The stories gathered here by editor and contributor Cortez are not necessarily mysteries in the typical sense of whodunits or police procedurals. In fact, they run the gamut from an X-Files-style encounter with alien invaders, to a young woman insanely reliving her high school years before her family died in a fire, to the kidnapping of a teenager, presumably to be sold into sexual slavery in Mexico. The emphasis is on immediacy, hook-laden plots and sympathetic protagonists. Or, as James Blasingame says in his introduction, “No subtle nuancing of conflict and characters here; these stories will grab readers by the throat and send pulses skyrocketing…” The characters also often share working and middle-class backgrounds, a Spanish-speaking heritage, and the teenager’s innate sense that the world might just revolve around him or herself.
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While many of the contributors are still building their reputations, others, such as Mario Acevedo (The Nymphos of Rocky Flats), Diana Lopez (Choke) and Rene Saldaña Jr. (Whole Sky Full of Stars), have been published by large commercial publishers. Not every story will please every reader, of course, but the variety of subject, tone and place gathered here is impressive, making this anthology potentially appealing to a wide swath of teens.—Reviewed by Cooper Renner, retired librarian, El Paso Independent School District