13 July 2010

Book of the Week (69): "Losing It", edited by Keith Gray

To publish – not to say edit and contribute to – an anthology for teenagers consisting exclusively of stories about losing virginity is a pretty brave thing to do. (Frankly, publishing short stories at all is daring enough these days, whatever the subject…) All credit, then, to Andersen Press, editor Keith Gray and the other seven contributors to Losing It.

But to focus on the sensation of this book’s very existence is to sell it short, because it’s also very good indeed. The stories are by some of the best YA writers working at the top of their game, and they’ve produced stories that are varied, imaginative, surprising. Some are very funny indeed, others gentle and touching, there’s contemporary and historical, a range of perspectives, and – most important of all – they are not patronising, preachy, moralistic, judgmental or anything even close. They take the subject – sex, a subject which all human beings are biologically programmed to find interesting – and they talk about it properly. Not trying to impart information that’s good for you, but to explore it by getting into the skin of a variety of characters, which is, after all, what fiction does best. My favourites are probably 'Different for Boys' by Patrick Ness (really original, and very funny) and 'The Age of Consent' by Jenny Valentine (again, made me laugh out loud), but I liked them all and there are several others that are terrific, too. We need more books like this.

[The full contributor list is as follows: Melvin Burgess, Anne Fine, Keith Gray (also the editor), Mary Hooper, Sophie McKenzie, Patrick Ness, Bali Rai and Jenny Valentine.]

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

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