Unexpected Romances

BOOK REVIEW: Summer Days & Summer Nights, ed. by Stephanie Perkins

When I first picked up this collection of short stories, I had a pretty set idea of what I would find inside: soppy teen romances set in exotic locations, maybe something akin to the beginning of the film Grease. The blurb, "Lazy, hazy days are for falling in love...", only solidified that expectation, and when I finally sat down to read it, I did so believing I was in for a fairly simplistic read.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the very first story ('Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail,' by Leigh Bardugo) turned out to be a supernatural tale, including river spirits and transformations. That initial short story set the tone for the stories that followed - an unexpectedly eclectic collection that explores love in a diverse humanity.

There were some notable names amongst the authors, including Cassandra Clare (of The Mortal Instruments) and Veronica Roth (of Divergent). There was no one story that didn't live up to the rest, even though they were all so vastly different in their approach to the theme.

As a writer (and someone who's been on the selection team for anthologies previously), I wonder how they came to the title and cover. Honestly, the bright pop-colours and the cutesy ice-cream gave an impression that was wholly different to what I experienced as I read. It baffles me a bit that a team of marketers, with a brief, came up with this tone - the tone that would then be presented to bookstore-wanderers searching for their next read. I expect that a lot of teenaged girls have been similarly deceived, but I hope that they were as pleasantly surprised as I was.

This collection was much more serious than I had anticipated, and dealt with themes much more weighty than the cover art gave them credit for. The appeal of short story collections, of course, is that they're much more manageable when you're squeezed for time - picking up and putting it down was actually a pleasure, as each story was its own little universe that could be read in a lunch break.

Thank you, Summer Days & Summer Nights, for teaching me to literally not judge a book by its cover. I learned to expect the unexpected, revel in its randomness when it appears, and - when I eventually land that book deal - to keep a close eye on the marketing team ;)