Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

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A Universe of Wishes is an attractive and well curated anthology of YA/NA fantasy edited by Dhonielle Clayton. Released 8th Dec 2020 by Penguin Random House on their Crown Books Young Readers imprint, it's 416 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging.  It's spare and the author doesn't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or the plotting.  Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love collections because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away. This is a nice diverse sampling and I believe the included stories are all previously unpublished.

There are 15 stories by authors both familiar and new to me. This is another big reason I love anthologies - they often introduce me to new authors to follow and read. This collection has the additional benefit of providing some much needed representation and diversity to a beloved (but traditionally overwhelmingly caucasian, usually male) genre. That's changing and in part it's because of the incredible endurance and fortitude of the groups of writers inviting *all* young readers to have a seat at the table. It fills me with hope and happiness that I truly believe we're starting to really understand that our diversity is our fundamental strength. 

These are well written stories. There are some standouts (Habibi, Unmoor, and the titular A Universe of Wishes were all beautifully written and powerfully moving). There are a number of stories included from series authors with tie-in stories which will certainly appeal to fans (A Royal Affair was charming and will have V. E. Schwab fans dancing in the bookstore). 

The stories as they affected me personally were all in the higher 3-5 star range. Fiction is so subjective  it's pointless to rate, but I will say that nearly all of the stories contained in this anthology were engaging, well crafted, readable, and high quality. There were a couple which were outside my personal taste range and/or failed to hold my interest, but they were few and far between. 

Four and a half stars for the overall collection - rounded up because thematically, representation is monumentally important. I'm writing this the day after I watched a strong young poet giving all of us wings, reciting her work at the inauguration of the 46th president of the USA and knowing that somewhere out there, there might be another young artist/poet/writer/philosopher being inspired by the characters being written here. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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