ARC Review: Color Outside the Lines Edited by Sangu Mandanna

Color outside the lines


When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.
—Sangu Mandanna


This book has been on my tbr for a very long time, probably since the day it was announced. And I was so happy the day I got approved for the ARC. This is such a delightful read, full of adorable meet cutes and chance encounters and every story in its own way emphasizes that our differences can bring us closer and it’s so much better to learn from each other, than letting the color of our skin divide us. Really a nice set of empathetic stories and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. My experience was also enhanced by the fact that I buddy read it with my dearest friends.

Below are my individual reviews for the stories:

Turn the Sky to Petals by Anna-Marie McLemore

It’s always jarring when the first story starts off in second person, but this one turned out to be easy to adjust to. This is the story of a Latina girl who loves dancing and a Romani boy who’s very passionate about playing the cimbalom, who bond over the fact that the thing they love so much is also the reason for their body getting battered and having to live in constant pain. Their dread of maybe having to give up their art for the sake of living a relatively less painful life was very palpable and I could totally feel it. But what made this story was the descriptions of the amazing variety of flowers which made this a very atmospheric experience.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Prom by Danielle Paige

Another little story in second person, this was about two childhood friends who feel it’s just inevitable to be together, but one of them is a bit worried what others will think of their relationship. I’m actually unsure how I feel about this because it was too short to form an opinion.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️

What We Love by Lauren Gibaldi

The story of a Jewish girl and an Indian boy, this one quickly took a dark turn with a white girl continuously bullying the protagonists. And while they wanted to fight back, I thought it was both cute and awesome that they took inspiration from Star Wars to make their point but also not take revenge, deciding that they were better than the bully. I found the development of friendship and more pretty adorable.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Giving Up the Ghost by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

A world which has ghost mentors for each person, this story was hilarious. I loved how snarky and bitchy Sanjiv’s ghost Ching was, but it was nice discovering she was a softy inside (probably “inside” isn’t a valid term for a ghost . And the resolution of Ching’s centuries old heartbreak against the backdrop of Sanjiv reconnecting with his childhood best friend was both extremely funny and sweet.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Your Life Matters by L.L. McKinney

It was awesome seeing a black female superhero in this story, set against the Black Lives Matter movement while also dating a white girl who’s father is a racist cop. This one dealt with heavy themes like police brutality and racism and microaggressions, but ended on a hopeful note. And I loved the message that all black folks lives matter, not just that of a black superhero only because she did something good.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Starlight and Moondust by Lori M. Lee

I can’t say I fully understood this story of Hlee, who belongs to the Hmong community and Argus, a white boy. But what affected me about it all was how much non-western cultures and stories are treated as weird, Hlee bullied just for believing what she does, and the journey it takes for her to realize that she has every right to believe what she wants and she doesn’t need to be the sidekick in anyone’s story. The whole atmosphere of this story was also quite amazing.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Five Times Shiva Met Harry by Sangu Mandanna

Firstly, I love the author a lot so I’m a bit biased. The meet cute happens in a library and there’s a hint that it might become more, which I completely loved. And the underlying theme of history being written by victors and colonizers, and how we are never taught both sides of the story in school was presented very well. The idea that it’s important for us to try and learn from multiple sources to get the whole picture is very relevant and I think it was told in a very relatable manner.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Agony of a Heart’s Wish by Samira Ahmed

This story set in 1919 pre-independence India is full of fire, passion and longing, and the beautiful connection that forms between a young Indian Muslim woman and an Irishman who happens to be a soldier in the British army. I adored how they bonded over their love for poetry and the wish for their countries to be free. But that ending just about killed me and I can’t stop crying.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Coward’s Guide to Falling in Love by Caroline Tung Richmond

The setting of this story is the National Gallery of Art in DC and I read this exactly a day after I visited it, so I felt very very excited to see some familiar names. And it’s about Juliet who’s got a huge crush on her best friend and is feeling very anxious about expressing them to him. I loved the idea of the story that we should seize the moment and not take too long to tell what we feel, or we might lose the opportunity to ever do it.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Death and the Maiden by Tara Sim

A sapphic Hades Persephone retelling, this story features Parvani who decides to give up her life of earth and become Hades’s wife for the sake of vengeance. This is a tale of a woman in despair finding purpose in her life and trying to do something beautiful to better the lives of others. The descriptions of the underworld were beautiful and eerie and I loved the amalgamation of cultures.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Faithfull by Karuna Riazi

Featuring a Christian girl who is unsure if she wants to be part of a new community after her mom marries a Muslim, this story is about finding your people among those who might dismiss you and trying to form new bonds. I’m not sure I understood the whole emphasis on food, but it was a good read.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gilman Street by Michelle Ruiz Keil

This story had so many elements in it, I was surprised by the skill with which the author managed to fit everything in. The sadness of not being close to your best friend anymore, the thrill of the kiss that makes you question your sexuality, feeling lost because you feel you don’t belong completely to either part of your heritage and finally feeling joy when you meet someone who is pretty similar to you – this story which is set in the 80s has it all and it’s sweet and beautiful and very thoughtful. Definitely on point with the biracial and bisexual rep too.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Boy Is by Elsie Chapman

Between a mom who just wants Holly to fit in with the white majority of America and a dad who wants her to meet his Chinese friend’s son, all she wants is actually the chance to make her own choice. This is a cute story about all the possibilities that open when one decides to make their own choice and allow ourselves to make our own mistakes.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sandwiched in Between by Eric Smith

The story of a Palestinian boy adopted by a white couple and a young middle eastern girl, this is about how differently each of them perceives their identity and how despite both of them being brown, their attitude towards race isn’t the same because of their upbringing. I think there were some valid points but I also didn’t completely understand it.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Yuna and the Wall by Lydia Kang

I somehow wasn’t expecting a kind of fantasy story, so this was a surprise. A girl who is misunderstood because her father is a poisoner, and a boy who is ostracized because he is scarred due to a childhood occurrence of pox – this is the story of both these unlikely people trying to find their voice and fighting against prejudices in whatever little way they can.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Something Gay and Magical by Adam Silvera

This was again very very short but I’m happy that Silvera didn’t make me cry. It has a very adorable meet cute in a bookstore and some very important commentary on the need for representation. I particularly connected with the thought that not all LGBT+ books have to be “issue” books and non-straight kids should have the opportunity to see themselves in happy and regular stories.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

untitled design (7)

PS: Thank you to Edelweiss and Soho Teen for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.


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