I received this book for free from Netgalley, St. Martin's Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Night of the Living Queers by Vanessa Montalban, Shelly Page, Kalynn Bayron, Rebecca Kim Wells, Kosoko Jackson, SMP Alex Brown, Trang Thanh Tran, Maya Gittelman, Em X. Liu, Tara Sim, Ayida Shonibar, Ryan Douglass
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on August 29, 2023
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Horror, Young Adult Fiction / LGBTQ
Source: Netgalley, St. Martin's Publishing Group
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Night of the Living Queers is a YA horror anthology that explores a night when anything is possible, exclusively featuring queer authors of color putting fresh spins on classic horror tropes and tales.
No matter its name or occasion, Halloween is more than a Hallmark holiday, it’s a symbol of transformation. NIGHT OF THE LIVING QUEERS is a YA horror anthology that explores how Halloween can be more than just candies and frights, but a night where anything is possible. Each short story is told through the lens of a different BIPOC teen and the Halloween night that changes their lives forever. Creative, creepy, and queer, this collection brings fresh terror, heart, and humor to young adult literature.
Contributors include editors Alex Brown and Shelly Page, Kalynn Bayron, Ryan Douglass, Sara Farizan, Maya Gittelman, Kosoko Jackson, Em Liu, Vanessa Montalban, Ayida Shonibar, Tara Sim, Trang Thanh Tran, and Rebecca Kim Wells.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a collection of short stories, and this one is definitely worth a read. The introduction explains how this anthology is a way for Queer People of Color to reclaim the narrative of “other,” “savage,” or “monster.” A chance for these authors to celebrate the complexity of their long-denied humanity. It’s meant to showcase their stories and is intentionally set during Halloween, a time when QPOC are most visible. All the stories take place not only during Halloween but during a blue moon, a celestial even where an additional moon appears during the year. It was quite fascinating and ingenious that a collection of stories by and about QPOC are all set on a rare event as a blue moon on Halloween. These stories are about love, loss, acceptance, bravery, adventure, and romance that will comfort, challenge, haunt, and humor.
“Welcome to the Hotel Paranoia”
The first story out of the gate was a sweet romance between Annabel and Chrys. Annabel is awkward and out of place in comparison to her classmates, but she attends a party because Chrys, her best friend and the girl she exchanged a kiss with a couple of months ago, sent her a note to attend. But all is not as it seems, as the night wears on the illusions slowly fade. I was a bit disappointed as I wanted better for Annabel at the end. However, the ending does go into the whole idea of where queer people can be accepted and how.
Oooo, this one was particularly creepy and the cliffhanger ending just upped the ante on the creepy scale. Here we have a teenage girl, Toya, who is waiting impatiently for midnight of Halloween. Her and her dad have a ritual they do each Halloween since her mom’s death. But who is the visitor? And is it really her mom? Plus what was with the car that was following Toya and her girlfriend, Ari? Creepy? Definitely? Do I have questions? Duh! Yet, it does tackle the idea of loss and grief and what we do to move on.
“A Brief Intermission”
This was one of my favorites out of the thirteen stories! Our two main characters, Afsaneh and Rusty, work at the local town drive-in movie theatre. One night the owner/boss, Henry, is attacked by an animal, a creature. Henry begs them to break him out of the hospital, which Afsaneh and Rusty refuse, so instead they do the ritual he does for Halloween. They’re not to interact, talk, look at the creatures who arrive, yet Rusty can’t help themselves and who knows where the night will lead. This one was definitely spooky but also the ghosts are racist, homophobic, xenophobic people who make their opinions known. It was a crazy ending that again goes towards the idea of how transgender people and those who live outside the male/female binary are treated and where they’re allowed to live.
This story is definitely going to keep me up late at night! Nina is invited to a Guested party. Guested is a company that allows people to be whoever/whatever they want to be. Nina’s sister, Penny, went to a Guested party a few years ago but Nina is convinced the person who came back isn’t her sister. She’s determined to get to the bottom of this, even if she has to do it alone. So, so psychologically creepy, especially since I’ve watched Get Out as well. I was so impressed with the writing and the story and the themes of queer people having to hide themselves in the world is so potent in this story.
“Rocky Road with Caramel Drizzle”
Ugh! This one is difficult. It’s the one story that involves a hate crime. Julian was beaten nearly to death one year ago to the day and his friends and family think it’s time to “get over it.” Because there’s a specific time period to get over not only your near death but also a group of asshole boys beating you up for being gay. I’m especially annoyed with Julian’s best friend, Amber, who thinks it’s more impactful on her, than him. Well, at this party that Julian and Amber go to, Julian ends up summoning a demon and maybe this demon understands Julian more than the others in his life. A beautiful story about grief and revenge that definitely hurts while reading but is quite hopeful at the end.
“The Three Phases of Ghost-Hunting”
An adorable and humorous story about a ghost haunting a mall. Daisy is determined to contact Terrifying Bob with her best friend Iris in tow. The adorable part is that Terrifying Bob isn’t that terrifying, and by the end Daisy and Iris admit their feelings for one another, which was so cute!
I actually bought Trang Thanh Tran’s book She is a Haunting, and after reading this short story, I’m even more excited to read it. The story is reminiscent of one of those internet videos that says if you stop watching it you’ll die. What happens next are events that I’m not even really sure of, but I was disgustingly freaked out. Beware if you get queasy easily as there is a scene that is quite grotesque.
“Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane”
Oh, another story that I absolutely loved. It’s about a haunted house in the village that Leyla lives in called The Vines. A house that looks quite abandoned until the night of the thirteenth moon, where someone catches sight of a light through the window. This Halloween night Leyla and his cousins go out on Halloween, and this night Leyla suggests going to The Vines. It’s there that Leyla sees someone that gives her hope for the future. A great story for transgender and nonbinary people around the world.
“In You to Burn”
An interesting story about fire and queer girls. Luce is a girl who accidental fires keep happening around her throughout her life, but the latest fire harmed another girl in school, Harley. But Harley is no longer herself, she’s changed according to their classmates. Yet, all of this comes to a head at a party on Halloween night. Are Luce and Harley really who they are? Or are their lives the workings of gods?
Another story where the two girls, Elise and Dani, are struggling with feelings for each other and don’t admit it till a dire event on Halloween night. Elise is babysitting two young girls in a supposed haunted house. The two young girls play with a Ouijia board that releases an evil spirit. Who knows who’ll survive the night? A good ole scary story is always something I’m up for and this one definitely delivers in that thread.
“Hey There, Demons”
What do you do when there is a poltergeist haunting your house? Obviously, you summon a demon to help you, or at least, that’s what Noah Kohli accidentally decided to do on Halloween night. But the demon Noah summons isn’t the typical demon from Hollywood. This is definitely an ADHD demon, who’s willing to help Noah get rid of the poltergeist but for a price. No, not a soul! The demon thinks souls will taste like lemons, which he hates. He wants to see what Noah’s family has before he gets ride of the demon. The whole night is a roller coaster of a ride and eventually, the demon does get rid of the poltergeist for Noah with a romance developing between the two. I didn’t know I could ship two characters in such a short story, but gosh do I ship Noah and this demon, Kody. They’re too cute for words and I love the chaos of Kody.
“Save Me From Myself”
A tragic story of a young girl, Mona, who doesn’t want to live anymore. She doesn’t think there’s much worth living, especially with having to hide who she is except on Halloween. Yet, Mona prays to Kali Maa and she answers…or someone answers. Later that night, Kali Maa gives Mona what she wants, in a way. As all deals with gods and demons never turn out as we want. The story is so sad since Mona doesn’t think anyone will miss her nor that she’s worth anything. Her friend, Gaurav, is only her friend because of their mothers. Nadine only kisses her in the maze to humiliate Mona. The ending is hopeful for a moment before it turns tragic once again.
A story of a mansion haunted by the clown Knickknack. An urban legend that Noah doesn’t believe in, but the night of Halloween, his brother, Carl, is kidnapped by Knickknack and he does everything he can to save him. Along the way, Noah and his best friend and crush, finally kiss. I was a bit disappointed by the scary story in this one. It wasn’t as strong as the other stories in the collection, but it doesn’t detract nor weaken the collection.
All-in-all this is a wonderful collection of creepy and queer and diverse stories that are worth a read and place on the bookshelf.