Together, Apart Anthology
Finally writing a book review again! I read Together Apart over the weekend, and I really enjoyed it. It's the only mainstream pandemic centric YA book out there (that I know of), which was also super interesting. I'm someone who processes what I'm going through in the moment through other people's work and recounting of experiences and through reading. With the pandemic, there hasn't been that chance. While most people are on the side of reading as escapism and not wanting books to acknowledge the pandemic, I've been craving it, and I want to write it as well (probably never will because everyone is so against it). Books and writing are how I process things. Together, Apart gave me a chance to do that. At a certain point, I think I started reading less because some days it hurt to read about teens on some other timeline living the high school/college life that feels like it's passing me by. So, I will go out on the controversial limb and say that I really want more YA contemporary that takes a compassionate, realistic look at the emotional realities of living in 2020.
Getting into the anthology itself, I enjoyed the stories so much. They're all mini romances set at the very beginning of the pandemic when we were all sewing each other masks (I still can't believe we had to sew them and the government didn't just send them to us?) and adjusting to online learning. These stories aren't about the pandemic so much as navigating a world turned upside down as a teen when your life is always getting shaken like a snow globe. I also loved all of them because of that romantic focus. Each story represented hope, new beginnings, and possibilities in a time so deeply shrouded in isolation and fear and uncertainty. I think I needed the reminder that there is so much still out there in the world, even if we're all still sitting in our houses. Though the occasional half-joke of "Do you think we'll still be in here in October" was more than a little depressing. I applaud all of these authors for writing with such complexity and nuance about a situation that none of us understood much at all when these stories were drafted.
The highlights for me included "Love, Delivered" the opening story by Erin A. Craig where the main character falls for the pizza delivery guy in the town they have to move to for her parents' hospital jobs, "The Socially Distant Dog-Walking Brigade" by Bill Konigsberg where two boys fall in love because they happen to walk their dogs at the same time, "One Day" by Sajni Patel that got to the heart of how hard it can be to live with your family 24/7 (and also includes a hot guy who plays guitar), and "Masked" by Erin Hahn where the main character, Gray, sacrifices her prom dress for the mask making cause and ends up falling for her reality TV show crush in real life in the process. While these stories acknowledge the hardship, as with most YA, there is joy and hope at the heart of each of these stories.
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