Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Teen Story

If you're not familiar with One Teen Story, its website describes it as "a literary magazine for teens and adults who read young adult fiction. Each issue features one amazing YA short story."

And that's it: one story per issue. Each issue comes mailed as a little chapbook with a charmingly simple yet story-appropriate cover. I love this concept. I originally got a trial subscription of three issues for $5.00, but I've just now subscribed for a full year, because I was impressed with the solid quality of the trial issues I received.

The first story I read was "America, Etc." by Michael Kardos, which was the December 2014 issue. This story is narrated by a teenage boy whose father works as a military drone pilot. Unlike his friend's father, who is "boots on the ground" in Afghanistan, Jeremy's dad gets to come home to have dinner with the family every day and even coach Jeremy's basketball team -- but he still technically spend his days bombing places, and possibly people, for a living. Jeremy is a thoughtful protagonist, comparing the vintage videos games he and his dad play (such as Missile Command, depicted on the story's cover) to real life. The story is well-written, and is mainly about the ways in which family members fail to communicate with each other, something that's particularly difficult for teens who are trying to figure out the world around them.

The second story I read was Jonathan Penner's "Amplexus", which comprised the February 2015 issue. In this story, Christopher thinks back on his first love and his first sexual encounter with a girl called Pure, so nicknamed because of the "purity" medallion her parents make her wear everywhere, even to bed. What I liked best about this story were all the small details, such as Jonathan playing ping-pong with Pure's mother, practicing Spanish verb conjugation with Pure, and verbally sparring with his sex-obsessed older brother. It all felt genuine.

The third story, Michael Landau's "Night of the Living Poet" in the January 2015 issue, wasn't quite as successful for me because a lot of the details felt more like stream-of-consciousness than vivid memories, as was the case in "Amplexus". In this story, a high school senior named Andy goes on an after-school field trip to a poetry reading, along with a girl named Crystal, for whom Andy has conflicted feelings. It was difficult to like Andy, who in my mind had a sarcastic, negative outlook similar to that of Holden Caulfield. (For many people, that would be a complimment, but I can't stand Catcher in the Rye.) Crystal is perhaps the most likeable character in the story, but everyone else seems to hang out with people and then call them names behind their backs. The writing itself wasn't bad, but I didn't find as much to relate to in this story as I did in the others.

In any case, I'm excited to see what this magazine has in store in the future. Even though I mainly read science fiction and fantasy, I do like mainstream fiction as well, especially young adult fiction. And there's one other neat thing about this publication. Until recently, One Teen Story published eleven stories by adult authors, and one by the winner of a teen writer contest that they run. Recently, though, they've announced that the teen-authored stories have been so well received that they're going to publish four of those a year instead of only one. I think that's a terrific idea.

Finally, I should also note that this is a sister publication of One Story, which is also a story-an-issue publication but geared towards adults. I'll have to check that out one of these days too.

No comments: