Steve Berman, ed., May 2012. This is another uneven collection of short stories from Bold Strokes, this one focusing on summer romances between young men. The standout story here is Alex Jeffers’s “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy,” which features a boy on a boat trip with his parents who falls in love with a sailor; a mysterious herb garden; and dreams based on ancient Anatolian myths add texture to this tale of a summer crush. Also strong is L. Lark’s summer-camp story, “Breakwater in the Summer Dark,” in which the discovery of a sea monster parallels the emotions of a budding romance. Rounding out the top three is Aimee Payne’s “Summer’s Last Stand,” in which a boy going off to college and happy to escape his bratty sister learns how much he means to her when they’re confronted by violent homophobes at a party.
Unfortunately, the other contributions aren’t as strong. ‘Nathan Burgoine’s “Leap” has problems with expository dialogue. Marguerite Croft and Christopher Reynaga’s “Brass” is more of a vignette than a fully-plotted story. Sam Cameron’s “Bark If You Like Boys” tries to cram too much into its 24 pages. Steve Berman’s own “Most Likely” introduces the concept of a haunted yearbook but fails to follow through on that and other plot threads; Anne Zeddies’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing” feels similarly unfinished. Shawn Syms’s “Get Brenda Foxworthy” and Dia Pannes’s “Cave Canem” feature gratuitious, violent drama and then cop out with sweet romantic endings. Recommended only where short-story collections are popular and there is high demand for queer YA fiction.