As we grow up and older, it can be easy to forget what young love feels like. It can feel hopeful, tragic, confusing, surprising, life-changing, world-ending. Enter Serendipity, a collection of short stories by ten authors within the YA genre, that capture the very essence of being young and in love. Inspired by classic and inclusive romantic tropes – from the beloved Fake Relationship and the enticing One Bed scenario, to the Best Friend Love Epiphany and the Grand Romantic Gesture – these stories are the perfect uplifting tonic to the harshness of real life.
The collection begins on a high with that most celebrated of rom-com tropes: the fake relationship to make your ex green with jealousy. Written by Dumplin’ and Puddin’ author Julie Murphy, ‘Bye, Bye, Piper Berry’ is a complete charmer of a story which sees the titular Piper Berry bribe her friend and next-door neighbour Gabe into posing as her new boyfriend to make her old boyfriend – and their mutual friend – realise what he’s missing. This is without doubt my favourite romantic trope and Murphy brings such wit and teenage naivety to the story.
Youthful naivety is a recurrent theme in YA fiction and these stories encapsulate the sense of teens struggling to get a sense of who they are in the world, whilst trying to figure out who they love and, more importantly, who deserves their love too. The idea that the best person for you could actually be the most unexpected person is something that Leah Johnson, Abigail Hing Wen, Caleb Roehrig and Sandhya Menon all explore with their stories. It could be someone that drives you mad (as in Johnson’s ‘Anyone Else But You’) or the best friend who’s been standing right in front of you all along (the tender lightning bolt moments in both Roehrig’s ‘Auld Acquaintance’ and Menon’s ‘The Surprise Match’ are beyond perfect). With ‘The Idiom Algorithm’, Abigail Hing Wen also weaves in the added element of class, something that features in her dazzling Loveboat books too.
Young love isn’t just about shock revelations and self-admissions. Sometimes romance is simple, it’s just a case of the two lovebirds finding a way and a moment to declare their feelings for each other. Marissa Meyer’s heart-warming ‘Shooting Stars’ – set against the backdrop of a school camping trip – centres around a boy and girl who are clearly smitten with each other but neither will make the first move. Then there’s Anna-Marie McLemore’s ‘Liberty’, which is as much about self-acceptance and owning who you are, as it is about opening your heart up to another person.
The remaining stories in the collection are just as readable and escapist, whether it’s Elizabeth Eulberg’s ‘In A Blink Of The Eye’, which transports an American teen to the London of her dreams, Elise Bryant’s ‘Zora In The Spotlight’ – a serendipitous case of mistaken identity, or Sarah Winifred Searle’s short graphic novel, ‘Keagan’s Heaven On Earth’, which ends with a feeling of hope and possibility – something that all ten stories share.
Serendipity is about many types of love: First love, unrequited love, surprising love, queer love, self-love, the love you have for your friends and the love you have for a place. The stories are fun, heartening, celebratory and – above all else – sparkling with serendipity. If you need a quick dip-in-and-out read to give you a warm, cheery feeling (particularly with Valentine’s Day approaching), this is it.
Serendipity was published by Faber & Faber on 4 January 2022