Underdog edited by Tobias Madden
Black Inc, 2019. ISBN 9781760641344.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Short stories. Underdog is a collection of short stories by new Australian writers, covering a range of themes that will resonate with teenage readers. The first in the collection, 'Meet and greet', is the poignant story of Cooper, a young man attending the book-signing event of an author who has most perfectly captured the heart-break of the forced break-up of his first gay relationship, an exact mirroring of Cooper's own experience. But in the book-signing queue he meets someone he has always admired on social media - ABoyMadeOfBooks... and just maybe it is the start of a new friendship.
There are other stories about the tentative exploration of sexual identity, and the struggle to balance wishes and dreams with others' expectations, but themes also include the chaos of our dystopian future as the planet is destroyed by human induced climatic events. There is even something for the ghost or horror story reader.
For a reflection of Australia's rich multicultural world, read 'The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife' a story that shares with us the memories a boy from Wagga has of his 'Ong', and the importance of traditional Chinese dishes in commemorating his life. Another story 'Afterdeath' tells the tragic consequences of the young love between Romy and Muslim girl Hulya.
I think all young readers would find something of interest in this collection that has grown from the grassroots campaign #LoveOzYA celebrating Australian YA authors. There is such a variety of stories, sure to inspire yet another generation of writers. And on top of that, there is an excellent foreword by Fleur Ferris on how to get yourself published.