I am someone who cannot finish a book in one sitting, but, nonetheless, I want the satisfaction of finishing a story when I sit down to read it. I want to be able to think about both the meaning, and the people within it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good novel, but I find that short stories can deliver the emotional weight of a book, as well as the interesting characters within them, in a fraction of the length.
In the past, I have only read adult short stories. My favorite being “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang, and most recently “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu. Due to their lack of length, short stories seem to lend themselves more toward theme rather than plot. This especially helps my love for them as I enjoy pondering about the meaning of a story. YA short stories can also be described in this way. The difference is that their characters and themes are centered around growing up. Adult fiction can most definitely center on these themes as well, but YA fiction prides itself on containing characters that can’t seem to fit in, defining childhood moments and personal revelations that younger audiences will connect to.
In the process of exposing myself to YA short stories, I read the anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh. This is a middle-grade anthology that includes “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium”, (yes, that’s the title) by Matt de la Peña. This story chronicles a young boy’s dedication to basketball and his commitment to improving himself. “Secret Samantha” by Tim Federle follows a middle school girl’s effort to buy a gift for another student, who also happens to be an intriguing new addition to the class. Perhaps my favorite story in the anthology, though, was “The Difficult Path” by Grace Lin, a story about a servant girl who is taught to read. The little girl serves as an example of women’s denial of education and freedom, with the main character using the former to obtain the latter.
In addition to printed works, I also read a few YA short stories online, including issue 6 of Foreshadow, a YA anthology where three short stories are published every month in 2019. These stories were written at a higher reading level than the middle-grade anthology, and suggested more intense themes. The stories for June invluded “Pact” by Mark Oshiro, “Affinity” by Uma Krishnaswami, and “Risk” by Rachel Hylton. The first two stories dealt with both family trauma and depression. The emotional weight in “Affinitly” felt contrived partly, I think, because of where it was derived. My favorite story of the three was “Risk”. “Pact” definitely does a good job with its tone, as I almost felt sick to my stomach reading it, but “Risk” stands out by presenting at a familiar topic in a different and engaging way.
I encourage reading the rest of the Issues on Forshadow. See if you can find more short stories online. If diving into an anthology is the way to go, then research some online and see which ones piques your interest. I am excited to read more anthologies and to see the stories I can find.
Contributer, Noah Cullen