Color Outside the Lines – Why must anthologies always make me sad?

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Publication date :  November 12th 2019

Publisher : Soho Teen

Genre : Young Adult | Anthology

Page Count: 312

Synopsis : This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.
When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.

—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines
 (from Goodreads)

*I received a DRC of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review*

(No spoilers)

*cries and chants* Will I ever find an anthology that I genuinely love? I mean, I have a few still on my TBR that I have faith in before I give up all hope of ever loving an anthology. But unfortunately, Color the Lines wasn’t the anthology to prove my unlucky strike wrong. Although I loved a couple stories and liked a couple others, most of them were either forgettable, outright not good in my opinion or I failed to see their purpose in the context of this anthology. Color Outside the Lines is supposed to explore and celebrate interracial relationships and although most of the stories fit the bill, some of them just…didn’t, and I was confused as to why they were included here. But I digress, let’s do a run down of all the stories, the good, the bad, and the one that made me cry.

TURN THE SKY TO PETALS – Anna-Marie Mclemore

If you know me, you know that I am the last person on this planet who’d speak ill of this author’s stories. We all know, after the past few years, that I am absolute trash for Anna-Marie Mclemore and their stories give me life and transport me to other worlds. And this story didn’t fail to do that, the writing was as gorgeous as this author got me used to and it felt magical, but the thing is, I didn’t really understand where this story was going even after I finished it. It felt more like a stream of consciousness than it did a story and ended too abruptly and left me wanting for more.

PROM – Danielle Page

I don’t…really know what to tell you about this story? It was cute for what it was but it was basically a very short prom scene of girls having a gay crisis over each other. But it’s sapphic, so at least, there’s that?

WHAT WE LOVE – Lauren Gibaldi

CW: racism.

This is the first story in the anthology that kind of gave me hope that it might be looking up and eventhough we got off to a rocky start, things might get better. This follows Aviva (Viv), a jewish girl and Nikhil, and indian boy as they bond over their shared experiences of racism and micro-aggressions at their school, especially coming from the resident ~mean girl~ and I really liked how cute and dorky this story was, especially as the two of them got to know each other and develop romantic feelings for each other.

GIVING UP THE GHOST – Tarum Shanker an Kelly Zekas

Okay but this story was SO MUCH FUN? It was hilarious and cute and just a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t anything I expected to find in this anthology and I honestly wish I could have a full length novel about this idea. This is set in the real world but every person has a ghost of one of their ancestors as their mentor. So we follow and Indian boy whose ghost is a pest and set on ruining his life and ridiculing him in front of his crush for some unknown reason. A reason that we uncover as the story progresses.

YOUR LIFE MATTERS – L.L. McKinney

CW: racism, police brutality, shooting, gunshot wounds, hospital.

This story was probably the most fast paced out of the bunch and the one that packed the biggest punch. It’s a f/f story set in a science-fiction-y world where people have superpowers and our main character fancies herself a superhero. The only cloud in her cute lil universe is that her girlfriend’s dad is a bigoted racist jerk. And she’s Black. So through the story we see her both save the day and deal with that aspect of her life. It was a solid story but the writing didn’t wow me.

STARLIGHT AND MOONDUST – Lori M. Lee

CW: chronic illness.

The first thing that struck me about this story is the fact that it reads like a fairy tale and I was immersed in the world of it, and the words of it right away. Whereas most other stories happen in the span of a day or so, this one spans a lot longer and eventhough you’d think it might not work for a short story, in this case it -mostly- did, and I quickly got invested in the characters and the stakes of their relationships. I said mostly because the ending wrapped up way too quickly compared to the pace of the rest of the story and in a way that left me with more questions than I started out with.

FIVE TIMES SHIVA MET HARRY – Sangu Mandanna

I…really do not have much to say about this story because the title says it all. It’s about Shiva and Harry who meet five times before hitting it off and the prospects and possibilities of their meet cute(s). It was okay? I didn’t really have time to get invested in them to have more of an opinion about it but it was cute enough.

THE AGONY OF A HEART’S WISH – Samira Ahmed

This is by far my favorite story in this anthology and one of my favorite stories I have read in my life. It’s a historical story set in early twenties India during the british colonization as an Indian Muslim girl and Irish soldier meet at a train station and form a bond so strong it left my heart aching even with how instantaneous it was (we all know how I feel about insta-love). That’s how brilliant this story was and how much I adored it. The two of them bond over poetry from their respective countries but not only that but they also discuss all the british have taken from them and their countries as well as the role our choices play in how our life turns out.

I feel like there’s so much I can say about this story but also that every single word I will use won’t be enough. This story, in the very few pages it took to happen, made me cry. Because of all the nuances and care with which the topic, both in their similarities and differences were discussed, as well as all the things that were familiar to me. I just. This story was stunning and made reading this anthology worth it.

THE COWARD’S GUIDE TO FALLING IN LOVE – Caroline Tung Richmond

I’ve yet to read a single anthology that doesn’t have a story that’s very aro-antagonistic. And this one was it for Color Outside the Lines. It’s also the first story that I genuinely disliked, it had me cringing from star tto finish because of the “romantic love is the most important love” undertones to the story and how obsessed this girl was with getting her best friend to like her back because his friendship wasn’t enough. This story took the grating levels of “more than friends” up a few hundred notches and I couldn’t stand it.

DEATH OF THE MAIDEN – Tara Sim

Everyone drop everything you’re doing! THIS IS A SAPPHIC HADES x PERSEPHONE RETELLING WITH AN INDIAN TWIST!!!!! The MC decides to wed Hades to get her to help her people and the story goes from there. I loved the writing of this story so much and the relationship between the two women so much that I kind of wish Tara Sim had made it a full length story instead. It was so tentative at first as the more the two spent time with each other and got to know each other the more they fell for each other and I also loved how soft it actually was?

FAITHFULL – Karuna Riazi

This story and I had a rocky beginning but then the more I read and progressed in the story the more I liked it and how much character development it held in such a short story. This is about a girl who interacts with the world based on her assumptions about it, which are often times harsh because of the circumstances in which she grew up and we follow her as she unlearns that and becomes more open to letting people into her life.

GILLMAN STREET – Michelle Ruiz Keil

CW: racist microagressions.

This story was so wonderful and had so much packed into it that it left me with a deep sense of satisfaction once I finished it. It’s set in the 80’s and follow a Mexican MC as she navigates her multiple identities, not only as a Mexican person but as a queer one as well. It took such an unexpected turn from what I thought it was going to be but I think I like the way it headed a lot more, and I also liked the music scene aspect of it. The love interest is also a queer boy I loved the portrayal of.

THE BOY IS – Elsie Chapman

CW: diet talk, racism both internalized and otherwise.

This story was just so meh? According to my notes? Because I can’t remember for the life of me what it was about and past me only wrote that it was mediocre and felt unfinished so…uh…take past-me’s word for it?

SANDWICHED IN BETWEEN – Eric Smith

CW: racism, racist microagressions and stereotypes, internalized bigotry.

Okay so this is the second story I disliked, or maybe even hated. It was so infuriating. This follows a Middle-Eastern boy who gets adopted into a white family and who is absolutely ignorant to race issues. Which I didn’t mind at first because it leaves space for some character development,  but said development was nowhere to be seen. The takeaway of the story was “this is who I am and how I am, take it or leave it” and that’s not how it works, you don’t just ignore prevalent systemic issues expecting them to go away just because you’re sheltered from them. Amina, Mike’s girlfriend’s only purpose in this book was to fight him and challenge him on his views whenever she uttered a word, nothing else. And even then, that was to no avail, because Mike didn’t change and just kept making excuses for himself.

YUNA AND THE WALL – Lydia Kang

This is another story that reads like a fairy tale and is written and structured like one, in setting, characters, themes and even in the way it has a moral to it at the end. And that moral is about prejudice and how people can have unfounded prejudice against other that affects their lives in very real ways. One of the main characters in disabled due to a plague that he caught as a kid and everyone stays away from him thinking he’s still contagious years after, because of the scars he still bears. And the other one is a girl who’s taught to be a sorceress everyone is afraid of. And the two of them form and a bond that starts from their shared struggles and blooms into something more.

SOMETHING GAY AND MAGICAL – Adam Silvera

This was a cute meet-cute (redundant? I think not.) set in a bookstore where two book nerds, one of which works there, bond over their shared love of YA books. And it was nice and fast to read. Nothing really special about it but it wasn’t bad in any way either. Just, okay, I guess.

I read Color Outside the Lines with my best friend Laura @ Green Tea & Paperbacks and although my experience reading it was overall okay, reading it with her made a lot better and for that I am grateful.


Do I recommend? 

Honestly, if I could only recommend the Samira Ahmed, and Tara Sim stories, I would. Because they’re the only ones I had any real investment in. But overall, even though this wasn’t for me, I feel like this is the kind of anthology that can have something for everyone?


That’s it until next time.

Did you read Color Outside the Lines? If so, what did you think?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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6 thoughts on “Color Outside the Lines – Why must anthologies always make me sad?

  1. Pingback: Looking back at my 2019 anticipated releases | Word Wonders

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