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When One Door Closes

Get to know Australian YA with Begin, End, Begin, a collection of short stories.

When One Door Closes

BOOK REPORT for Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology by various authors, edited by Danielle Binks

Cover Story: Pretty Busy
The Most Familiar: “Missing Persons” by Ellie Marney and “One Small Step …” by Amie Kaufman
The Most Noteworthy: “Oona Underground” by Lili Wilkinson
The Most “Australian”: “Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory” by Danielle Binks, “Sundays” by Melissa Keil
Bonus Factors: #LoveOzYA, Diversity
Break Glass In Case Of: Looking to Expand Your Horizons

Cover Story: Pretty Busy

The hand-drawn nature (heh) of this cover appeals to me, and if I were to judge solely on the art and lettering, I’d really like it. But the title being smaller than the subtitle, and the fact that it gives readers no clue about what’s inside makes me take a more critical eye. I’d still face it out on my bookshelves, however.

The Deal:

Begin, End, Begin features stories from 10 of Australian YA’s biggest and/or upcoming names. All of the stories features beginning or endings (or beginnings), but that’s where their connections begin to unravel. (Other than the obvious fact that they’re all written by Australian authors, natch.)

The Most Familiar: “Missing Persons” by Ellie Marney and “One Small Step …” by Amie Kaufman

I was delighted to start reading “Missing Persons” and realize that it was a small prequel snippet of the early days of the friendship between James Mycroft and Rachel Watts (from Marney’s Every series). Even when they’re mere acquaintances, the chemistry between Mycroft and Watts is off the charts.

“Where did you get the British accent?” I ask suddenly.
“From the British People factory,” he shoots back.
I squint at him. “You’re a peculiar person.”
“And you’re a mystery.” Mycroft’s eyes aren’t chasing the scenery anymore. They’re bathing me in blue. “And I quite like mysteries.”

Kaufman’s name was the other most recognizable (to me) in this collection, due to her being the co-author of The Illuminae Files. “One Small Step …” is similarly set in space, and also features a heavy helping of heart-racing action, but stands on its own, very sweet feet.

The Most Noteworthy: “Oona Underground” by Lili Wilkinson

Although I enjoyed all of the stories in this book—which is, honestly, rare for me and anthologies—one that really stood out was “Oona Underground.” I’ve never read anything else by Wilkinson, but I adored the magical realism and gentle romance of the story, and how easy it was to get lost in her writing, even in only 24 pages.

The Most “Australian”: “Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory” by Danielle Binks, “Sundays” by Melissa Keil

In a book filled with 10 stories by Australian YA authors, it’s not surprising that a few of them stand out as being very Australian. (At least to my U.S. sensibilities.)

“Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory” is about the relationship between a brother and sister, and the city of Orianna, where it’s mostly set, is almost a character in its own right.

Keil’s story, “Sundays” is a short glimpse into the lives of a tight-knit group of friends who might be drifting apart. It takes place at a party, and although it feels somewhat familiar to anyone who’s ever been to a house party, Keil’s writing and the story’s specifics are different enough to make it feel very unique.

Bonus Factor: #LoveOzYA

I had the honor of moderating a panel on Australian YA at this year’s North Texas Teen Book Festival. During the panel, they mentioned that the Australian YA market is saturated with U.S. books, which makes the YA publishing grind even more of a struggle than it typically is. And in the foreword of Begin, End, Begin, Binks punctuates the struggle with this bit of data:

In 2015, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) surveyed public libraries to find out the list of Top Ten most borrowed books. It was disappointing to find only two Australian titles featured in the young adult category, which was overwhelmed with American books, many bolstered by blockbuster film adaptations.

A social media campaign—#LoveOzYA—was created in response to that survey, and Begin, End, Begin followed. The panelists brought up this book, (one of the panelists was Will Kostakis, who has a story in the anthology), which I’d had sitting on my TBR list, and I immediately bumped it up to the top. Just trying to do my part for the movement—and enjoying it immensely.

Image from the #LoveOzYA twitter.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

A few of the stories in Begin, End, Begin feature LGBTQ+ protagonists; a variety of cultures and races are represented; and there’s even a story about a Deaf boy. I applaud the authors for including such a good amount of diversity in such a short (in the grand scheme) collection.

Break Glass In Case Of: Looking to Expand Your Horizons

When we talk about diversity in YA, the conversation often—and rightly so—revolves around race, gender, and sexual identity. But I think we should also include geography in the conversation, especially books that aren’t totally re-written when they’re published in countries other than their original ones (i.e., they include slang and references that might be unfamiliar to some readers; it’s good to have to do some research sometimes). Reading the stories in Begin, End, Begin is a great way to dip your toes into Australian YA and add some new must-read writers to your auto-buy/auto-put-hold-on-at-library list.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins US, and got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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