Note: I'm going to review each story separately, then review the volume as a whole.
"Hidden Ribbon" by John Shirley
Having never read anything by this author before, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this story. Giorgio was running from some thugs when he came upon Felice's little hidey-hole in dystopic Los Angeles (2044). The two hit it off, but given a choice will they choose each other?
Its quick, but given to telling us what the two are talking about rather then showing us so there's an inorganic feel to the bond they form. The ending is kind of a cop out, since the choice Felice is given isn't really a choice (considering her personality), but its sweet.
"The Salt Sea and the Sky" by Elizabeth Bear
I really enjoyed this story--though I tend to enjoy Bear regardless of anything else. I'll warn for same-sex pairing, since some folk like to be told about that. There was never a question of if they'd be together. The question had always been for how long?
This had less of a dystopic feel to me then some of the others. Maybe because it was set in Ireland and most dystopias I read are set in America (or Australia oddly enough). This is also less about the love story the two have and more about what that love means to the narrator and how it could change her plans.
"In the Clearing" by Kiera Cass
I almost skipped this one because I really didn't like THE SELECTION, but I figured why not? For once in his life Dylan chose something for himself, too bad that something turned out to be a someone. Now if he can't convince her that something is wrong, everyone is in trouble.
Ignoring the romance, because this was almost Stockholm Syndrome Romance and that squicks me a bit, I was fascinated by the world. Of course its kind of like the world of Miranda from the film "Serenity" (with drugging the population into complacency). Just with less death. I have a feeling if this had gone on much longer (and its easily the longest story in the collection) I would have thrown it across the room, the characters grated on my nerves.
"Otherwise" by Nisi Shawl
Another new to me author, this one had a weird flow of writing. Note there's a same sex pairing here as well. Aim was everything Lo wanted in one package, but was that enough? And if it wasn't, was Lo prepared to risk everything so Aim can be happy?
This is another drug as a dystopia future--except this one was more like 'Here take this hallucinatory drug so you can have the fantasy life you always wanted'. The mechanics are a bit iffy--the world that isn't Otherwise is dominated by the uber-rich...but anyone can go Otherwise at any time because they're all kind of exposed to it? Or something? So I spent more time thinking about that then the overly dramatic romance.
"Now Purple With Love's Wound" by Carrie Vaughn
Carrie Vaughn rarely let's me down and this one gave me one of my favorite kind of endings--the lady or the tiger ending. Elspa was given the highest honor in the land, but for her it was incomplete without Thom's heart.
This really felt out of place. Aside from the one odd mention of indoor plumbing, this was easily a fantasy short story. Still I really enjoyed it and thought it worked well as a concept and in execution. I would love to see this expanded, but then again I think this ended appropriately.
"Berserker Eyes" by Maria V. Snyder
Hands down Snyder is in my top five favorite writers. Even the books which I'm so-so on are usually better then most others. So yes, I looked forward to this story and bought the collection almost exclusively for it. Kate had always heard that to go Berserker was the absolute worst thing that could happen--you're a threat to everyone you love then. But what if that's a lie?
I want this as a novel. Or a duology. Or trilogy. Anything at all that gets me more of Kate is a good thing. While the beginning has a bit too much exposition right off the bat, Snyder packs a punch in how close two people can be with very few words. Well worth the money spent.
"Arose from Poetry" by Steve Berman
DNF, no seriously this story is like maybe 10 pages? And I couldn't bring myself to read it. The voice just...didn't appeal to me at all. So. Yeah. I think its same sex pairing however.
"Red" by Amanda Downum
I love Downum's fantasy books, so I was excited to read something different from her. This was..surprising. [insert name] had dreams of a red-eyed girl and garden of death in the North. But with a secret as big as hers to keep and a new family she doesn't want to lose, can she afford to seek out the truth?
This didn't read like a short story, this read more like a novel that had bits cut out and the bare essentials pasted together. I wouldn't specifically label this as a 'romance' (same sex or otherwise) since [insert name] doesn't see Felice that way, but as a kindred spirit more like. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing more of this world.
"Foundlings" by Diana Peterfreund
Peterfreund and I have a rocky relationship in terms of reading. I enjoy her shorter stories set in the 'Unicorn Killer' books, but not the books themselves. Twin sisters, one always the 'good' twin and the other always the 'troublesome' twin, find themselves fighting to make a decision society thinks they're too irresponsible to make. I think this could have been longer. The 'good' twin, who helps her sister hide her pregnancy by matching her (weight wise) and taking her place for some things, has far more characterization then the 'troublesome' twin, or the guy who helps them.
I'd also argue this is less about the romantic love felt between two characters, then the love between the twins who both make extreme sacrifices because of that love for each other.
"Seekers in the City" by Jeanne DuPrau
I had never read the 'City of Ember' books, but I found myself enjoying this sweet tale. A fleeting glimpse of each other send two teens in a crowded future on separate quests to find the other. This *really* doesn't fit into the collection. While the other stories have some sort of desperate future to them, this story could have easily been placed in a contemporary setting and still not lost its shine. DuPrau weaves the 'dystopian' elements in subtly (over population, Governmental oversight taken to the nth degree, etc) and stays focused on the two teens.
"The Up" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Haven't read Hoffman, though I've heard of her and I think have one of her books on my shelves, but I wasn't keen on this. I'm not really sure what the story was here? It was kind of a girl wanting more then she had and grabbing an opportunity when it presented itself, but the last few lines suggest it was less opportunity and more of a plan. Which conflicted with about half of the girl's internal lamenting.
"The Dream Eater" by Carrie Ryan
I won't lie, I was hoping this was "A Forest of Hands and Teeth" short story, since I adore those, but this was surprising. Warning for same-sex pairing(s). One girl volunteers each generation to take on all the misery and painful memories of everyone else in the village. What happens when that girl reaches out? Unlike the others, this doesn't quite give us the 'well at least they have each other' vibe. On the one hand I felt this worked well--Ryan didn't reveal the endgame until the very end, nor tip her hand in its execution.
On the other it was bittersweet at best. Then again all of her stories are like this aren't they?
"357" by Jesse Karp, "Eric and Pan" by William Sleator and "The Empty Pocket" by Seth Cadin all didn't interest me at all. I think at this point I was kind of like 'oh geez another one' and felt burnt out. Too many of the stories felt rushed (writing wise, if not content wise) and barely explored.
The interesting thing about this collection is that quite a few of the authors aren't normally YA authors. Amanda Downum for instance writes fantasy and John Shirley writes a like of media tie-in fiction for games and movies. Also there's about twice as much LGBT fiction in here then any other anthology I've read in genre fiction (not specifically geared in that direction). In that, I found this worth reading.
It fails however in that yes its a dystopic future, but very few of the stores give us plausible reasons why, implausible but at least entertaining reasons why or even a reason why. "Otherwise" implies its because everyone began taking the drug (which may have been legal at one point?). "In the Clearing" likewise implies that its because of the drug...but we're only given a very small idea of this drug's effects on the population. Is everyone using this drug to keep the people docile? Is this a government thing or is it a corporation thing? Why?
Many of these stories fail to give a reason how the story got to be in a bleak (or at least strictly controlled totalitarian regime) future. And that's frustrating. I also wish there was a more unified approach to length of story. I read this on my Kindle, so I don't know the exact amount of pages, but some really seemed to drag on.