Three Sides of a Heart is a collection of sixteen short stories about love triangles, of varying natures and sexualities. I honestly wouldn’t have picked this anthology up if it wasn’t for buddy reading it with Melanie, because I’m not typically a big fan of the trope, but some of these stories executed it wonderfully! I will say that this collection is a huge mixed bag of good and bad stories, and many of the tales aren’t what I consider triangles at all, but we’ll get there.
→ Riddles in Mathematics by Katie Cotugno – ★★★★★ ←
A young girl who has recently come out to her family has to face the struggle of being in love with her brother’s best friend, who everyone thinks her brother is destined to marry someday. This was such a beautiful and sweet opener to the collection. It had a wonderful example of how parents deal with teens and big revelations: just because someone takes time to adjust to a change, doesn’t mean they’re unhappywith that change. I was rooting so hard for the MC the entire time, and was hooked to the very end.
→ Dread South by Justina Ireland – ★★★★★ ←
A young white woman living in the 1800s has to face down her racism and come to terms with the fact that her Attendant is not “less than” just for her skin color. I was LIVING for this story! I already loved Dread Nation (review here) by Justina Ireland, and I was ecstatic to read this story set in the same timeframe. I loved the fact that we were actually looking through the eyes of this racist young girl coming to terms with her own ignorance, and more than anything, I was so here for the self-confidence and cool indifference the love interest exuded throughout the entire story, right to the end. I don’t think I will ever give anything Justina writes less than five stars.
→ Omega Ship by Rae Carson – ★★☆☆☆ ←
A ship carrying teens to a new planet to start a new home for the human race is on a crash course, forcing three of its passengers to escape and to make a new life for themselves on their own – with only one young woman left to repopulate the planet. This was honestly such a bizarre story to me. I appreciated the feminist ideal behind the ending, and the thought that the girl wanted to take her life into her own hands, but the writing wasn’t for me, and one of the guys was so cringe-y it was a little nauseating.
→ La Revancha Del Tango by Renee Ahdieh – ★☆☆☆☆ ←
A college-bound Indian girl from the southern states heads off to Argentina for a quick vacation, where she meets an obnoxious-but-cute British boy and tries her hand at authentic salsa dancing. There was so much going on in this story, and the worst of it was honestly the geek references. I’m a lifelong geek and gamer girl; I get it, you want to prove yourself. But it was so unbearable in the narrative, it felt incredibly fake, and the whole thing was just a disaster. On top of that, where was the love triangle? All I saw was this girl drooling over some rude British kid while lusting a little over some salsa dancer that probably didn’t care to know she existed, seeing as they never even spoke! By far and large, the worst story in the collection was this one.
→ Cass, An, and Dra by Natalie C. Parker – ★★★★☆ ←
A family curse: every time our narrator faces a decision, they see visions of what will happen if they take either path. Throughout the course of the story, their visions start to show a common thread: one path keeps them in a relationship with their familiar and lovely girlfriend, An, while the other path leads them to a love-at-first-sight encounter with a nonbinary stranger named Dra. The idea for this one was so unique, and I adored how totally queer it was. The idea of the insta-love that Cass would face upon meeting Dra was a little bothersome, though, so I knocked off a star for how much I disliked that general “theme”. I found it really interesting that their names formed “Cassandra”, though, and I kept wondering if the whole story was a metaphor for the narrator’s struggles with their gender identity, rather than a literal tale of three people and romance.
→ Lessons for Beginners by Julie Murphy – ★★★★★ ←
When a highschool girl learns that she is naturally a great kisser, her best friend convinces her to become a kissing instructor. A wrench is thrown into her normal routine when she takes on her first couple for lessons, and develops unexpected feelings for the girlfriend. Oh. My. GOD. I loved this story so freaking much I can’t even describe it. The narrator is a plus size gal and she is so sexy and fun and proud of herself, and I was so here for the idea of this girl accepting her sexuality with pride and letting herself be “out there” with her body. As a plus size girl, I almost never see myself represented in YA, period, but when I do, it’s rarely in good lighting, so I was literally clapping throughout this story. I am here for queer fat girl rep, all day, every day. <3
→ Triangle Solo by Garth Nix – ★☆☆☆☆ ←
Two high school best friends are used to competing, but when the boys both fall for the same girl, things get a little messy. There’s a sci-fi twist, but honestly, the writing was so laughably terrible in this story that I skimmed the ending and can’t tell you much about it. I remember Garth Nix being a YA god when I was a kid, and now I can’t tell if his writing hasn’t held up over the years, or if he just bombed this particular story, because wow. It was such a bummer to be so disappointed by this one, since I saw his name on the contents page and honestly thought I would end up loving his entry.
→ Vim and Vigor by Veronica Roth – ★★★☆☆ ←
When a highschooler reunites with her childhood comic book fangirl friends after working through the loss of one of their club members, she is ecstatic to find her place again – until she ruins it by abusing her former best friend’s trust to utilize the other girl’s father’s scientific tools to make a decision between the two boys who have asked her to prom. I don’t like Veronica Roth’s writing much anyways, but I really tried to enjoy this one, and just… couldn’t. I thought it was so ridiculously cringe-y that she used her best friend’s father’s stuff just to decide between the two boys – neither of whom had a built-up backstory worthy of me caring even the tiniest bit about who she chose – despite knowing that it would get her friend in major trouble if they were caught. She then blamed the whole thing on her anxiety and, as someone who suffers from major anxiety issues, it felt so badto me, watching her brush off her harmful decisions on her mental illness! The only reason I gave this 3 stars was because I adored the ending, but overall, I thought this story was a disaster.
→ Work in Progress by E.K. Johnston – ★☆☆☆☆ ←
Multiple stories of three childhood friends, with each section switching perspectives, and each story fading into the next. The writing style behind this one was unique, for sure, and could work well for someone who’s looking for something unusual in their reading routine, but man, it did not work for me at all! It took me an unfortunate amount of time to realize that the little mini-sections were switching narratives, because it’s all second-person (as in, “you” are the narrator) and there’s no indication at all given to let you know the perspectives are changing. Then, when I realized it wasn’t one cohesive short story, but was several very short stories combined into one? Well, that was the moment I just sighed and accepted the fact that I was 1-starring this entry.
→ Hurdles by Brandy Colbert – ★★★★☆ ←
A young track star is forced to choose between two boys: one, her current boyfriend, is widely loved by her father, appreciates her affinity for running track, and encourages her to pursue huge, Olympic-sized dreams. The other is her best friend’s brother, recovering alcoholic, who skips classes and wants her to run away from everything with him. This story wasn’t perfect, but it offered this incredible and candid look into the pain that comes with choosing between what your heart wants, and what your mind needs. I only wish the opening had been more solid, but I won’t spoil that for you.
→ The Historian, the Garrison, and the Cantankerous Catwomanby Lamar Giles – ★★★★☆ ←
Imagine a world in which Alfred falls in love with Batman, while Batman leaves Alfred for Catwoman. Our narrator is “Alfred”, the Historian, who’s in charge of keeping things in order for the Garrison while he gallivants about, fighting monsters and sweeping the Cantankerous Catwoman off her feet. I was actually a little bored in the beginning of this one, and thought the writing could use a little more polishing, but by the end, I was hooked. I positively loved how morally grey the Historian was, and was delighted by the unusual circumstances that came with the end of the story.
→ Waiting by Sabaa Tahir – ★★☆☆☆ ←
A girl must choose between her best friend – currently doing a stint in prison after being caught with meth – and her new co-worker – the sweet basketball player who’s head-over-heels in love with her, despite knowing she’s emotionally unavailable. I wasn’t in love with this story from the beginning, but I thought it had some potential, until it became evident that she wasn’t getting over the bestie, despite the fact that he was treating her like complete garbage. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that I thought the bulk of this story set an incredibly unhealthy example for young readers learning how to navigate relationships.
→ Vega by Brenna Yovanoff – ★★★★☆ ←
A girl is in love with two things: her childhood best friend, and the city they live in. When he says he wants to leave, she’s left to face a shockingly tough decision. I actually really enjoyed the idea of this one – it showed the side of a young woman who’s mature enough to recognize that sometimes, we aren’t actually choosing between the person we love and another person or thing, so much as we are choosing between the person we love and ourselves. My only problem with the story was that it portrayed such a stereotypical and negative view of Las Vegas, and I feel like that’s a bit hurtful and tired for people who live in the city and have to face those assumptions and cliches everyday of their lives.
→ A Hundred Thousand Threads by Alaya Dawn Johnson – ★☆☆☆☆ ←
A girl writes letters to her cheating lover, but who he thinks he’s choosing over her isn’t quite who she seems to be, either. I thought this was nice enough writing, but the plot was so boring and predictable that I couldn’t bring myself to give it a higher rating. Once it was confirmed (more or less) that I had, in fact, guessed the “twist” from the very first page, I skimmed the rest to see if it got any better, and sadly, it did not.
→ Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★★ ←
Being a leader comes at a price, and for this young woman, it’s being forced to give her body to a god, rather than the girl she loves most in the world. This story was so beautiful and incredible. I adored the poly rep, and how flawless and real it felt. The love shown in the romances here were so pure and wholesome, and I just wanted to bask in them for a while. I would absolutely love to read a full-length story about these characters, and I’m certain that Tessa Gratton will be a TBR author for me after this entry.
→ Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen – ★★★★★ ←
Two vampires in love face an unexpected set of circumstances when one of them falls for the new girl, and learns she has a secret of her own, too. Oh my god, you guys. I won’t spoil, but… this one wrecked me. I was literally a blubbering mess of tears by the end. It was so unexpected and beautiful and heartbreaking and perfect. I desperately need to read more by Bethany Hagen ASAP, because she made me feel things for these characters in a few short pages that many authors don’t manage to do in 400.
→ FINAL THOUGHTS ←
Averaged out, I gave this collection 3.25 stars, which I feel perfectly comfortable with lowering to a 3-star rating overall. While there were a few major gems that I loved, most of the anthology was lackluster or downright bad. I honestly wish I could pluck out the stories I 5-starred (and 4-starred, even) and put them in their own bind-up and give it to all of you, but since I can’t, I’m having a hard time deciding how strongly I should recommend it. I guess I’ll just say YMMV, and if you do read it (or already have), let me know your thoughts!
Thank you to HarperCollins for granting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Ahh, I saw another blogger review this anthology with the same thoughts on E.K. Johnston, which is so disappointing because I always speak so highly about Exit, Pursued by a Bear! Anyway, glad to see another review on this one, as I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
I honestly was so disappointed by it because I’d heard really good reviews on Exit! Maybe I should just forget about this short story and still give Exit a try, especially if you speak so highly of it! 🙂
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