanda feels not just towards the bullies, but towards Andy as well, is as ugly as it is realistic, born as it is from a sense of helplessness. I loved Samatar’s play with the form of the story and the language in which Yolanda writes her report, which is hardly flawless, but conveys this girl’s personality clear as crystal.

Amal El-Mohtar – The Truth about Owls
The Truth about Owls is a gorgeous story about grief, acceptance of loss, and letting go of anger and guilt. El-Mohtar’s writing is gorgeous and almost melodic; it made the story sing for me. Anisa’s connection to owls and, after meeting Blodeuwedd, to Welsh and the Mabinogion was a great concept and the mix of owlish factoids and Anisa’s story worked really well. I’ve enjoyed previous stories I’ve read by El-Mohtar, but I think this may be my favourite of hers yet.

Kaleidoscope is a fantastic anthology, with an important central theme, one that is fitting for the year that saw the rise of We Need Diverse Books and the broader discussion that’s become more visible in the larger SFF community. I truly loved this collection and it’s one that deserves to be widely read and I hope to see some of its stories on award ballots next year.

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