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Book Review: Begin, End, Begin #LoveOzYA Anthology

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Begin, End, Begin #LoveOzYA Anthology
by Danielle Binks, Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung & Lili Wilkinson
Rating: 
★★★★ 

The YA event of the year. Bestsellers. Award-winners. Superstars. This anthology has them all. With brilliantly entertaining short stories from beloved young adult authors Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks, this all-new collection will show the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA.

I was dying to read this anthology since it was announced last year but unfortunately, when it came out I couldn’t find it anywhere in my local area for weeks until I went a little further into a Dymocks and finally found that beautiful, limited edition foil covered beauty of a book! I’m really happy to support #LoveOzYA because Young Adult books have become so popular in the past few year which is fantastic but Australian Young Adult fiction is still not as popular even in our own country. That’s why all these awesome authors have come together each with their own 30-40 page short stories to celebrate and draw attention to the fact that we have such brilliant and creative writers right here as well and hopefully people will go on to read their novels too! I’ve only read books from four of these nine authors but I’m definitely interested in reading actual books from a few of these new ones I hadn’t heard of before.

I’ve compiled my thoughts that I wrote immediately after finishing each story so there’s a general idea of what each plot is about but no big spoilers. If you don’t want to read the whole anthology or my review that’s understandable because some of these short stories definitely weren’t my kind of thing but please, please, please read First Casualty by Michael Pryor as well as my favourites One Small Step, I Can See The Ending and Oona Underground! They are all such fabulous stories but First Casualty and Oona Underground were so intense that you honestly just have to read them for yourselves.

One Small Step… by Amie Kaufman
★★★★★ 

One Small Step is the cutest and most talented little short story ever taking place on Mars. It’s also totally logical and has a great core message for younger readers but you can expect all that from such a fabulous author so that’s no surprise.

Zaida is the first person to ever be born on Mars due to a little happy accident when her parents moved from Earth to start the colony on Mars and met. She’s been monitored her whole life by the whole world who are clearly fascinated by the first Martian so she has to juggle growing up as a teenager (which is already difficult), keeping her billions of fans updated, a secret crush on her best friend and where she’ll go to college! I love that she has such a relatable issue to so many teenagers and young people while also being so far away from us readers by being the first person born on Mars!

This short story jumped from before and after showing a disastrous event in between and then wrapped up perfectly by the end. It was excellent pacing from the author and I really enjoyed her writing as much as anything else she has written before. Honestly, this would make a fantastic standalone novel and I would be so thrilled if Amie ever expanded on it but it was perfection as just twenty-four pages so I’m happy to leave it there. Although I’ll still imagine all the adorable little dates they could have and the crazy adjustment Zaida would have going to Earth for the first time for college! This beautiful short story will stay with me for long after the few minutes it took to read it.

I Can See The Ending by Will Kostakis
★★★★ 1/2

Wow, this short story had the brilliant sarcasm and witty lines I’d expect from Will but it also had a teenage boy who sees the future! Adam has a crush on Nina and decides on his last day of work that he needs to get their relationship moving but after their first kiss… he can see their ending. This story explores the grief seeing your future and others can bring you when it takes away the ability to live in the moment but also shows how it can be a good thing as well. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Adam and his mother and I absolutely loved the banter between Adam and Nina. This plot was so thrilling and I wanted more because it was such an interesting twist!

In a Heartbeat by Alice Pung
★★★★ 1/2

Wow, this story was awesome and it was such a good topic. I’m definitely seeing a trend in these short stories because I’ve loved all of them and was somehow left wanting more but also being totally fulfilled by each ending. I’ve read half of one of Alice Pung’s books and I haven’t finished it yet (not because I didn’t like it but just because I had a lot to read at the time) but I still loved her writing and I think I should try harder to finish Laurinda after loving this so much.

In A Heartbeat was a short story about a teenage girl who accidentally becomes pregnant with her last year of High School approaching. Typically, her boyfriend rejects the idea of having a child because of his future and strict parents and clearly her mother isn’t pleased but she decides she can’t go back to one heartbeat after hearing both of them inside her together. I love that it doesn’t make teen pregnancy sound like so much fun and a cool thing but it doesn’t come across as the end of the world. It’s a perfect mix between oh crap this is awful and this is something that can turn out alright. It was a very interesting read and I loved the way Alice wrote from a teenager’s perspective and with plenty of Asian representation as well (with a few Asian clichés we all use).

First Casualty by Michael Pryor
★★★★

A mention of schoolies on the first page of this story really set the tone for me – so Australian! Our main character is posting an ad for someone to travel through space for his post-graduation celebrations which must be the futuristic version of going down to the Gold Coast for a week for partying, fun and plenty of regrets after High School is finally over. So Tekura applied to travel with Damien and they’re taking the Port Vila out for three hardworking but hopefully up for planet hopping and exploring. The story mostly covers the repairing of the ship before they can leave and they get closer in the time and generally enjoy spending time with each other for someone they need to work with for mutual payout later when they get to go on their trip.

When they finally get up off their home planet Tekura and Damien have plenty of time on their hands between long travels to planets until they see a distress signal of a ship with another species and war refugees. The Palmeenee are an intelligent species and a very calm, incurious kind to questions and wondering but they still managed to get caught up in another planet’s war and because of their peaceful demeanour they lose their people and don’t stand against it.

After Tekura and Damien take them into the Port Vila they set course for Mars to settle and help the injured Palmeenee refugees. That’s when things get complicated when the news follows them around and makes them the most interesting trend in the solar system and the government refuse to come to their aid. It’s funny because Michael Pryor has set this story in space with aliens and spaceships but at its core, it’s about the greed and deception of the government and the way people turn on refugees.

Read this quote but replace Palmeenee with Muslim or Asian and see just how current this story is… “Smearing someone is an ancient and effective tactic. Politicians are really, really clever, in some ways, at least. Find a hair, and they’ll split it. They’ll start to raise doubts. Are these Palmeenee really refugees? Are there Palmeenee aboard who could be criminals? Could these Palmeenee be carrying diseases that could spread? Could it be that some of these Palmeenee are just taking the opportunity to look for a nicer place to live, a place where they could make money?”

The Palmeenee are such kind and lovely creatures/aliens that get on so well with the two humans even if they can’t all speak English and Tekura and Damien can’t speak their language but once they try to bring them to Mars the government is quick to try to make them villains and drag Damien and Tekura down with them. Out of all the stories in this book, even if the other space type stories are so cute, this story is the MOST important of them all because for me it is not only an awesome story set in space but an awesome commentary on real life issues that we do need to acknowledge and this was fantastic because that quote is so f%#king relevant!

Sundays by Melissa Keil
★★1/2

Melissa Keil’s story follows a group of friends from 9 pm on a Saturday night to 4 am on a Sunday morning. When two of their friends, that have been the perfect couple and they thought would be forever thing, break up. Breakups happen though, especially when you’re young, but they find out by seeing one of their friends in the relationship kissing a new girl before they told them the news.

Thankfully, their other friend seems totally fine with the split and insists it’s mutual but for our main character she is suddenly swept into their new future of a group that is divided, a group that won’t be rooming together when they go to university and separate dinners. Over the course of the night, they adjust to it like the recently broken up couple already have but I actually didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other stories so far. Maybe it’s because the others had really big events and this one was relatively small on the scale.

Missing Persons by Ellie Marney
★★

This one was the same sort of tone for me where I enjoyed the writing but I didn’t connect to the story or characters. Rachel and her family have recently moved from a more rural, acreage area to the bustling city of Melbourne. On her first day at her new school, she’s shown around the area and meets Mai’s friend, Mycroft. He’s prone to saying incredibly insulting things without stopping to realise he even offended someone and seems crazy and odd to Rachel but I liked his otherworldly weirdness.

The story basically explores a new budding friendship based on the idea that Rachel and Mycroft both feel so alien and out of sorts in their current positions but now they have a friend to lean on and help them through it. That’s what I took from the story but I just admit my mind drifted a lot through this one so I might not have been taking it all in!

Oona Underground by Lili Wilkinson
★★★★

Meg and Oona have been friends since they were children and Meg has always been in her shadow but she doesn’t mind because she adores her as the friend and a brilliant person but she also has a crush on her as well. Oona seems to be looking for love and Meg wants to shout to look at her but instead, she ends up being dragged along to look for some witch that will tell you your destiny in dark, mysterious tunnels because of an almost urban legend around their High School.

I actually felt breathless after finishing this short story because it was so overwhelming. I was totally freaked out and scared for them while reading it and I even imagined myself in their situation and was really creeped out in person too. That was truly excellent and I love when authors can reach out and make something really affect you. I loved the story-line as well and the two main characters had such satisfying endings. That was scary, odd, magical and beautiful and you guys need to read it to understand!

The Feeling From Over Here by Gabrielle Tozer
★★

Lucy is taking a bus trip all the way to Melbourne so it will be an eight-hour trip so the bus driver fondly calls her Eight. She assumes (as I would too) that the bus will be filled with weirdos and creeps but it looks pretty normal at first and she gets two seats to herself! She’s pretty content to relax and curl up until they get a late passenger and him just so happens to be someone she knew quite well but she assumes he didn’t notice her at all and he just so happens to be sitting next to her! He’s super cute in her opinion but they butted heads so it wasn’t all cute and fluffy.

I think it was a nice, easy-going read for me because it was mostly just conversational dialogue with a little bickering and I liked that they were stuck on the bus together for hours so they were unavoidable but after all the fantastic shorts I read at the start of the book these shorts can’t really compare due to my style and interests.

Last Night At The Mount Solemn Observatory by Danielle Brinks
★★1/2

This was a really sweet story that warmed my heart. It was mostly about a brother and sister and their relationship over the years before settling on the last sort of night they share together before he leaves for school. Although, it’s also about a deaf teenager and the people around him. Her brother is deaf so she was born growing up around him and learned sign language from a very young age from their parents. I really enjoyed reading from the perspective of people using sign language and I think their friend were good because they tried to learn as they went as well but obviously his bond and communication with his sister were better. So yes, I think their friendship was super sweet and I enjoyed that sort of slow, happy writing.

Competition Entry #349 by Jaclyn Moriarty
★★★★ 1/2

Wow, that was so cute and I still have a smile on my face after finishing it but it wasn’t just cute, it was also super interesting because it’s about a time travel agency in Sydney that’s offering a competition for five (5) ten-minute time travel journeys, flights to Sydney and fancy accommodation. The competition specifies you should enter in 25 words or less but the main character spends about forty pages explaining why she should win it and telling the readers about her previous journeys to the past in that travel agency. Yes, she’s already tried the ten minute travels to the past on a school trip and she only lives four minutes from the agency so the flights and accommodation are unnecessary but she’ll still gladly take them and use those another time.

I loved the brazen confidence of the main character because she just told them how it was going to go but she also detailed those trips she already took (two weeks into the past instead of hundreds of years ago like her classmates) and it was really cool because although she couldn’t change the past while she was in that time she had a way of using it to her advantage in the end and she found out what she wanted to know. I didn’t expect the last short story to be so great but it really went out with an awesome bang with a plot that was just as great as some of the short stories from the earlier shorts I loved.

Click here to add this book to Goodreads.

– Kirra // Goodreads

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