Book Review: Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA

Title: Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA

Author: Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma (Editors)

Genres:  Anthology, SciFi/Fantasy, Contemporary

Pages: 352

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Review Copy: ARC from Publisher

Availability: Available Now

Summary: Thirteen Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons

Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers.

Featured in print for the first time, the thirteen stories anthologized here were originally released via the buzzed-about online platform Foreshadow. Ranging from contemporary romance to mind-bending fantasy, the Foreshadow stories showcase underrepresented voices and highlight the beauty and power of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA luminary, among them Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level? Addressing these questions and many more are essays and discussions on craft and process by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan.

This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.

Review: When I first learned of the concept of Foreshadow that Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma developed, I was so excited. I found the concept intriguing and was glad they were choosing to highlight marginalized voices. When I learned of the print version my excitement bubbled over again.

And what editors Pan and Suma have done with the anthology is a love letter to amazing stories and the craft of writing itself. Each story is introduced by an established YA author that gives just a hint about what the story is about. Each story also includes an author’s note at the end where we get a glimpse at what inspired each author to write their short story. It’s at this point is where this anthology becomes unique. After each story either Pan or Suma give a brief reflection on what each story excels at from a craft issue. Reflections include topics such as Voice, Mood, Plot Twist, Romance, Imagery, and Motif. From a teacher’s standpoint I loved these craft insights as I could see using them in the creative writing classroom as discussion lead ins. And as a writer, it allowed me to really look at a particular craft technique that the writer excelled at and digest the story differently. After some of these craft reflections we are gifted with some amazing writing prompts. My favorite one was called “The Ending of the World” which encouraged writers to craft a piece about a character’s world ending either figuratively or literally. The prompt reminded me both as a teacher of teens and a yet-to-be published YA writer that small moments in a teens life can be “world ending” and we have to give space for those moments. But the craft goodness doesn’t end here. At the end of the anthology, Pan and Suma give space to the editors of the anthology to discuss the editing process and their approach to cultivating an author’s voice. For me, this was an insightful glimpse at the editing process of not just an anthology but of a novel. (full disclosure: I submitted a short story to Foreshadow and was rejected of course. However, I received lovely feedback from the editors/readers to help improve the piece, so I can attest to the care they all took in uplifting emerging authors.) The anthology ends with a writing prompt that so lovingly wraps everything together with a prompt of inspiring words that will hopefully spark a story in a writer. Foreshadow is a perfect anthology filled with beautiful stories that will touch a reader, while at the same time inspire others to take up a pen and write.

I can’t wax poetic about this anthology without mentioning some of the stories that I really loved. Mayra Cueva’s “Resilient” broke my heart as the story is about Marisol and her cousin Rosita who leave Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria for a job at a turkey processing plant in South Dakota. The story really brought home how Hurricane Maria completely upended the lives of everyone on the island and how our government failed them. The story ends on a positive note with Marisol changing her state of mind and deciding that being resilient will be what gets her through her time in South Dakota. Another story that I loved was Gina Chen’s “Fools”. Chen’s story is a fantasy where the magic came alive and I fell in love with all the characters. Fanny is a teen without a heart, literally, but she is the heart of the story in her relationships with her grandmother and the other magical girls who live on the island. Her world is changed when a demon, named Sidoi/Dimen, crosses into her realm. The two develop a fun push and pull relationship that challenges Fanny to grow in ways she couldn’t imagine. I would totally love to see a novel with these two as the main characters going on adventures. Lastly, Nora Elghazzawi’s “Solace” was a touching story of a teen overcoming her grief. Laila is on the verge of adulthood but is directionless as she is still dealing with the death of her younger brother. She is being encouraged by school counselors and her parents to move on, while also cultivating a relationship with Gabe Briar who has also experienced loss. The story also hints that Laila might have been teetering on a food discorder due to her grief and I like that the story focused on her healing, how her gardening helped her heal, but was also in a sense what was holding her back.

In addition to being moving stories, all of the works in Foreshadow are beautifully written. There was so much thought and care that was put into this anthology and it comes through to the reader. If I were teaching high school creative writing I would definitely use this anthology in my classroom. Readers will enjoy this anthology for the richness of all the stories and the insight into craft. Writers will appreciate the chance to dig a little deeper into each story to help them improve their craft. Emily X.R. Pen and Nova Ren Suma put their heart and soul into Foreshadow and we are all the richer for it.