The cover of this book is a lie. It makes you think this is a collection of cute, lighthearted, contemporary summer romances. And while some of the stories fall under that, most of them do not. I was surprised to find a number of the stories were more sad or dark than lighthearted. The cover just doesn't fit for most of the stories here. I still enjoyed most of them, but this anthology was not at all what I expected.
Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - This story starts off very strange with the main character's favorite story of why a side character came to her town involving magic. The story then switches to our main character spotting what she thinks is a sea creature in the lake and joining forces with a boy who comes to town every summer to research all sightings of the sea creature. She slowly falls for him over the summers, and it's fairly cute. Then the story takes a sudden turn when
she sacrifices her humanity to save the boy after discovering he's actually a sea serpent who can take on a human form for 3 months every year and they live out their days as sea serpents, turning human for 3 months every year.
I wasn't surprised by the reveal about the guy which was hinted at throughout the story. It was the girl's actions that were very sudden. It was a weird end. Which goes with the strange start, I suppose. 3/5
The End of Love by Nina LaCour - This one was more on the sad side, not because of the romance, but because of the main character's situation when the story starts. Her parents are divorcing, and she is not taking it well. To get out of the house, she signs up for a geometry class to audit and finds that the girl she's had a crush on for years is taking it with her friends. They all end up on a camping trip where the girls confess their feelings. Overall, it's a rather cute romance. I liked the relationship between the friends. 4/5
Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray - This story ended up being a horror story which I was not expecting because of that cover. The main character works at a horror movie theater where the girl he has liked for a while also works. On the last night of the theater before it is shut down, a movie that is rumored to be cursed is played. When it turns out those rumors were true, the theater's staff must try to escape before the possessed movie goers kill them all. The guy finds the courage to admit his feelings as they're all fighting for their lives. It was a funny story despite some creepy moments. 4/5
Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block - This was another one that was more on the sad side of things. The main character only refers to herself and all the characters in the story by their first initial. She tells the story of the summer before college where she fell for a guy, but ultimately pushed him away out of fear. The story was okay, but it was hard to connect to any of the characters. 2.5/5
In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins - Another one tinged with sadness, although it takes a turn for the happy ultimately. The main character is returning to convince her ex-boyfriend to move in with her. She initially just sees it as wanting to rescue him from a life he didn't want, but eventually realizes she still loves him. The two were a cute couple and had nice chemistry. I enjoyed their romance. 4/5
Souvenirs by Tim Federle - This one is really more of a break-up story. Two boys who are working at a theme park over the summer got together, but decided on a break-up day early into their relationship. The story happens on that break-up day. I liked the main character, but wasn't too sad about them breaking up because the other guy really wasn't right for him at all. Naturally, this is one of the sad ones since it's all about a break-up, but it ends on the hopeful side. 3.5/5
Inertia by Veronica Roth - This story had a sci-fi element to it with a world where science has developed a way for people who are about to die to spend their final moments sharing minds with loved ones to talk and experience memories together, even if that person is unconscious. The main character finds out she was listed as one of the final visitors of her ex-best friend when he gets in a car accident and isn't expected to survive. The two reconnect as they share memories of their relationship and talk about their favorite moments and why they stopped talking. It was a nice story with several sweet moments between the two characters, but I didn't quite connect with the characters. 3/5
Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron - A guy and girl working at a resort scheme to get some of the guests who have been pining over one another for years together with a ridiculous, but fun scheme, only to discover at the end of it that another coworker was scheming to get them together. I enjoyed the plot to this one, but the dialogue was just too awkward and unnatural for me. It was like everyone was speaking in flowery poetry at one point. That's just not a style I like. 2.5/5
Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert - The main character is upset that her cousin is moving across the country with her girlfriend. At their goodbye party, she lashes out at the girlfriend. The girlfriend's brother is upset at that, but the two are forced to spend time together that night and ending up bonding over the upcoming loss of the person they're closest to, as well as losses in the past. I liked the main characters and their relationships with their family. 3.5/5
Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare - When the main character's dad runs away, she is forced to turn to her uncle and his stepson to help keep their dark carnival running. This was another story where the dialogue felt unnatural. I didn't feel any chemistry between the girl and her step cousin. And the plot felt rushed with a number of convenient coincidences all falling into place for the main character. I just didn't like the story at all. 1/5
A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith - This was my favorite story of the bunch. A girl working at a summer camp finally gets the chance to go on a date with her longtime crush. He reveals that he's autistic near the end of the date and pushes her away because he doesn't think they could work, but eventually comes back in a very sweet way. I loved the couple in this and their chemistry with each other. They had a nice relationship and were just ridiculously cute. 5/5
The Map of Perfect Things by Lev Grossman - A boy finds himself stuck in a day that keep repeating. Eventually he finds a girl who is also aware of this endless loop. The two decide to find perfect moments throughout the city that happened that day and create little challenges to help ease the boredom. It was a cute story that ended on an abrupt and bittersweet note after a revelation on why the time loop was created. 4/5
While I mostly liked the stories in this anthology, I really did go into it wanting a bunch of cute and lighthearted summer romances, so I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed that the cover was so misleading.