Are villains born evil, or do life circumstances force them to choose a dark path?
Thirteen book bloggers challenge as many young-adult authors to write stories about the villains we love to hate. There are reimaginings of familiar fairy-tale and mythological villains alongside the nefarious adventures of the newly infamous. Benjamin Alderson’s challenge to Cindy Pon—“Medusa. Go!”—yields the origin story “Beautiful Venom,” which places the Greek myth in an Asian setting (the collection’s only sign of racial diversity). Samantha Shannon’s “Marigold” is an “Erl-Queen Retelling in Nineteenth-Century London” that grants the primary female character agency denied Victorian women in real life. “You, You, It’s All About You,” by Adam Silvera, introduces “A Female Teen Crime Lord Concealed by a Mask.” Slate, that story’s villain-protagonist, deals in mind-altering drugs in order to gain control of her life after an abusive childhood. Nicola Yoon’s chilling “Sera” is a “Gender-Flipped God of War” story about a young woman with terrifying powers who becomes deathly ill when she suppresses her true nature. Each story is followed by commentary from the blogger who set the challenge. Some react with thoughtful critical pieces, while others take a creative, metafictive approach to the fruits of their authors’ labors.
Some stories don’t quite meet their challenges, but overall, this anthology is an explosively entertaining joy ride of villainous goodness. (Short stories/fantasy. 13-18)