A Universe of Wishes (Dhonielle Clayton) – Book Review

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology is the new YA short story anthology collaboration between Titan Books and We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit organisation of children’s book lovers that aims to create work in the publishing industry where all children can see themselves reflected in the stories they read. As such, A Universe of Wishes presents readers with a varied and interesting array of stories from a diverse group of authors. The stories within this collection cover a variety of genres, from urban fantasy, to historical fiction, to sci-fi, with even some romance thrown in too.

The first story in the book, ‘A Universe of Wishes’ by Tara Sim starts the collection off wonderfully, introducing readers to the feel of the entire book. In this story we follow Thorn, a teen living on the streets following a family tragedy, who is trying to collect magic from corpses in order to have a wish come true. Having discovered that people contain a spark of magic within them, but rarely even use it, Thorn breaks into a funeral home to harvest this magic from the dead, but is caught by the boy who works there, leading to an unlikely friendship and budding romance between the two. Not only does this story introduce the readers to some of the key themes of the book, but it’s also a sweet story about these two teens learning to trust each other, and the love that eventually begins to form between them.

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‘Cristal y Ceniza’ by Anne-Marie Mclemore is a wonderful re-imagining of Cinderella, that sees a young woman travelling to a neighbouring kingdom to beg sanctuary for her family from the king and queen. With the government of her home land tearing apart queer couples and forcing people into heterosexual marriages she fears that she will lose her mothers to cruel men, and seeks an audience during a ball to celebrate the prince’s renaming ceremony, him having just transitioned. However, once she arrives at the ball, thanks to the magic contained within the crystal shoes she was given, she finds herself face to face with the handsome young prince, and begins to fall for him.

It’s not all about finding love in these stories, however, as ‘Unmoor’ by Mark Oshiro tells the story of a young man dealing with the heartbreak of his recent relationship coming to an end. In this world where magic is real and there are more supernatural ways of moving on following a break-up, Felix employs a powerful spell-caster to help remove the connections of places from the memories of his former love. But as the process goes on he begins to suspect it might not be enough, as we discover more about his former boyfriend.

‘Habibi’ by Tochi Onyebuchi is a powerful story written in the form of letters being shared between two young people in solitary confinement in prison. One of them is housed in Long Beach, California, whilst the other is prisoner in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. This story deals with the cruelty of imprisonment, the horrors that people do to each other, and helps to raise some awareness of the awful ethnic cleansing that the coloniser state of Israel performs on the people of Palestine, acts of genocide that the world turns its back on.

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The book also has a couple of short stories set within existing book universes for readers to try out. ‘A Royal Affair’ by V.E. Schwab is set within her Shades of Magic universe and shows readers the relationship between Alucard and Prince Rhy, set long before the start of the series. There’s also ‘The Scarlet Woman’ by Libba Bray, which is part of the Gemma Doyle series.

A Universe of Wishes has a lot to offer readers; it has a diversity not just in the topics on offer, but the authors contributing too. Queer characters, same sex relationships, love, heartbreak, imprisonment, colonisation, and even death play parts in these stories. But through them all is a sense of hope; hope that magic, wishes, and a belief in yourself can get you through and give you a better life. Now more than ever it’s important for people, especially younger readers, to see themselves in fiction, to be represented and recognised in good ways. With racism, homophobia, transphobia, abelism, and xenophobia on the rise, and right-wing fascism a constant threat, it’s important that we celebrate a diverse and varied world, and this book helps to do that.

A Universe of Wishes is out on 6th July from Titan Books.

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