*I received an advanced ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
This is an anthology with three stories that are completely separate but also happening simultaneously in the same small town. All the stories are about queer teens traveling to a sci-fi convention who end up stuck temporarily in this small town because of car/road trouble.
The town itself is believed by the townspeople to have a touch of magic that often brings people together or helps people find what they need, but each story also included a bit of a more explicit fantasy/magical element, however small. It’s a cute anthology idea.
These are all novella or novelette length more than shorts, and I was glad for that because it meant there was enough time for me to actually get to know the characters a bit and get into their stories.
I enjoyed them all, and since there are only three, I’ll give my thoughts for each.
“Roadside Assistance” by Jeffrey Ricker – Ed, recently moved to Canada, still struggling with missing home, is driving through with two friends when their car breaks down. He ends up bonding with the 18-year-old mechanic helping to fix his car, and they go chasing after a mysterious apparition together. This was a cute start to a romance between two boys who were both missing something in their lives. Both Ed and Lyn seemed sweet, despite the slightly bad start they got off to.
“Scavenger Hunt” by J. Marshall Freeman – Rome goes to visit his grandmother in the hospital but has to get back home because he’s planning a scavenger hunt for an upcoming convention, and he has to make the trip by himself. Unfortunately, he has car trouble and, while in the town, he ends up on a sort of magical scavenger hunt of his own when clues start appearing. This one captured that feeling of being an older teen and wanting that feeling of independence and adulthood, but also having some anxiety about it. Especially so in this case, because of the danger being out and proud could pose to Rome. This one had a lot of that was touched upon but not explored in depth (including the MC being Jewish, the other character having an Indigenous mother, and different feelings toward sex). There is a hint of something that could potentially turn into romance, but I don’t think romance was the point of this one. To me, it was more about the experience of queerness, that transitional phase between teen and adult, and embracing yourself, your identity, and your passions.
“Hope Echoes” by ‘Nathan Burgoine – Fielding is on his way to hang with friends and attend the convention, but a fallen tree causes him to take a bit of a break from driving and head into town. For a couple years now, he’s had the ability to see echoes of the past (sort of brief replays of someone doing something, not ghosts), but this town has a lot of echoes, and he ends up trying to solve a mystery and use his ability to do something good, with the help of two boys he meets. This was the story that made me feel the most. I felt for Fielding and how much he was struggling and how alone he felt with his burdens. I loved how sweet and supportive Joshua and Logan were (and also how cute they were together). I loved the friendships that started forming. And though I love romance in stories, I loved that this wasn’t about the main character wanting or finding romance, but rather about finding joy and beauty in knowing about other queer relationships that exist or have existed. This was a sweet story about a character realizing his strange ability could be a gift instead of a burden, friendship, and, much as the title suggests, hope.
Overall, this was a calm, low-key, sweet novella anthology about queer teens just living their lives and finding something unexpectedly good in a magical small town.
Anyone who likes novellas/novelettes, small towns, sweet queer YA stories, and a touch of magic.