The stories in this collection track a philosophical imp who harvests teeth, a strange creature from the New Jersey Pinelands, a magical yearbook and something sinister in the sewer.
Cecil is an African-American gay teen conflicted about his identity. After a fight at school between another gay youth and a homophobic bully in which the gay lad loses a tooth that Cecil picks up, a tooth sprite shows up in Cecil’s bedroom. He helps Cecil to understand both himself and people’s need to define everything through words. Jameson is a gay youth whose boyfriend sees something down the sewer, something that may be related to an old urban legend. Amelia is a young lesbian who feels she may not have an imagination until she meets Stephanie, who spurs her imagination in the most extreme way possible. These are just a few of the characters in these 13 LGBT young-adult stories. Berman’s Vintage: A Ghost Story (2008) was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy; he brings the same fertile imagination that he employed in that story to many of the entries here. The characters are all gay teenagers. Except for a few, most are happy and secure with themselves and are confident young people, either with a loving partner or seeking one. Thus, like many classic fairy tales, these stories star strong men and women who seek love and happiness in an uncertain world and must overcome obstacles (a fire-breathing dragon or magical yearbook) to find them. The collection shines when it mixes the commonplace with fantasy; without the flash of the unusual, as in “All Smiles” and “Cruel Movember,” the plots fall flat. Stories that abandon the modern aspect completely, such as “Thimbleriggery and Fledglings,” seem forced in their use of imagery and plot. Several tales set in the modern day, such as the quiet, subtle “Three On A Match,” pulse with the excitement and surprise of the best fairy tales.
An LGBT fantasy-tinged story collection that, despite a few stumbles, delights and entertains.