That's what you will find in Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers. Thirteen stories where today's queer youth face contemporary issues, except that in most of them there's a sprinkle of magic, a dose of the unexplained, encounters with ghosts and/or mythological beings, loads of imagination, a bit of horror here and there, and plenty of atmosphere to reel the reader in. Add fifty original illustrations contributed by thirteen different artists and you have a stand out collection that any young adult (or lover of LGBT YA literature) would be proud to own.
All of Berman's stories have something to offer. For example, "The Harvestbuck" has an ambiguous ending, yet it is one of the most atmospheric, hair-raising yarns in this collection. "Three on a Match," on the other hand becomes riveting due to the plot's evolution and ending. "Worse than Alligators" is a horror piece that begins with a fun, relaxed atmosphere that evolves into a nightmare. And "Gomorrahs of the Deep, a Musical Coming Someday to Off-Broadway" is Berman's musical! Yes, he wrote a musical about Melville and Moby Dick that is both creative and amusing.
|"Texting in Bed" from Cruel Movember|
Illustration by Plunderpuss*
With one exception, all the stories in this collection have been previously published in anthologies and/or magazines. The only original piece, "A Calenture of the Jungle" begins with two young Jewish girls, one with too much imagination and the other with none, falling into a sort of frantic attraction fueled by role play, and evolves into an adventure with a twisty role-reversal, ending in a feverish dream-like madness where the narrator's imagination overtakes reality.
I do have particular favorites, one of them is "Cruel Movember," the only strictly contemporary young adult piece included. In this great piece boyfriends Beau and Easton learn the importance of communication in a relationship and how to lend support and understanding during rough times when during the month of November, Easton participates in the Movember mustache-wearing charity, causing havoc in school and embarrassing Beau.
Illustration by Kimball Davis**
I previously read and loved the following three stories and that still holds. I still believe "All Smiles" is a fantastic young adult speculative fiction piece with a hint of horror, great action and a wonderful ending. "Most Likely," a contemporary romance-based story with a speculative fiction flavor is memorable for the great sibling relationship and sweet ending.
And, the collection ends with the magnificently spun "Only Lost Boys are Found." Beautifully illustrated by Brian Britigan, this is a rescue adventure that takes the reader through a winding world of closets, where kids may hide or find a door to freedom while encountering pirates, ninjas, remorseful siblings, friends or boyfriends, and where reality and fantasy are seamlessly woven into my very favorite short story by Steve Berman. Recommended.
Category: LGBT Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/February 14, 2014
Source: eARC from Publisher/Purchased print book
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Illustrations posted with permission from the publisher. © 2014 Lethe Press, Plunderpuss* © 2014 Lethe Press, Kimball Davis**