All Out — Saundra Mitchell (ARC/Anthology Review)

February 24, 2018

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages

TITLE: All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages
AUTHOR: Saundra Mitchell
RELEASES: February 27th, 2018; Harlequin Teen
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.


His heart had been a boy’s heart, throwing itself against his rib cage with each set of white gloves for mass.


→ Roja – Anna-Marie McLemore ★★★★★ ←
What a killer of a beginning to this collection. Anna-Marie writes so beautifully, and this little magical realism story will be sure to please anyone who enjoys her novels. It follows a young woman with a curse of poisonous rage, seeking to free her lover from the local police before he is executed as a prisoner of war. It is so lovely, and lyrical, and even takes time to touch on colonialism and racism. There’s a lot packed into only a few pages, and it was just a truly incredible way to start the anthology.
rep: trans, Latinx

Clara Elizabeth Byrd had been married twice by the age of sixteen and she had decided she had no taste for it.

→ The Sweet Trade – Natalie C. Parker ★★★★☆ ←
A young woman decides to escape her own wedding – the second one, by the way – and make out for a life of her own, but finds an unexpected stowaway on her boat: another young woman, also escaping a wedding. This story was so precious, and fun, and I loved these girls so much. They had this undeniable, imminent chemistry and I would totally read a full novel about their adventures in piracy. I mean, come on – queer pirate girls being adorable. Can we make this happen?
rep: f/f

→ And They Don’t Kiss at the End – Nilah Magruder ★★★★☆ ←
A mid-70s story of a young black asexual woman, trying to learn how to explain her feelings to the boy she thinks she might like. This was such a fun, short little story – it felt like it only lasted two or three pages, and while I’m not ace and can’t speak for the rep, it seemed so positive and warm that I couldn’t help but love it. I was especially fond of the fact that Dee didn’t feel the need to be embarrassed by who she was in the end – she recognized that it wasn’t her who was messed up, but the people who teased her for who she had been born to be.
rep: black, Filipino, ace

Maybe sinful desires can be cleansed through prolonged exposure, like colors faded from a canvas by hanging too long in a sunny corner of the house.

→ Burnt Umber – Mackenzi Lee ★★★★★ ←
A young man is known for being the best apprentice in his painting class when it comes to sketching nude women, but things change for him when the new model comes in – a young man he’s been harboring a secret crush on for some time. In typical Mackenzi Lee fashion, this one was absolutely adorable, comical, and so much fun to read. Her writing style in the short gave me such a throwback to Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue that I immediately wanted to grab it from my shelf and reread it.
rep: m/m

→ The Dresser & The Chambermaid – Robin Talley ★★☆☆☆ ←
Chambermaids and dressers aren’t supposed to intermingle, but when a new dresser comes to the palace, fresh from the countryside, socializing with the chambermaid isn’t the only thing on her mind. This honestly should have been a really adorable, lovable little story, but it’s too emotional for having taken place in what is roughly a 12-hour time frame; as it stands, it started to look like a heavy helping of insta-love in the making. Besides that, the story had nothing particularly exciting or interesting to offer, and – don’t get me wrong, I’m saying this as a queer woman who adores normalization in stories – the idea that so many queer couples were so openly accepted by their peers in the 1700s made it difficult to maintain suspension of disbelief.
rep: f/f, m/m

→ New Year – Malinda Lo ★☆☆☆☆ ←
The daughter of two Chinese immigrants faces life with a curious interest in other women, as well as working through her family’s fears of deportation or unfair treatment. I honestly wanted to like this story because I’d heard Malinda Lo was an incredibly talented author, and I loved the idea of this family of immigrants being proud of their culture even in a country that fought back against them at times. Unfortunately, the story was so boring and incredibly disjointed. It shifted from one focus to another without ever tying up any of the endings, leaving it feeling as though there was no actual plot to it at all.
rep: Chinese, f/f

→ Molly’s Lips – Dahlia Adler ★★★☆☆ ←
A girl’s memory of where she was the day that Kurt Cobain died, and the ways in which she and her best friend – and object of her quiet affections – honored his memory and life. I’m so torn on this story, because, on one hand, I’m thinking that this is a YA collection and most of today’s teens honestly don’t care about Nirvana, or Kurt’s death, or listening to the narrator spout off obnoxious facts about which album was best or worst. On the other hand, the writing was short, but adorable and sweet.
rep: f/f

→ The Coven – Kate Scelsa ★★★★☆ ←
In 1920s Paris, a young woman is led by her girlfriend to meet a witch who claims to be able to help clear the “fog” from her mind. The writing was truly lovely in this one, but the plot was just okay. I think it was the sort of story that would’ve benefited from being a little bit longer and offering a little more explanation to everything, but it was still a cute little story.
rep: f/f

→ Every Shade of Red – Elliot Wake ★★★☆☆ ←
A Robin Hood retelling with more than a few twists up its sleeve. I’ll be honest: the bulk of this story was incredibly beautiful, but boring as hell. I mean, if you have ever wanted an example of incredible prose that tells no story at all, this short’s exactly your source – but the incredible representation and the bittersweet ending were enough to make it mostly worth its while in the end.
rep: m/m, trans, disability, POC

“That is the secret to survival. Teach fear to those who taught you to be afraid.”

→ Willows – Scott Tracey ★★★★★ ←
A young man faces the terrors of being an oddity in an 18th-century Massachusetts town, hellbent on drowning witches. This was one of my favorites of the collection so far – the writing is lovely, but more than that, it’s confusing and dark and utterly captivating. The main character discusses at some length having had past lives stuck in his head, and mentions having identified as female in the past but as male currently. His thought processes are tough to follow at times, but are truly a delight to read.
rep: trans spectrum, m/m

→ The Girl with the Blue Lantern – Tess Sharpe ★★★★★ ←
A starving girl’s desperation to feed herself and her father leads her into an unlikely friendship with a spirit protecting a river full of gold. This was my first time reading anything by Tess Sharpe, but I’d heard such good things about her writing, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was such a sad, sweet little story, and I was so pleased with the ending. These two girls are just the epitome of sweet little cinnamon rolls and I would love to have learned more about them both.
rep: f/f

→ The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy – Alex Sanchez ★★★★★ ←
Hot summer afternoons are the perfect setting for two boys getting to know one another (and themselves). If you follow my reviews, you already know how I feel about insta-love, or anything that even remotely resembles it – it’s usually more or less a deal-breaker for me – but it’s so adorable in this story that I couldn’t even be mad, because it’s so clearly a portrayal of a young boy and his very first experience with another guy, and accepting his own sexuality. It was so sweet, and his family is so loving, and I enjoyed every second of it.
rep: m/m, Cuban

→ Walking After Midnight – Kody Keplinger ★★☆☆☆ ←
When a former childhood actress gets stuck in a small town overnight, she makes an unlikely friend with a young waitress who recognizes her. This one was cute, and I enjoyed the demi rep, which is something I don’t see very often, but overall, left me feeling a little “meh” about it. I think a lot of it is due to the fact that the story felt to me like it relied a lot on the 50s Hollywood era aesthetic, which has never appealed to me, but if that does appeal to you, I think this could be a great story for someone who’s more suited to it!
rep: demi, f/f

So what kind of girl am I if I have no one to kiss on the brink of the world’s demise?

→ The End of the World As We Know It – Sara Farizan ★★★☆☆ ←
It’s New Year’s Eve 1999, the end of the world is looming ahead, and it’s the perfect time for rebuilding bridges. I loved the fact that the narrator of this one was Turkish, and I enjoyed how casual and normalized the two girls’ sexualities were (one bi, one lesbian), but the story itself didn’t do much for me. There was so little build-up and what was there, wasn’t anything to root for or swoon over. I think the only reason this got 3 stars instead of 2 from me was because I’m a 90s baby, and the Y2K theme was so familiar and fun.
rep: Turkish, f/f

→ Three Witches – Tessa Gratton ★★☆☆☆ ←
A 16th-century girl is committed to be imprisoned by nuns, as punishment for her lust after another woman. I was hesitant to even read and review this story, in light of recent events concerning Tessa Gratton, but I reluctantly decided that, if I was going to review the ARC, I should review each of the stories and not skip any outright. That said, the writing in the beginning of this piece is beautiful, as Tessa’s typically is, but the plot was incredibly boring and the ending feels disconnected and unfocused.
rep: f/f

→ The Inferno & the Butterfly – Shaun David Hutchinson ★☆☆☆☆ ←
A magician’s assistant is forced to make a choice: he can perform the most dangerous trick of his life, or he can seek out the secrets behind a rival magician’s most infamous trick. I like stories involving magicians, but typically there’s some rhyme or reason behind their tricks, and we’re privy to at least the surface of that. In this story, whatever isn’t explained away by actual magic is brushed off with the narrator’s insistence that it would be a betrayal of his boss. Breaking the fourth wall is fun, but in this case, it felt like a lack of commitment to the theme. Beyond that, the characters, plot, and dialogue were all just rather uninteresting.
rep: m/m

Rosa was a summer girl, and I was a winter girl, but that fall we made magic.

→ Healing Rosa – Tehlor Kay Mejia ★★★★★ ←
A young woman’s abuela is a healer, but when she passes away, the girl is forced to take up her tasks if she wants to save her beloved Rosa. This is a gorgeous, lyrical magical realism story that reminded me very much of Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing. The author has a debut novel releasing soon and I’ll certainly be picking it up, as this was such a lovely, sweet story – and, much like all of the best magical realism tales, I can tell you all day long how much I enjoyed it and what a fantastic finale I thought it was, but the best thing you can do is experience it for yourself.
rep: Latinx, f/f

→ final thoughts ←
Averaged out over the 17 stories in this collection, I gave it 3.4/5 stars, but I feel perfectly comfortable rounding up to 4 stars because I enjoyed a few of these so thoroughly that I wished I could have given them more than 5 stars each. If you enjoy historical fiction, queer fiction, or both… what else do I need to say? You need this book in your life.

All quotes come from an unfinished ARC and may not match the final release. Thank you to Harlequin Teen for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review!


More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

Leave a comment
    1. I was able to get my hands on an ARC of this and I cannot WAIT to read it 😀 Great review! I’m even more excited now.

        1. Thank you! I’m sure that I will 😀 and hopefully they make this into a series or something! ❤

          1. That would be really cool! Since this one is mostly historical fiction, I’d love to see them make more of them falling under different genres, like maybe a full-contemporary one, and a fantasy one… I’m daydreaming now haha!

            1. That’s a good idea! You should definitely pitch that to them 😉 I’d buy and read them all!

    1. great review destiny! I haven’t read many short stories books and the one I did I didn’t really like but I have high hopes for this one 🙂

    1. *gasp* when a anthology starts off on the right foot with a story from the QUEEN Anna-Marie McLemore ??? & it sounds AMAZING! queer pirate girls ?a story by Mackenzi Lee?Willows – Scott Tracey…never heard of this author but I NEED to read this one! honestly, the few that you loved sound like stories I would also enjoy & although those are few in #…I still would give this one a go cause I’d probably end up feeling the same way you did lol. EXCELLENT review! ?

      1. Right?!?! girl, as soon as I started it and saw her name, I was like, “Oh, wow, this can’t go wrong. Like, it CAN’T.” Her story was so gorgeous but there were honestly quite a few lovely ones. And I’m telling you, that final story? SO SIMILAR to her writing style. I mean, this collection is bookended by absolutely phenomenal magical realism. I hope you love it when you pick it up, if you do! <3 And thank you so much, my sweet friend! ??

        1. Magical Realism reads are my fave, I legit have a weakness for them lol. Added it to to my TBR, I didn’t even know this book was a thing so thank you for bringing it to my attention with your review <3!

          1. They’re sooooo good! I don’t think I ever really realized how much I love the style until last year, but now I’m always looking for more work to get my hands on! <3 And yay! I hope you love it!

            1. Yes! I also need to read Wild Beauty, I have Anna-Marie McLemore to thank for my love of everything Magical Realism ☺️ ? definitely reading this one ?

    1. I’m so sorry that some of the stories were a hit or miss for you. I honestly, thought Shaun David Hutchinson’s story would’ve been better since he is such a hyped author. But, I am glad to hear you enjoyed Anna-Marie McLemore’s story, I just read her novel Wild BEauty and LOVED IT! I am also really excited to hear that there’s an ace character in one of the stories, I think we are finally starting to see or at least hear about more ace rep in books and I couldn’t be more excited!
      I’ll definitely check this one out!

      1. Aw, thank you, Ellyn! I thought Shaun’s would be better, too! I hear his novels are great so I don’t know if it’s his writing style not matching my taste, or maybe he just doesn’t write great short stories. I think there are loads of amazing authors (like Garth Nix!) who write fantastic novels, but awful short stories, lol!
        Anna-Marie McLemore is a confirmed goddess, I am SURE of it! I adored Wild Beauty and really need to get around to reading her last YA book, When the Moon Was Ours (I think that’s the name?). I also can’t wait to read her fall release for this year (already pre-ordered it, lol!).
        I’m also so excited that we’re seeing more ace rep lately! It’s so important. I’m not ace, but so many of my friends are, and I know it means so much to the ace community to see themselves represented in a positive light!

Say hello! ♥

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.