Journeys, literal or otherwise, are the theme of this young adult anthology. Appropriately enough, it was conceived as the result of a book tour.
“Giovanni’s Farewell” by Claudia Gray is a sweet, coming-of-age story of sorts. The twist is that it features a brother and sister, twins, rather than just one person. They visit Rome with a school group while dealing with major changes in their lives. There was too much background crammed into a short story, but it was interesting.
Carrie Ryan’s “Scenic Route” is a disturbing, post-apocalyptic story set in the world of The Forest of Hands and Teeth about two young sisters trying to survive in an isolated cabin. The older sister keeps the younger one occupied with the planning of a road trip that will never happen, always hoping against hope that the girl won’t realize what their reality is. How long can they stay isolated enough to survive? Bloody, frightening, and visceral.
“Red Run” by Kami Garcia is the story of a girl who has lost the only person she loves in the world, and the trip she takes to avenge his death. How do you hunt a ghost? Maybe it isn’t fair, coming right after Ryan’s story, but I didn’t truly feel the main character’s feelings.
Jackson Pearce’s “Things About Love” is a sweet story involving a jinn researching love. I felt like I’d come into the middle of something, so I checked and found that she’s written a novel, As You Wish, in the same setting. While this story technically stands on its own, it would probably be enriched by having read As You Wish.
“Niederwald” by Rachel Vincent is the first story I’ve read in her Soul Screamers series. Sabine, a macha (nightmare), takes a road trip with a human acquaintance and detours to Niederwald, Texas, home to the harpies. No, there’s no way that could go wrong. Of course, you know from the moment they hit the parking lot that it will go wrong, but at least it’s an interesting sort of wrong.
Melissa Marr’s “Merely Mortal” feels as though it’s probably set in the same world as her Wicked Lovely series.
“Facing Facts” by Kelley Armstrong is set in her Darkest Powers universe. I read the first of those books, but obviously, a lot has passed since then, and there were spoilers in this story. It really centers around Chloë and Tori, with a little Derek tossed in. Tori learns something she doesn’t want to know and reacts badly, running off on her own, which is dangerous. Chloë goes after her and they get into trouble. That seemed rather predictable to me, but at least the type of trouble wasn’t what I expected. Tori doesn’t seem to have changed since the first book, but Chloë is coming into control of her abilities.
Sarah Rees Brennan’s “Let’s Get this Undead Show on the Road” is about a boy band that features a vampire, Christian. He’s an unusual vampire, all alone without a nest or a sire. His journey seems to be about his identity as a vampire, although the band is on tour and has another sort of journey to make, as well.
“Bridge” by Jeri Smith-Ready is told from a ghost’s point of view, 233 days after death. It’s frustrating being a ghost because most people can’t see or hear you. There are things you have to accomplish before moving on, though, that require communication with the living. Finding a “bridge” and working things out takes a lot of effort. This was a touching story, bittersweet and well-told.
Kimberly Derting’s “Skin Contact” nearly broke me. Rafe is looking for his girlfriend. He knows where he needs to go, and he’s guided by dreams. It’s told sparingly, and something feels perfectly right about it, but it hurts. According to her author biography, Rafe was introduced in her novel Desires of the Dead.
“Leaving” by Ally Condie is a very literary story, about a girl left behind after her mother dies and her father leaves. She spends the story preparing to go after her father. It’s hard to describe much more than that or to have much of an opinion. It was well-written and I think I’ll probably remember it for a long time.
Jessica Verday’s “At The Late Night, Double Feature, Picture Show” is a darkly funny story about a girl from a family of monster hunters. She’s usually the bait, but tonight she has decided to be the hunter — without backup. I’d like to read more from Verday.
“IV League” by Margaret Stohl just didn’t hit me right. It’s the story of a bunch of southern vampires on a college tour, which could have been funny but wasn’t written that way. The whole thing just didn’t sit well with me, perhaps because the main character seemed too unrealistically out of touch for someone who obviously had access to television and the internet.
Mary E. Pearson’s “Gargouille” is the most touching love story in the collection. Just read it.
“The Third Kind” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is, on the surface, about a road trip to San Antonio. The real journey is much deeper, one of coming to understanding one’s calling.
Rachel Caine’s Morganville is the setting for her “Automatic.” I think I’ve read a Morganville novella, but my memory of it is dim. The Morganville Blood Bank introduces an automated withdrawal machine, essentially a soda can dispenser. Michael Glass is ordered to try it first, as a demonstration for the older, more traditional vampires, with unexpected results. His journey is one of self-knowledge. I didn’t really care much about him, his journey, his girlfriend, or anything else. The setting and characters do nothing for me, but your mileage may vary.
Altogether, the anthology was worth reading. There were some low spots, but that’s true of any collection. To be fair, I’m sure someone who is more enthusiastic about young adult fiction would also be more enthusiastic about the works here.