I’ll admit it: I’m a night owl. More often than not, I’m awake—and likely reading—in the secret hours after midnight, those moments when it feels as if I’m the only person awake in the entire city. And while that is usually true of my household, it’s definitely not true in a city of half a million people.
Still, there’s something special about being awake when most people are sleeping…and that is exactly the premise of editor Laura Silverman’s new anthology: Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset and Sunrise.
Set in the hours between dusk and dawn, each story in this anthology is wonderfully unique. From a game of Never Have I Ever gone wrong to step-siblings rearranging their new house to a dance marathon raising money for a children’s hospital, every single story brings amazing representation, fun plots, and beautiful messages to the table. While I enjoyed all of the stories, six in particular stood out to me: “The Ghost of Goon Creek” by Francesca Zappia, “Creature Capture” by Laura Silverman, “Under Our Masks” by Julian Winters, “Kiss the Boy” by Amanda Joy, “When You Bring a Dog to Prom” by Anna Meriano, and “Old Rifts and Snowdrifts” by Kayla Whaley.
Let’s explore them together, shall we?
Two of my favorite stories, “The Ghost of Goon Creek” by Francesca Zappia and “Creature Capture” by Laura Silverman, became my favorites because they tackle the idea of a character not “fitting in,” something I’ve experienced in my own life. In Zappia’s self-proclaimed ghost story, Sydney Endrizzi thinks that everyone at school considers her weird because she loves ghost stories and is usually by herself, now that her brother has left for college. When the school newspaper feature editor, Grace Chang, asks Sydney to be her guide to a supposedly haunted cemetery and three other popular students end up tagging along, Sydney discovers things about herself—and her newfound friends—that she never realized before.
“The Ghost of Goon Creek” emits such campfire story vibes that I wanted to break out the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. I loved the transformative journey Sydney goes on throughout the story as she learns that there’s more to everyone than how they may seem at school. Zappia’s story ended the anthology, and it left me with such warm feelings of hope. Sydney may not be like everyone else, but as she discovers at the cemetery, there is no one “right” way to be.
Meanwhile, Silverman’s story “Creature Capture” takes readers back to the hey-days of Pokémon Go with a super cool game called Creature Capture where players capture mythological creatures. As a huge fan of mythology, I wish I could play this game! The story centers around Abby Kleinman who’s been playing Creature Capture for years, even though it’s no longer that popular anymore. She’s self-conscious about how much she plays it instead of “chilling” like everyone else her age, but she just needs one more creature to complete her index. Unfortunately for her, Loch Ness Monsters are hard to catch, so she teams up with her best friend Curtis, a new friend Emily, and Emily’s little sister. As the night wears on with no sign of a Loch Ness Monster, Abby has to decide what’s more important: trying to fit in and losing a part of herself or being who she is unapologetically.
I needed this story. Silverman expertly combines the fun of Creature Capture with Abby learning to accept herself, and it’s just perfect. We can all get in our heads, wondering how people see us and what they think of us, but as Emily tells Abby: “‘We’re all too focused being worried about what people think of us to spend time judging others, you know? So, like screw it. Be who you are.’” And as Abby responds, “‘That’s weirdly comforting.’” Silverman’s story is perfect for those nostalgic for Pokémon Go or for those—like myself—who need just a little boost of self-esteem mixed with adventure.
One of the best elements of Up All Night is the mix of genres. While most reside solidly on the contemporary side of YA, some—like “Under Our Masks” by Julian Winters—stretch the boundaries of YA by adding a little bit of magic. In “Under Our Masks,” the protagonist, known to everyone at school as Tristan Jackson, has a secret second identity: Raven, a superhero with powers “only slightly above human standards.” No one except his family knows his true identity, which is how Tristan ends up on an all-night stake-out for Raven with the boy he has a crush on. As the night goes on, Arash and Tristan bond over food and homework, but with morning approaching, Tristan must decide how much he wants to reveal to keep Arash in his life.
With a cute romance, an endearing protagonist, and superhero shenanigans, “Under Our Masks” is the story I didn’t know I needed. But don’t let the cuteness fool you. Winters also includes some discussions on deeper topics that many teens face. “People expect us to take off our masks and reveal our secret identities so they can decide if we’re heroes or villains,” Tristan says as he’s deciding whether or not to come out to Arash. Yes, Tristan has to deal with superhero problems most teens don’t, but the heart of this story is in Tristan realizing that there is more to him than a boy with a few supernatural abilities.
And speaking of abilities, hats off to Amanda Joy for her phenomenal story “Kiss the Boy!” Classes have just ended for the seniors at Hoffman High, and class president Ayana Parker has a plan for Senior Game Night. Her two best friends are holding her to completing a promise they made as freshmen to pick out a boy and kiss him by the end of their senior year, and now Ayana is the only one left who has yet to do so. But we all know what happens with the best laid plans, and soon it’s up to Ayana alone to face her fears or leave high school behind without trying.
“Kiss the Boy” is swoony, fun, and somehow made me nostalgic for those final days of high school. Senior Game Night sounds like an absolute blast, and I wish I could pop into the pages to play a few games myself. But it’s Ayana’s character that really takes the prize in this one. Classic overachiever but also nervous introvert, Ayana has to conquer her fears in order to have a chance with her crush, Khalil. As an overachiever and introvert myself, I really connected to her and appreciated how Joy chose to write her character. Overall, this story is cute, enjoyable, and perfect for those just graduating high school or those nostalgic for it.
We can’t complete a discussion of this fantastic anthology without talking about the wonderful representation within. Almost every single story includes representation of BIPOC characters, queer characters, disabled characters, and more. I especially appreciated the disability and queer representation in the stories “When You Bring a Dog to Prom” by Anna Meriano and “Old Rifts and Snowdrifts” by Kayla Whaley.
“When You Bring a Dog to Prom” is about…well, prom. Right off the bat, protagonist Noemi lets us know that she’s aware school dances are full of “compulsory heterosexuality,” but her best friend Jayla is super excited about prom. Noemi is sort of looking forward to it too, until she learns that her date has ditched her to go to the queer anti-prom with his boyfriend and that her other best friend—aka Jayla’s twin brother and Noemi’s unrequited crush Jayden—has decided to bring someone as well: Dodge Jenkins who has an emotional support golden retriever. Prom hijinks ensue, and Noemi has to decide how far into the spotlight she’s willing to go with her heart on the line.
This story has it all: disability, queer, and BIPOC representation. Meriano handles it all beautifully, and I just have to say for the record that I really want to meet Suka the golden retriever. I love how the friend group in this story is so understanding of each other, and Noemi’s very real worries about how they will all change when they graduate high school hit me hard. But once again, this story is full of amazing messages. “I didn’t ruin everything,” Noemi says. “I messed up, but my mistakes aren’t permanent… Maybe I should trust myself a little more.” And I think we can all learn a lesson from that.
I saved one of the best for last. If you’re looking for a feel-good, break-out-the-hot-cocoa, best-friends-to-enemies-to-lovers type of story, “Old Rifts and Snowdrifts” by Kayla Whaley is for you. It features Eleanor who uses a wheelchair and works in her best friend’s mom’s flower shop. What should be just a normal winter day in Atlanta suddenly turns into the snowstorm of the decade, and Eleanor ends up alone in the flower shop with only her ex-best friend and crush, Owen, for company. As the snow keeps falling and the power goes out, Eleanor learns that there’s more to the story when it comes to Owen and their past.
Reading this story made me feel like I too was in the middle of a record-breaking snowstorm, even though it’s sweltering here in sunny Arizona. Whaley’s writing is so immersive, and I absolutely loved the super-cute romance. As I mentioned before, the representation is also freaking amazing. “Old Rifts and Snowdrifts” includes both disability and queer representation in the protagonist, as well as BIPOC representation with a side character. Like I said, freaking amazing.
Just as night turns to day, so too must this blog come to an end. Moral of the story: read Up All Night, and when you do, expect the unexpected. Everything about the secret hours between dusk and dawn is unexpected, from a scavenger hunt between friends to exploring an old asylum to whispered secrets in line the night before a convention. All that and more lies between the pages of this book, so do yourself a favor and find a copy right away.
And don’t forget: to get the best reading experience possible, you have to stay up all night.
Content Warnings for Up All Night: Parental abuse, strong language, murder, ableism, blood, divorce, infidelity, anxiety, car accident, depression, underage drinking, death of a loved one, racism, homophobia, sexism, dismemberment
(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
PRR Assistant Director, Wendy Waltrip