Title: Because You Love to Hate Me – 13 Tales of Villainy
Author: Various, all listed below. Edited by Ameriie.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been very curious about this anthology ever since it was announced last year. Generally, the authors in the young adult community have a very strong social media presence, allowing them to interact with readers and bloggers on a daily basis. This collaboration between YA authors and some influential booktubers takes this relationship to a whole new level, and I was excited to see how this partnership would unfold. As with anthologies in general, I found this one a bit of a mixed bag – but it’s centred on villains, and I love to LOVE them. You can find short reviews of each individual story below.
The Blood of Imuriv by Renee Ahdieh, prompt by Christine Riccio
First Line: Everywhere Rhone walked, the nightmares followed.
I’m a fan of Renee Ahdieh’s descriptive writing style, but I felt this story lacked tension and was heavy on info-dump. The short story format does not lend itself well to adequate world-building, and although the story was set in space – the location and period could have changed and I would not have noticed any difference. I also found the story unfolded in a very clunky manner, with the villain’s internal monologue and motivation ringing false, perhaps this due to how restrictive and specific the prompt was.
Jack by Ameriie, prompt by Tina Burke
First Line: The thing is getting them to trust you. The animals.
I found that this was a clever execution of the Jack and the Beanstalk story. I’m partial to fairy tale retellings from the villain’s point of view, and this one succeeded by how intimately we got to know how antagonist despite the short-story form.
Gwen and Art and Lance by Soman Chainani, prompt by Samantha Lane
First Line: Lance du Lac just asked me to Prom. On the *phone*.
I adored this particular prompt (Modern King Arthur crossed with Hades/Persephone), but the execution of the story did not work for me. It was told via a series of text messages that left readers completely detached from these characters. Rich mythologies somehow got turned into pedestrian drama, and I did not get very villainous vibe from this particular short story.
Shirley and Jim by Susan Dennard, prompt by Sasha Alsberg
First Line: This story began with a kiss.
This modern-day retelling features a gender-swapped Shirley Holmes, writing to her best friend about her encounter with Moriarty during school. The twist and fresh narrative voice initially got me excited, but the story’s climax came very abruptly and largely ruined the experience. The story also centred a hero in an anthology about villains, leaving me utterly confused.
The Blessing of Little Wants by Sarah Enni, prompt by Sophia Lee
First Line: Sigrid Balfour hated having to use magic to balance an enormous pile of paper while unlocking her dorm room door.
The concept within this story should have been given its own full-length novel. While I am all modern witches seeking for power, I felt there was not enough page time for a reader to get a sense of the world-building or characterisation – the story ultimately ended up being unmemorable (I honestly could not remember reading it, and had to flip back to skim read before I wrote this review).
The Sea Witch by Marissa Meyer
First Line: The razor-sharp barnacles clawed at my fingertips as I strained to wrench them free of the rotting wood.
As mentioned above, villain-centric fairy tale retellings are my weakness – so I was predisposed to enjoy this origin story of The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. The reading experience was slightly dampened by how much telling instead of showing there was in the writing. I’ve also read a vastly superior dark Little Mermaid retelling (Drown by Esther Dalseno), and could not help comparing the two the entire time.
Medusa by Cindy Pon, prompt by Benjamin Alderson
First Line: Mei Du slithered between the dust-coated statues of gods and goddesses and knocked them over, one by one, with a swipe of her powerful serpent body.
I love Cindy Pon and her constant efforts to bring quality Asian representation to YA. This is a chilling Chinese retelling of Medusa – using the bare bones of the original story to construct a tale that criticises rape-culture and victim-blaming. You know a short story is perfect when you’re simultaneously satisfied with the conclusion yet wanting more from its world.
Death Knell by Victoria Schwab, prompt by Jesse George
First Line: Death is a boy with brown eyes.
This is one of my favourite stories of the collection, Victoria Schwab just has such a way with words. The writing was raw and visceral, conveying at once the decay of death and the life brimming during harvest season. I love her wilful and flawed characters, and the interplay between Grace and Death. I could easily read an entire series based on this premise.
Marigold by Samantha Shannon, prompt by Regan Perusse
First Lines: This is a tale of a prince and a princess, two men on a quest, two queens, and a maid named Marigold. You might reasonably assume that these are the perfect ingredients for a fairy tale.
Another stunner of a story, and Samantha Shannon manages to capture the spirit of the faes so succinctly within this dark tale. This dark tale unfolds in a 18th century London where Erl-folks remain a real and malevolent force. The twist and turn within this novel left me on the edge of my seat, and I utterly adored the ending. Another story that made me wish for an accompanying full-length novel.
You, You, It’s All About You by Adam Silvera, prompt by Catriona Feeney
First Line: You’ve made a name for yourself. And no one remembers the old one.
Now, this was a whole load of fun. Adam Silvera has such a way with his characters, and his masked teenage crime lord was a complete delight. I love how there’s such an energy and wit to her villainy, and I could have read several books starring Amanda. The world building with memory drugs was a fascinating concept, and I yearn for more.
Indigo and Shade by April Genevieve Tucholke, prompt by Whitney Atkinson
First Lines: I didn’t believe the Beast was back. Not at first. No one did.
I’ve read many Beauty and the Beast retellings, but none have featured Gaston’s point of view, so I found the premise of this story very intriguing. However, the plot was very predictable, and I found myself skimming through large sections of the story. Ultimately, it’s a forgettable version of a story we’ve seen many times before.
Sera by Nicola Yoon, prompt by Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy
First Lines: Present Day – The detective pulls his eyes away from Kareena Thomas, the woman he’s questioning.
Um, Nicola Yoon needs to start publishing speculative fiction immediately because this story was amazing – by far and away my favourite of the collection. It features Sera, a girl who seems to cause strife and conflict from the moment she was born. It documents her childhood and her relationship with a mother who fears her. I love the sinister, dreadful atmosphere permeating throughout the entire story. This was a completely unique take on War and the world needs more of it.
My favourite stories of the collection are: Medusa by Cindy Pon, Death Knell by Victoria Schwab, Marigold by Samantha Shannon, You, You, It’s All About You by Adam Silvera, and Sera by Nicola Yoon. If you’re a fan of villains and trope subversion, I think you should definitely check out these. Unfortunately, I found the rest of the collection unmemorable – but the five stories listed above are well worth the price of the paperback.