Book Review – Out Now: Queer We Go Again! Edited by Saundra Mitchell

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!

I was very much looking forward to reading this collection during Pride month but it took me a while to finish, both because I’ve been in a truly terrible reading slump and also this collection didn’t always manage to keep my interest. There are some amazing stories here, especially in the first half but once the book took a turn from contemporary to a bit more fantastical in the second half of it, I feel it lost a bit of its charm and I also wasn’t always able to understand what was happening. But the representation includes a spectrum of gender identities and sexualities and I thought it was all done with a lot of respect (though I won’t vouch for the authenticity because I’m not an ownvoices reviewer for any). 

If you wanna read a variety of short stories from high school kids worrying about prom to vampires and gods and sacrifices, then this is a good collection and I hope you’ll find your favorite stories in it. 

Below are my individual reviews for the stories:

Kick. Push. Coast by Candice Montgomery 

This is the story about a young person who is questioning their gender, sexuality, pronouns.. everything.. while also trying to navigate their attraction for a girl they see from afar everyday. I could feel the pain the character is feeling because the confusion is palpable in their words, but I loved the turn the story took and ended up being so sweet. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What happens in the Closet by Caleb Roehrig 

This was mostly a cute story of a young gay boy at prom trying to flirt with his frenemy while also fighting off vampires. It’s definitely cool to see the undead creatures make a comeback in interesting ways.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Player One Fight! by Eliot Schrefer 

Story of a gamer boy who wants to be with another, but the other one can’t seem to make up his mind. The writing in this felt felt a bit erratic though.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

Lumber Me Mine by C. B. Lee 

This was a very cute story of high school senior dealing with her breakup with her childhood friend as well as feeling the initial attraction to someone new. I really enjoyed the beginning of this new relationship and the ace rep was so casually mentioned and not made a bid deal out of, it was cool.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Follower by Will Kostakis 

A chance encounter between an online influencer and one of his followers on a beach turns into a fascinating conversation about love. This was a bit boring at times but overall pretty cute. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Refresh by Mark Oshiro 

Two guys who aren’t confident in their bodies just trying to connect irl after meeting up online, this was a funny meet cute but also profound in its own way shedding a light on body image issues. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Victory Lap by Julian Winters 

A young boy who wants a date for his school’s winter formal – this should have been a very predictable story. But the friendship, the bond between a father and son, the importance of having a supportive parent when you are scared to come out – all of this is depicted beautifully and the story turned out to be absolutely adorable. Not for nothing that I love Julian’s writing so much. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Road of One’s Own by Kate Hart 

A camping trip; a young woman trying to figure out her recently broken up relationship, a newfound attraction for a girl and what she wants her future to look like; and a bit of commentary on the whitewashing of Native American history as well as all the microaggressions they face on the daily – this story was both fun and contemplative with so much to look forward to. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Seditious Teapots by Katherine Locke 

I love the idea of the teapot metaphors to describe Rory’s extreme anxiety about how to label themselves and even wondering why it’s necessary to have a label. I also liked the conversations they had with some new found queer friends who help them resolve their doubts a little. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Star-crossed in DC by Jessica Verdi 

Definitely surprised to read a story about the queer daughters of two presidential candidates on the opposite side of LGBTQ rights. It was still well written and interesting, though I would have liked it to have been longer and given more closure. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Floating by Tanya Boteju 

The main character seemed like she had OCD or maybe ADHD but I really didn’t understand much of the story. Maybe I’m not the right audience for it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

The Soft Place by Hillary Monahan 

The main character is completely high in this story and the writing reflects that mood, which means I really didn’t get what was happening. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

A Pound of Flesh by Kosoko Jackson 

Greeks curses, a human and a god in love, then endless conflict between Athena and Ares as a backdrop for police brutality and resulting protests in America – this was timely in a sense but some points that were made felt very tone deaf too. But the love story itself seemed very tragic but fascinating. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

One Spell Too Many by Tara Sim 

Baked goods, witches, love spells baked into yummy pastries – this was both highly entertaining and an interesting lesson in good intentions leading to not so good consequences. Very well written and I loved the beginnings of a new relationship.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Far from Home by Saundra Mitchell 

A space boy and his human boyfriend trying to run from federal agents trying to capture him, this was quite thrilling and adrenaline inducing.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Coronation by Meredith Russo 

I liked the trans representation in the story and a bit of what happened, but I can’t say I truly understood the story or the world as a whole.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Once Upon a Seastorm by Fox Benwell 

I loved the idea of the main character struggling to find his roots and going on a journey to find them, and the author also manages to integrate a great mother-son relationship that is resilient even during tough times.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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