‘Girl Meets Boy’ is a relatively eclectic selection of short stories focusing on teens from diverse walks of life all caught up in youthful relationships, where perception is everything and the simplest exchange of words can so easily be misread and misconstrued. Written by a diverse mix of established and up-and-coming authors, each tale is split into two stories: One from a male author from the guy’s point of view, while the other sees a female writer telling the girl’s point-of-view.
Unfortunately, Girl Meets Boy never really embraces the concept set up in its introduction, and the actual stories mostly just use the dual-perspective concept as a way to simply tell a longer story rather than offering up any real Rashomon-style cleverness or revealing insight into gender dynamics in relationships. The opening story – a tale of an abnormally good looking boy and a rebellious foster home girl with a history of abuse – does the most with the ‘people aren’t what they say or seem on the surface’ dual narrative, as does the closing story (even if the big twisty reveal is very clumsily delivered).
Like any anthology, the stories can be hit-and-miss, but there are notable standouts, with the best being James Howe and Ellen Wittlinger’s tale of a troubled gay kid trying to find love online. On the whole, they’re an entertaining selection, with no truly bad or boring entries. The diversity of the collection is a definite upside, too, and focusing on kids from a wide variety of sexual and racial backgrounds, from gay, straight and transgender to white, African-American, Native American and Muslim teens helps provide a welcome variety of social and cultural flavour to the stories.
But not only do the majority of the stories neglect to deliver on the he-said/she-said insight and intrigue, many fail to really delve more than surface level with its culturally diverse characters, who feel trite as a result. Rebecca Fjelland Davis and Terry Davis tell the story of a Muslim boy dating a white farmer girl, but the racial conflicts and family drama presented feel like territory that’s already been explored to death in the years following 9/11, and here it’s all barely explored and without anything remotely new to say. The short length means that many of the stories sacrifice a lot of character development in the same way and feel a bit too truncated and unsatisfying.
As a collection, it’s a fast and easy read (though the often abuse-themed content is significantly darker than the wistful summer romance cover implies) and the stories all entertain and prove interesting and diverse in their own ways. Unfortunately the authors don’t really get the most out of the short story structure or the collection’s concept, never quite delivering on the ‘he said/she said’ set-up and not always fleshing their characters out as well as possible. It’s a hit-and-miss anthology, but overall it’s an engaging enough collection for fans of relationship drama.
‘Girl Meets Boy’, Edited by Kelly Milner Halls is out now in hardback format through Chronicle Books, with a Kindle version due on 1st April 2012.
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