In My True Love Gave to Me, the first young adult short story collection from Stephanie Perkins, 12 authors shared holiday romances that made readers swoon, cry and feel hopeful. But if I had to nitpick, which sometimes I can’t help, almost every single story dealt with grief in some form. After a few stories, it got a little ridiculous, and it was to the point where I truly wondered if a holiday themed story can be affecting without the pain of a lost loved one. That’s not to discredit grief or how these authors decided to interpret it in their stories and characters; it is a universal feeling and the holidays can be a time when you feel a loss the most. However, it’s usually (and hopefully) not the only feeling attributed to the “joyful” season. Regardless, I found it a bit distracting, and it sort of detached me from the set of stories.
Enter Summer Days and Summer Nights, the new compilation of short stories once again edited by Stephanie Perkins. With a new round of authors (with the exception of the editor), we get a set of 12 romances of the summer love variety. As I cracked it opened, I fully anticipated these stories to have another unified theme and sort of blur together.
I was wrong to expect that. If there is only one thing I can say about Summer Days and Summer Nights is that it feels very and distinctly personal.
That quite didn’t hit me until a little past the halfway point when I finished Veronica Roth’s entry “Inertia.” It’s as if we are given a window into these author’s own teenage years. These characters and their stories are written in way that makes them read so real and feel so raw. The collection is full of steady journeys leading up to soul-baring moments, sort of like how the summer seems infinite at first and all of sudden at last. Whether it’s facing a haunted multiplex, dreading the end of a summer romance, embarking on a new beginning or forever wondering about a “what if,” each story provides a new experience and perspective, finding a way to resonate with the reader as we move on to the next story.
A mix of light and dark, comedic and dramatic, Summer Days and Summer Nights isn’t afraid to be gushy with love or leave you in heartache. The anthology features a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds in familiar or extraordinary settings. What surprised me the most though was how subtle at times the stories were in their explorations of love – in all its forms. It’s easy for romance to fall into clichéd territory, but I can’t say that happens too much in Summer Days and Summer Nights. (Also, fair warning, you will want to listen to some Beach Boys after reading this.)
Summer Days and Summer Nights is now available wherever books are sold.