The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens
edited by Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Published by Tor Teen
288 pages, 2005
Just Like Teen Spirit
Reviewed by Andi Shechter
I haven't been a teen for -- ahem -- a while, so it seemed wise to trust the judgment of the editors of The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens. The thing is, I most certainly do trust these particular editors. Author Jane Yolen is one of our most respected writers of books for young people as well as for adults. She's won a ridiculous number of awards from the Nebula to the Mythopoeic Fantasy, from the Skylark to the World Fantasy, plus a bunch I'd never heard of. And Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a savvy, smart, opinionated guy. If he thinks a story is good, there's an excellent chance that it is. He is an editor with a real ability to find talent. So an anthology with these two folks saying "These are the best"? I'm inclined to listen.
Some of the authors' names were familiar even to me, as Delia Sherman and S.M. Stirling and the like (like Yolen) write genre work for all ages. Sherman's wonderful story "Catnyp" is probably my favorite in this anthology; although Kelly Link gets a vote based on title alone. Her story "The Faery Handbag" worked really well for me. "Catnyp" is about the New York Public Libraries and changelings and those who live between two worlds. Cool stuff. The Link? Well, it's about a handbag. Yes? And? What were you expecting? But no handbag my mom ever used.
The stories didn't all work for me; as a non-fan of a certain book/movie, I didn't appreciate "Displaced Persons" but it was short. Still, I think stories that depend largely on other stories to work might not be the strongest of choices for a "best of" collection. And the lengthy "Sergeant Chip," while beautifully written, just went on too long. Sure, it's a novella, but there were big chunks of it that I found repetitive and not useful in advancing the plot.
Garth Nix caught my attention a few years ago with his trilogy. I don't buy or read YA or teen fantasy. I will,however, read almost any book with cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon and the children's bookstore staff who recommended these. They were worth it (though the third one dragged a bit). But it was nice seeing something else by this talented writer.
And look! A story by David Gerrold. The flap copy (I know, I know, different people write that stuff) still refers to him as the creator of "The Trouble With Tribbles" as if the guy hasn't done anything else in how many years? Really, guys, not fair. Well-written story here, but I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't get it; no idea what it meant.
The surprise was S. M. Stirling's "Blood Wolf" a story that I began and thought "Oh, I don't think so" as the premise didn't seem promising. But I kept reading and actually, it has a fascinating premise, from the author's "Nantucket" books, with which I'm totally unfamiliar and with the exception of the occasional small clunky expository lump, was really enjoyable. The premise being that a modern version of Nantucket ends up back in the Bronze Age. Suspending disbelief was essential here, but worth it.
A great plus here is that each story is introduced with "if you like this story, you might want to read" suggestions that include modern and older works, from stories to books to trilogies. There's also an "honor roll" in the back of stories not included in the anthology but that the editors found worth noting; always a help when you read a collection that leaves you wanting more. | May 2005
Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books, an old-but-cute purple computer, not enough soft toys (including a small but select hedgehog and gorilla collection), many figure skating videotapes and an esoteric collection of hot sauces. There's a Hugo Award on her mantelpiece which belongs to her partner, cartoonist and artist Stu Shiffman.