Saturday , February 24 2024

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens

For a superb collection of science fiction and fantasy suitable especially, but by no means exclusively, for teens, you need look no further than this wonderful new anthology. The first in what I hope will be an annual series, the book was compiled by veteran anthologist Patrick Nielsen Hayden and noted children’s and fantasy author Jane Yolen. If it’s truly representative of the best current fiction in the category, then there’s a lot more good writing and storytelling being done in it than I&#8212admittedly no longer a regular reader of these genres&#8212ever would have supposed.

It’s hard to imagine any young reader who likes the Harry Potter books not taking to the stories in this collection. There’s not a dud in the lot. Stories like Kelly Link’s “The Faery Handbag” and Lynette Aspey’s “Sleeping Dragons” excel at smoothly mixing fantastic and legendary elements into the lives of recognizably modern kids. “CATNYP,” by Delia Sherman, and David Gerrold’s “Dancer in the Dark” are good parallel-world stories, the former light and humorous, the latter dark and perhaps a bit too obscure. Two miniatures&#8212Garth Nix’s “Endings,” which takes a page (and literally not much more) from vampire lore and will entrance Buffy and Lestat fans, and “Displaced Persons,” Leah Bobet’s even shorter Wizard of Oz redaction&#8212strike home powerfully in very different ways. The inclusion of Rudyard Kipling’s “They,” first published a century ago, may even point the Hogwarts Generation towards the great literature of the past, where it will discover the aesthetic joys and intellectual rewards of prose more flowery and elegant than even the most erudite contemporary writing.

Moving from times past to times to come, the anthologists save the best for last, presenting Bradley Denton’s longish story “Sergeant Chip.” This near-future tale of war and betrayal, narrated by a most unexpected type of soldier, works on many levels and should become a classic. It alone makes the anthology worth the (very reasonable) price.

The editors provide for each story a mini-introduction in which they point out its literary devices or traditions and recommend other books and authors to readers who may find they want more of the sort. The book may be aimed at younger readers, but adults too, if they have even a small capacity for wonder, will find in these stories a variety of compelling visions, much good writing, and very possibly something to love and remember.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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