Book Review: Fools in Love edited by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos – A Fresh and Diverse Anthology for Lovers of Tropey Romance Stories

Fools in Love: Fresh Twists on Romantic Tales edited by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos. Contributors: Rebecca Barrow, Gloria Chao, Mason Deaver, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Malinda Lo, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, Julian Winters. Reviewed by CW at The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Fake relationships. Enemies to lovers. Love triangles and best friends, mistaken identities and missed connections. This collection of genre-bending and original stories celebrates how love always finds a way, featuring powerful flora, a superhero and his nemesis, a fantastical sled race through snow-capped mountains, a golf tournament, the wrong ride-share, and even the end of the world. With stories written by Rebecca Barrow, Ashley Herring Blake, Gloria Chao, Mason Deaver, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Malinda Lo, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Rebecca Podos, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, and Julian Winters this collection is sure to sweep you off your feet.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love romance tropes. I love the emotional beats of the stories, I love all the expectations that come with tropes and readying myself for the inevitable ‘ah!’ moment where the trope blooms into something wonderful and exciting, and I love the inevitability of it all. So when I saw that Fools in Love, edited by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos, was an anthology dedicated entirely to reimaginings of romance tropes? Count me in!

The Fools in Love anthology offers a range of short stories from a variety of genres. There’s your typical cosy romantic contemporaries that offer comfort in their familiarity and wonderful emotional beats, such as Laura Silverman’s adorable and ‘cheesy’ The Passover Date, wherein a Jewish teen, tired of being singled out as date-less, enlists the help of her old yet estranged best friend to be her fake date for her family’s Passover Seder dinner. If you’d like a fresh setting and something a little sporty, Gloria Chao’s Teed Up and take on ‘Oblivious to Lovers’ is a feel-good romance about a Taiwanese teen and amateur golfer who navigates familial pressures and, as the trope suggests, is completely oblivious to a fellow competitor’s pining and yearning during a golf tournament.

Perhaps you’re looking for a feminist and unique story about puppeteering, Lilliam Rivera’s endearing story These Strings will delight, where a Latine teen finds the courage to stand up to patriarchal traditions and prove that she’s ready to take her family’s puppeteering business to the next level, encouraged by her ‘Sibling’s Hot Best Friend’. Or, if you’ve ever felt frustrated by how love triangles and wondered why they didn’t just all end up together, then And by Hannah Moskowitz is for you – written in second-person perspective, the story follows three teens caught in a love triangle and how they explore an open and polyamorous relationship.

The wonderful thing about Fools in Love is that a significant number of the stories are queer – and how wonderful it is to see queer characters at the center of such stunning love stories. Amy Spalding’s simple yet utterly adorable Five Stars follows a teen who is mistaken as her crush’s ride-share driver – and rather than telling her crush that she’s not her driver, drives her crush to her destination instead and – of course! – they get caught in a traffic jam. Or, if you love the ‘Grump and Sunshine’ trope that delves into the complexities of mis(communication), then Ashley Herring Blake’s Edges will be a treat, a story about about two queer girls on very different ends of the high school ‘popularity’ continuum who are secretly friends with one another outside of school. In addition, Mason Deaver’s Boys Noise about a queer trans boy and popstar is taken on a whirlwind birthday date by his fellow bandmate in New York where the hotel has ‘Only One Bed’.

Fools in Love also offers a few ‘quiet’ stories where the world beyond isn’t perfect or, even, about to be hit by an asteroid. (Fairy)Like Attracts Like by Claire Kann is a twist on the ‘Mutual Pining’ trope, about a Black fairy working at a summer camp who is cursed to never tell a lie, offering a fascinating glimpse into a whole backstory of fairies and curses. The anthology’s final story, Rebecca Podos’ quiet and bittersweet Disaster, follows a teen stranded at school three days out from an asteroid hitting earth and ending life as she knows it – and thus decides to find her ex at her family home in a twist of the ‘Second Chance Romance’ trope.

Perhaps you’re looking for a queer story with high stakes – then I highly recommend diving into the first story of the anthology, Natasha Ngan’s Silver and Gold follows two queer teens of colour who compete in a deadly race across snowy terrain and mountains but are ‘Snowed in Together’, where they share a night of kisses, secrets, yearning, and shelter from the danger outside. Moreover, Rebecca Kim Wells’ fun Unfortunately, Blobs Do Not Eat Snacks takes place during a magical school exam, where two queer girls tasked with investigating and identifying a magical occurrence, but discover something sinister at play instead and ‘Kissing Under the (Magical) Influence’ accidentally happens.

Fools in Love even offers us two superhero stories! Julian Winter’s emotionally-charged What Makes Us Heroes follows a Black teen and ‘hero-in-training’ with elemental ice powers who is waiting in a cafe, hoping to bump into his ex – but meets with local ‘villain’, Kyan, and has a thoughtful exploration of social justice, performativity, and how perception is everything, a fleshed out take on the ‘Hero vs Villain’ romance trope. (Also, Julian, when are we getting a full-length superhero story from you?! We need it!) Sara Farizan’s sweet and endearing My Best Friend’s Girl follows a teen and best friend of a budding superhero who are both in love with the same girl.

Rebecca Barrow’s Bloom was one of my two favourite stories in the anthology. A take on the ‘Love Transcends Time Space’, a trope that makes me weak and yearning, Bloom is a gorgeous historical fantasy about a girl who uses a magical blossom, promised to take you to the place you need to be, to travel back in time to kill her mother’s murderer – but finds herself meeting a girl she never expected to meet. This story was riveting and just so splendid – from the gentle romance, to being torn apart, to finding every way possible to traverse space and time once more to be reunited… Bloom was such a gem in this anthology, and Barrow’s beautiful and tender writing made me want to read every single book she’s ever written.

Lastly, Malinda Lo’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun whisked me away to another universe – and I had so much fun reading this. A twist on the ‘Secret Royalty’ trope, another trope that makes me absolutely feral, the story takes place in a Chinese-inspired space-opera-like setting, following a mechanic who helps a Princess who has escaped her duties and responsibilities to enjoy her life for an evening. From an Asian night market serving noodles on a space station to small mentions of monuments that tell stories of resistance and community, I loved the blend of familiar and new. (Also, a Chinese princess touring her empire’s cities, stations, and planets? I want to know more!) Honestly, this story made me want a space-opera or science-fiction story from Malinda Lo. (I’m ready to beg.)

If you’re a lover of romance stories and romance tropes, then I can guarantee that there will be something for you in the Fools in Love anthology. I personally came away with some new favourite short stories and, more exciting, I came away craving for more. I’ll certainly be adding some of the anthology contributor’s works to my to-read lists, and am excited to discover their stories. A great anthology for lovers of romance, queer stories, and those looking for something fresh and new, Fools in Love is a beacon of the places that young adult literature and romance has still yet to go.

Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A young adult anthology of twists on beloved romance tropes.

Perfect for: Readers who love anthologies and short stories; readers who love romance tropes; readers who enjoy anthologies with a blend of genres, tones, and voices.

Think twice if: You’re not a fan of romance stories.

Genre: young adult romance (anthology includes: contemporary, science-fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy)

Find this book on:
Goodreads | Bookshop | Indiebound | Amazon

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