In her introduction to this fine short story collection, editor Laura Geringer says, "I hope you enjoy these unusual tales, as I have, and that whatever you select to take from them stays with you for many days and night to come, waking and dreaming."
Six great writers equal six fantastic short stories in this flawless collection of tales dealing with encounters of the world of sleepless nights. From Peter Abrahams's poignant and ghostly "Phase 2" to the zany appearance in "The Motherless One" of the monkey from Gene Luen Yang's AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, each story has a different twist for situations that people encounter as they skip sleep and struggle through the night.
Libba Bray, author of A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, offers "Not Just for Breakfast Anymore." Teenager Maggie is trying to adjust to her parents' divorce. But it's not just the divorce --- it's her mother's endless empty chatter and her father's new lifestyle. She can never share with her friends that her father is gay and actually living with his partner. Her shame and confusion are drowned out for a short while one night when she and friends Diane, Justine and Holly go out to see a band. The band never shows and they all get a little drunk, find themselves in some potentially dangerous situations and, ultimately, end up at her father's condo. Seeing her father in a different light and knowing that, despite all the pain, she has a safe haven where she and her friends can be themselves, turns out to be a revelation. It is a night of growing up for Maggie.
Patricia McCormick, noted author of CUT and SOLD, presents "Orange Alert," the story of a young girl trying to deal with a stepfather who is getting too familiar with her. She spends her nights giving herself driving lessons. Feeling herself developing an independent power, she eventually puts Ed/stepfather in his place. With her new sense of self-confidence, you know this is one girl who will make positive changes.
In "Superman Is Dead," Sarah Weeks explores the tender relationship between Nick and his little brother Joe. During the night Nick works on a short story for class, calling back and forth, sharing insights with his friend. The real drama, however, centers on the fading life of Joe's beloved hamster, Superman. Nick worries about how to deal with Superman when a call from his dad announcing that his new wife has had a baby (there are definitely issues to deal with here) also includes a helpful suggestion on what to do with the hamster. The night is long and painful for Nick, for Superman and for the emotional strings that twist around Nick's heart. This is a sad, enlightening and tender story whose rich characters could easily move into a book.
David Levithan's wonderful "The Vulnerable Hours" explores issues of loneliness and the superficiality of so many conversations. Phil wanders around during the night asking strangers "What's up?" until he finds Sara, who begins an awakening within herself from their conversation and offers:
"If you can conquer the vulnerable hours, you can allow yourself to be yourself, to go forward. You breathe in the night air, and it sustains you."
UP ALL NIGHT is an excellent addition to both public and high school libraries. Asking the question of "what have you ever done while staying up all night?" these entertaining stories will be a stimulating offering in the worlds of waking and dreaming.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts