Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17th 2016
Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.
Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.
Ah! Summer Days and Summer Nights! I’ve been waiting for this anthology ever since it was announced as the companion of My True Love Gave To Me. (See my review of the first anthology HERE) Now, having read Summer Days and Summer Nights, I can’t say it lived up to all of my expectations. It’s like the authors didn’t get the memo that the cover would be bright yellow and happy. Many of the entries were quite dark, and while this wasn’t always a bad thing, it did make for a puzzling collection, one that was starkly contrasted with the subtitle, Twelve Love Stories.
Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo
Frankly, I’m disappointed. Short stories are often chances for authors to get more craft-y than usual, but Bardugo was incoherent in this piece. I do think there was enormous potential here regarding the subject matter of water deities who love human girls, but the lack of clarity and mismatched elements kept the writing from being great or even likable.
The End of Love by Nina LaCour
LaCour’s story about a gay geometry pro with divorcing parents had a glum tone, which makes sense because the main character is depressed. As for the writing, it was decent, although strangely non-compelling. There was nothing there that made me sit up and take notice, nothing that made me laugh, and there’s nothing that will stick with me.
Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray
This piece uses the horror movie genre as a doorway to discuss what we fear the most in our lives. I think that Libba Bray must be afraid of short story structure. She had a decent beginning, a horribly drawn-out muddle, and a brief end. There were too many characters, themes, subplots, and lines of wack-a-doo dialogue going on in this story and it all got tangled up in a big, boring mess. It reminded me quite a bit of Bray’s weirdly award-winning novel, Going Bovine, a book that could have benefitted from having 400+ pages removed.
Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block
This story was the second I read. (I read the stories randomly.) I loved how the prose evoked a different, smokier era, yet still managed to seem timeless. Sure enough, I googled a reference to a band that the main character sees live and it turned out to be The Go-Go’s singing We’ve Got the Beat. So this story takes place in or around 1980.
The piece follows “I” and her brief romance with the mysterious “A.” The story doesn’t have the happiest of endings, but I suppose it was very true to life, in a way.
In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins
To my great surprise, Perkins revisited her characters from her first anthology, My True Love Gave To Me — Marigold and North. Remember how cute that first story was? Well, in this installment, Perkins gets a bit darker. Marigold and North have broken up. The story begins when Marigold tracks down North at his new job as a mountain train conductor and tour guide.
A darker, moodier North was present in this piece, and Marigold is more circumspect as well, calculating how she’ll keep herself from starving on her tight artist’s budget. It sounds bleak, but this is Perkins we’re talking about. She always pulls out a happy ending.
Souvenirs by Tim Federle
Yay! It’s the M/M romance of the anthology! This story is about Matty, whose summer workplace romance is scheduled to end in a few hours. Yes, scheduled. Throughout the piece, Matty thinks about Kieth, his boyfriend, and stream-of-consciousness reflects on what their brief relationship meant. There is an amazing pizza metaphor that I loved.
Inertia by Veronica Roth
So good! This short story reminded me strongly of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite movies of all time. It has a bit of a sci-fi twist, but is really about human connection and poignancy of memory. It was quite beautiful and had me tearing up. I’ll definitely be reading this one over again. I call this story the strongest in the Summer Days and Summer Nights collection.
Love Is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron
I don’t get it. I think this piece was supposed to be arty? At my most generous I can say that it was reminiscent of a Wes Anderson creation. From what I could make out, the story was about a resort owned by a rich man and run by a teenage staff, populated with rich patrons. They all spoke in a stiff, artificial style and did absolutely nothing. I think that Skovron was so caught up in being literary and different here that he choked himself. This was a dull story and I did not care for it. It is the weakest installment in Summer Days and Summer Nights.
Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert
The story is about a young woman whose closest friend in the world, her cousin, is moving away with her girlfriend. This was an okay work, but with an unfortunately insta-lovey romance. There were some lines that made me cringe with how underdeveloped the feelings being announced were. However, the piece features racially and sexually diverse characters, which was a big bonus.
Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare
This story by Clare really embraced the spirit of the anthology, keeping with the theme, yet still staying true to the author’s signature style. Clare chose to write about a carnival owner’s daughter, and, of course, demons. The details in this piece were highly imaginative and there were some really laugh-out-loud moments that I enjoyed.
My criticism has to do with the ending. I felt like matters were wrapped up way too quickly and conveniently. Overall though, this was a strong effort on Clare’s part.
A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith
Now this is what I’m talking about! A summer story that’s as cute as it is deep! This piece is about a girl who has a crush on a very different kind of boy and works up the courage to ask him out. Their first date doesn’t go as expected. I seriously loved this story. The characters were distinct and unique and the writing had great flow.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman
What a great closing story! It was a highly unique premise and had great little moments scattered throughout. The ending was hilarious AND moving. The piece is about a boy who gets stuck in time and relives August 4 over and over again. The voice of the author reminded me quite strongly of John Green, who’s style I do enjoy.
The Overall Score of Summer Days and Summer Nights…
Well, I’ve read all of the stories. I’ve identified all the little characters on the front cover. I cried a little and I laughed a little. Overall, I give the anthology 3.5 stars. There was a moment there when I read several bad pieces in a row and thought the worst, but standouts from Roth, Grossman, and Smith saved the day.
What about you, readers? Does reading anthologies make you feel smarter?