Unbroken Edited by Marieke Nijkamp (310 pages)
Overall: 4 Since this book is an anthology, this review is going to get structured a little differently. It's a collection of thirteen stories tied together by the common theme of having disabled teens at the forefront of the stories.
Beyond the central thread, these stories go in all different directions and genres. I'd say that most of them are fantasy or magical realism with many influenced by Eastern cultures or mythology. There are a few contemporary stories scattered throughout, and Katherine Locke brings science fiction into the mix. This makes it a great anthology for people looking for a taste of many genres or a chance to sample genres that are outside your comfort zone. The chance to try new things without a whole novel of commitment is the greatest attribute of an anthology to me. Many of the stories also dive into LGBTQ relationships and identities though there are plenty of friendship and family stories as well.
As far as the disabilities covered in the book, they are as far reaching as the genres. I'd say the most common one discussed is chronic pain, but there are also stories featuring a blind main character, one with IBD, characters grappling with mental illness like Bipolar II and Schizophrenia, and a character in a wheel chair. It was both heartwarming and enlightening to see so many different identities whether from disability, ethnicity, or sexual orientation in these pages. The diversity allowed me to experiences stories that felt familiar to my own and to learn about other's experiences.
With all anthologies there will be stories that are amazing okay and not great. This was true of this one as well. There were two stories that I got halfway through, but didn't finish, but those were the only ones that I couldn't really get into. It's tricky going from reading mostly novels to anthologies where you read twenty to forty pages of one story with no chapter breaks. That might have caused my patience to be a bit lower with some of these stories because I got frustrated when I felt like I wasn't making any progress in the book.
There were some personal standouts though. The first story that I loved from this book was "Britt and The Bike God" by Kody Keplinger. It reminded me of Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom because it also stars a blind athlete. Britt is a cyclist who has a great support system from her dad and their cycling program. By riding tandem, she can keep racing. It's a perfect, heartwarming contemporary.
The next story that really clicked with me was by The Belles author, Dhonielle Clayton, and it's called, "Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love." Nora always has to be on the lookout for food that will upset her stomach as she deals with irritable bowl disorder. It's worse when she's stressed, so she's decided that dating is out of the question because going out with someone new + dinner would likely equal an episode. Beyond being an adorable story about love and advice columns, it's the first time I've ever seen IBDs discussed in a book. I loved getting to see representation for something I've struggled with myself.
"Ballad of Weary Daughters" by Kristine Wyllys is another great story that deals with a girl coping with the negative side effects that have accompanied her struggle to find the right medication for her Bipolar II. It's honest about the sometimes bumpy realities of treating mental health disorders, and it also features awesome siblings and friendship threads.
"A Curse, A Kindness" by Corinne Duyvis is the last story in the anthology, but it's certainly not a let down. With a twist on a genie story, Corinne also includes an autistic character. While she doesn't dive into the realities of that much, I'm always pleased to see the autistic community seeing increasing representation in books.
I know this has been a really long post, but I wanted to throw in a final favorite because all of the stories above are contemporary (I guess I really do have a favorite genre). "The Day The Dragon Came" by editor of the anthology, Marie Nijkamp is a fantasy story that covers chronic pain and also the complexities of forming relationships over gaining independence.