Genres: Anthology, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Source: eARC via NetGalley
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.
Note: There are five stories I did not review. Three of them were not in my ARC but will be in the finished copy and two were stories I chose to skip due to personal reasons regarding their authors.
“As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old” by Nina Berry: 2.5/5. Berry had a great idea, but a lack of development and a heroine whose levels of dumb break the scale ruin it. Am I really supposed to go with it when Girl meets Guy, they talk for less than five minutes, and she agrees to go with him somewhere secluded just like that, implying that she’s following him just because he’s really hot? It’s clear she did that just because the story required her to.
“Sing a Song of Six-Pence” by Sarwat Chadda: 4/5. I really liked Chadda’s Billi SanGreal series and the same reasons I liked them are why I liked his short story. It’s well-written, delicious, and isn’t afraid to say that sometimes, there is no winner.
“Clockwork” by Leah Cypress: 4/5. This story, where the mouse climbing up the clock is actually a girl transformed by magic, was full of fun twists. The storyline was great, but it was too simplistic and easily solved even for a short story.
“Blue” by Sayantani DasGupta: 1/5. There simply wasn’t anything to this story that interested me or compelled me to put some thought into it like the others did.
“Pieces of Eight” by Shannon Delaney with Max Scialdone: 2/5. It’s well-paced and actiony as Marnum tries to get to the Dreamland Tree and meanwhile discovers where he came from, but “actiony” is half-compliment, half-complaint. Stuff happened, but there was no development. Marnum was kind of an ass and I didn’t like the writing style.
“Boys and Girls Come Out to Play” by Angie Frazier: 4.5/5. As one sister ventures into the woods to save the other from the witches’ beckoning, I found myself invested in what would happen to them and feel the story was well-thought-out. A small plot hole is all that keeps it from a 5. I admit, this gives me motivation to try and move Frazier’s novel Everlasting up the reading line (even though I don’t exactly have the freedom to pick and choose what I’m reading right now; certain books need to be read ASAP).
“I Come Baring Souls” by Jessie Harrell: 3/5. There’s really not much to say about this story, where three people with the roles of the Egyptian gods Anubis, Bast, and Hathor past judgment on the souls of the dead. I wish there were more to it.
“The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First” by Nancy Holder: 4/5. It’s well-written and interesting, but I felt it was a bit iffy to set a story during a time of witch hunts without giving even a second of thought to innocent people persecuted as witches (and the existence of real, live witches in the story changes nothing). As “Part the First” implies, the anthology splits this into two stories, but my ARC didn’t have the second part in it.
“Life in a Shoe” by Heidi R. Kling: 3/5. Kling’s story has more of a dystopian twist to it, with the old woman and her many children in a shoe being in a small apartment instead, living in a place where women are forced to have children that will one day be raised to fight in the wars. The story suffers from a common flaw in dystopian stories: worldbuilding and plausibility. I cannot see this ever happening and nothing about how things came to be in such a state is not explained.
“Candlelight” by Suzanne Lazear: 2/5. Too anvilicious to be enjoyable. Yes, we know children and teenagers shouldn’t be brats over not being able to go to parties or being grounded because there are always people who have it worse and bad things can happen.
“One for Sorrow” by Karen Mahoney: 1/5. I couldn’t enjoy this for one second. The incredibly immature main character killed it for me.
“Those Who Whisper” by Lisa Mantchev: 5/5 . This author is the main reason I wanted to read this anthology. She’s one of my favorites! With a slight Snow White feel to it in that the main character Sida can talk to animals and a clear, lovely writing style, this is my favorite story of the anthology by far.
“Little Miss Muffet” by Georgia McBride: 3/5. Shape-shifting spiders? …Okay! Would have been a little more highly rated if the main character hadn’t called another girl a tramp.
“Sea of Dew” by C. Lee McKenzie: 3/5. This story of four teenagers adrift in a lifeboat after the ferry they were on capsized is the good kind of bleak, but it didn’t really make me feel anything. What happens to them and how it worsens over time is sad, yet something was lacking.
“Tick Tock” by Gretchen McNeil: 5/5. This story of a babysitter going out to a house on assignment and finding some very creepy children there was fantastic! Creepy and horrifying and just right. Not exactly unique, but I like it anyway.
“The Well” by K.M. Walton: 4/5. Jack and Jill reimagined in a post-virus world where the siblings hate each other. The nuances of their complicated relationship were very well done and I liked the ending.
“The Wish” by Suzanne Young: 4/5. Insta-love put a damper on a story I would have otherwise liked, one about a girl miserable after a break-up, the death wish she makes on a star, and the new guy she spends her night with. It reminded me a little of the urban legend where a girl ends up dancing with the devil.
“A Ribbon of Blue” by Michelle Zink: 3/5. I admit, I knew what was going to happen to Ruby from the time the fortune-teller told her she’d find light, love, and freedom in a boy with a whistle, a ticket, and a blue ribbon. I felt a little bad for Ruby, but I didn’t feel much else because I lacked emotional investment.