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Book Review | Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond

From the publisher: A stunning collection of short stories about the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of teens, from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors, including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco.

This unusual anthology contains 13 stories by 13 authors about different people who live in the same town and are all connected to a string of restaurants that feature cuisine from different traditions. Like most anthologies, it contains some stories that are stronger than others, and some stories resonated with me more than others.

The collection opens with what I think is its strongest entry, “Rain” by Sangu Mandanna. This is a lovely story about grief and remembrance. Next up is “Kings and Queens” by Elsie Chapman, a dark story with a completely different tone and a shocking ending. I found Sandhya Menon’s “The Grand Ishq Adventure” to be the weakest story in the collection, focusing on a young narrator who “touches up” her eyebrows while sitting at a restaurant table (gross), works up the nerve to tell a crush she likes him, and challenges herself to eat alone in restaurants without looking at her phone. But perhaps I am just the wrong age for this story. I found the ending to “Sugar and Spite” by Rin Chupeco unsatisfying. Another favorite story for me was Caroline Tung Richmond’s “The Slender One,” about ghosts and an unusual superhero power.

This collection has a lot of variety – not only superheroes but horror, as in the disturbing “Missing Ingredient” by Rebecca Roanhorse.  The protagonists are all young adults; there’s a lot of friction with parents and anxiety about school. I thought about my own high school days when reading these stories. Many of the young protagonists are preoccupied with romance, and the romance includes same sex attraction and a trans boy.

This collection will make you want to try some new foods, and perhaps share a meal with family or friends.

Hungry Hearts is available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.

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