When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.
It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.
Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours.
If anyone knows me, they will know that I’m a huge fan of anthologies. Flying Lessons, Hungry Hearts, Once Upon an Eid, Black Enough, Color Outside the Lines, It’s a Whole Spiel – I love reading a wide array of stories and getting a taste of an author’s vision and creativity with the anthology’s central and shared theme.
Up All Night offers thirteen stories that all take place between sunset and sunrise. I was intrigued by this hook; the time after midnight is a mysterious, sometimes mystical, sometimes wondrous time where the extraordinary happens. Most of the stories in Up All Night are contemporary stories – some are romantic, some are about friendship, one has supernatural elements, and one even has superheroes. Though, as a whole, I liked Up All Night well enough, I found myself loving and enthralled by some stories but unfortunately disappointed or bored by some.
Never Have I Ever by Karen M. McManus
I can see why Never Have I Ever was the first short story in the anthology. The story follows a group of teens who play the game ‘Never Have I Ever’ and the night goes awry when the resident bad boy in town shows up and plays – leading the teens to discover something horrific. I was intrigued to see where this story was going, but did not enjoy the sudden tonal shift and the surprise ‘twist’ at the end. But that’s just me, someone who is tired and not interested with twists where ‘privileged white girl is bad, actually’ stories. This story will probably work if you actually have expectations of character tropes to subvert. Me? I unfortunately felt bored and unsurprised.
Content warning for: death, blood mention
Like Before by Maurene Goo
Oh, I loved this and this short story actually made me cry. This story follows a Korean-American teen who invites her two friends to a slumber party and scavenger hunt, to rekindle their strained friendship. This was a funny yet bittersweet illustration of friendship in a landscape of change, and I felt so connected to the Pepper’s desperation to hold onto and mend her friends’ relationship. The direction of the story goes to a place that I absolutely did not expect – yet, I think the direction it went was perfect and real and very needed – and I was left heartbroken by the end. A brilliant and heartbreaking story.
Old Rifts and Snowdrifts by Kayla Whaley
Set in a snowstorm, this adorable story felt like a warm pillow and hot chocolate that melted my heart. This story is about a white disabled teen who uses a wheelchair and is stuck at work with her estranged friend that she no longer speaks to amidst a blizzard. It’s about mending an old rift in their friendship, due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding, and I loved how tender and gentle this story was. I also love the pure and gorgeous disabled joy in this story.
Con Nights, Parallel Hearts by Marieke Nijkamp
I was intrigued by the unique format, where the story’s characters’ (one whom is nonbinary) favourite TV show about exploring parallel universes and time travel, is integrated in the story itself. The story follows three teens waiting outside at a con, discussing their day ahead. When an opportunity presents itself for one of the teens to open up to her friend, the story diverges, presenting us with three ‘timelines’ of how their conversation goes. The story explores how fandom can be more than fandom; it can be an anchor and a way to escape. The story does touch upon domestic abuse, and it is sensitively handled. I like stories that explore alternate timelines and how our lives look like if we had made a different decision, so I enjoyed this story.
Content warning for: discussion of abuse
Kiss the Boy by Amanda Joy
This was a cute story about three Black best friends who made a pact to kiss their crushes before they graduate. Taking place during their last night at high school where a scavenger hunt is planned, the story is about one teen’s last attempt to kiss her crush. There’s nothing surprising about this story, which gives it its charm; it’s an unsurprising, predictable, yet absolutely sweet, and lovely story about finally confessing to your crush.
Creature Capture by Laura Silverman
This was one of my favourite stories in the anthology because it reminded me so much of the joy and sense of community during the height of Pokemon Go. This story is about a teen and her best friend who venture into a lake to find the Loch Ness monster in a mystical creature collectathon mobile app game. It’s about insecurity, being afraid to make new friends, and connecting with others who love the same thing as you. I love how this story just captures the joy of playing Pokemon Go and the camaraderie of meeting people who play the same game and scary yet exciting experience of making new friends.
Shark Bait by Tiffany D. Jackson
I love Tiffany Jackson’s work, but Shark Bait didn’t quite work for me. This story is about a Black teen, who moved to a new town with her mother following her father’s infidelity. When her father offers her a chance to move in with him, giving her a chance to study at Yale, she goes out with her biracial white-passing boyfriend to the beach while grappling with the decision ahead of her. The story explores anti-Blackness and being a token, and has a twist at the end, which, I think was supposed to show how fragile and fleeting life can be, didn’t work for me.
Content warning: death, accident, infidelity, racist anti-Black slur used
A Place to Start by Nina LaCour
This is quite a ‘quiet’ story in comparison to the others, and I liked it. It’s about two teens – one nonbinary – whose mothers marry and whisk themselves away on their honeymoon, leaving the new step-siblings to grapple with change. I enjoyed the portrayal of how understated and anticlimactic change can become, how the two step-siblings make changes to their new home to better adjust and to feel more at home. This was a gentle story about change and adjustment that I liked.
When You Bring a Dog to Prom by Anna Meriano
This story stood out to me and I really enjoyed it! The story follows a group of friends who go to prom and the night that follows when the main character’s crush goes to prom with someone else. This was such a sweet and fun story that centered friendship, secret crushes, grappling with jealousy while also trying to be a supportive friend, and shenanigans when the prom date’s comfort dog accidentally runs away. I felt that this story subverted my expectations in a fun and gentle way, and it was a comfort to read.
Missing by Kathleen Glasgow
Readers who love ghost stories and creepy settings, rejoice! This story is about a group of girls who go into an abandoned women’s asylum to record the happenings therein, only to find that the asylum isn’t as abandoned as they thought. The story explores historical sexism and how women were incarcerated for being ‘progressive’, grief, and also portrays the toxic relationships between the girls. Atmospheric and sure to stand out in the anthology, but the story also didn’t really leave any sort of impression to me,
What About Your Friends by Brandy Colbert
This was a sweet yet bittersweet story about two Black friends who drifted apart but meet once more at a dance marathon in college. The story explores friendships and how they just sometimes drift apart, and how the void of closeness, leaving awkwardness, often leads us to say the wrong things. It’s also about how some things don’t change, even when people do, and how the main character’s gap year is cut short due to a racist experience. I liked this; liked the unique setting, enjoyed the depiction of friendship here, and the ending gave me some hope.
Under Our Masks by Julian Winters
Another favourite in the anthology! This story has superheroes and how a Black teen (who is also the vigilante, Raven) does a stake out with his friend/crush, a South Asian teen, on the lookout for Raven himself. This story reads very ‘slice of life’; there’s no action or villain-butt-kicking, but I liked how extraordinary moments that can change our lives can happen in the quiet moments at night. This was down to earth and really sweet. I hope Julian Winters can write about teen superheroes one day; I’d welcome such a story with open arms.
The Ghosts of Goon Creek by Francesca Zappia
This was a lovely story about friendship and judgement! It follows a teen who is the school’s resident outcast and expert on local ghost stories, who is asked to be interviewed about the ghost of Goon Creek. When others join the adventure, for what was assumed to be an awkward outing turns into an adventure among growing friends. I really liked this, and how sometimes the barriers to making friends is sometimes, well, you. It was a nice closing to the anthology and a soft and lovely finish.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED FOR SOME, NOT RECOMMENDED FOR OTHERS
Up All Night features an array of creative stories for a simple premise. All of the stories are well-written – and if you love the writing styles and previous works of the authors in this anthology, then you will probably love their story – but some of the stories will resonate, whereas others may not. Though this isn’t the strongest anthology I have read, it is a solid anthology nonetheless and there will be a gem in here for everyone.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A collection of short stories that all take place between sunset and sunrise.
Perfect for: Readers who like anthologies that lean towards contemporary stories.
Think twice if: If you’re not a fan of anthologies, or have previously never enjoyed anthologies.
Genre: young adult; stories contain contemporary stories, science-fiction elements, romantic elements, horror elements, and supernatural elements
Trigger/content warning: Content warnings listed below each story.