Posts Tagged ‘Young Adult fiction’

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 500: Ysarin


Ysarin

by Simon Pan

On days when I came home crying, my grandmother was always there with her song.

It was a tune friendly and old as the roads that crossed Mazael: the sort you shared while you watched the land roll away on horseback, or sitting at a moonlit fireside among familiar faces. I would lean against my grandmother on our rickety porch and breathe in her scent as she sang to the street.

Magic lay in that song, the notes so delicate you could tell a story about each one. As the beginning strands of music twined together, I would be transported to a place that let me forget the ache in my chest, a city of an entirely different skin than our Lenniel. A place of worn streets and thatched roofs wrapped in the smell of woodsmoke and fresh ale. A sunset, a fire, the sky on fire and the streets ablaze with torchlight.

“This is our song, dear,” she would say as she smiled down at me. “Don’t listen to the other children. We will always have our home with us…” Her fingers would press against my chest just above my heart. Somehow she knew the exact place where her spell took root. “Here.”

Even after so many years, that is how I think of home. Sitting there on that porch with the wind stealing my tears and carrying away the sound of magic. (Continue Reading…)

liopleurodon

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 499: Robo-Liopleurodon!


Robo-Liopleurodon!

by Darcie Little Badger

My intern screamed. That’s rarely a good sign. Near the starboard rail, Abigail clutched a dripping, freshly towed plankton net. The collection vial dangling from the muslin funnel glinted in the sun, as if filled with silver particles.

“Doctor!” she shouted. “Nanobotplankton!” (Continue Reading…)

A fairy in a jar

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 498: Field Biology of the Wee Fairies


Field Biology of the Wee Fairies

by Naomi Kritzer

When Amelia turned fourteen, everyone assured her that she’d find her fairy soon. Almost all girls did. You’d find a fairy, a beautiful little fairy, and catch her. And she’d give you a gift to let her go, and that gift was always beauty or charm or perfect hair or something else that made boys notice you. The neighbor girl, Betty, had caught her fairy when she was just nine, and so she’d never even had to go through an awkward adolescent stage; she’d been perfect and beautiful all along.

Not all fairies were equal, of course. Some of them would do a much better job for you. The First Lady Jackie Kennedy, for example, had caught the fairy queen. Or so almost everyone said. “So keep your eyes open,” Amelia’s mother told her.

“I don’t want to catch a fairy,” Amelia said. “If I did catch a fairy, I’d keep her in a jar like my mice and study her.” (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 497: Hurricane Season


Hurricane Season

by Avi Burton

Amaya smelled like the ocean. Most Florida girls did, when they returned from the beach with new tan lines and salt-crusted hair, but Amaya was different. The ocean-brine was under her skin, a part of her that was ever-present, unignorable. She wore jasmine perfume to cover it, overpoweringly sweet, but I could always smell the salt underneath.

We met at the beach— she always seemed to be there, sitting silently and watching the tides. I was crouched over a tide pool when I heard the slip-slap of her lavender sandals approaching.

“You’re new, right?”

I looked up and saw her silhouetted in the sun, smiling down at me, and nearly fell into the tide pool. Her swimsuit had a spotted pattern that made her look like the selkies I’d read about in mythology books— lean-boned girls with dripping hair and fur coats, who belonged to the ocean and only haunted the land. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 496: Excuse Me, this is the Quiet Car


Excuse me, this is the Quiet Car

by Cara Mast

The magic of the quiet car is best when everyone follows the rules.

I’m halfway through the math problem I’ve been mulling over when a sudden bleep-bleep-bring-a-ling in the quiet makes me jump, slamming my knees into the fold-down tray table. Ouch.

And then, as if the phone ringing wasn’t enough, the man across the aisle from me picks up. “This is Paul Whitford. Yeah, hey Jerry, what do you need?”

White- and grey-haired heads pop up from the seats ahead of our row, the usual crowd of over-65’s turning to look for the disturbance. I really just want to go back to my problem set. The train shakes audibly around us, more like a throat clearing than regular train rumbles, and I’m pretty sure that’s a warning at this point. I’d rather not find out. Much as I’d like to ignore this guy, he’s now made his business everyone’s business. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 495: And I Will Make Thy Name Great


And I Will Make Thy Name Great

by Louis Evans

Abraham, the potter’s son, was sweeping out the workshop late one night, the air hot, the sweat beading on his brow, the kiln still radiating the baking heat it had absorbed over the course of the day.

This was when he heard the voice.

“Boy!”

Abraham looked around.

No source of the voice was apparent. No person had stepped into the shed, nor were the flames of a djinn visible. Four copies of the idol of Suen, god of the moon and chief among gods, were cooling on the shelf opposite the kiln, and sometimes Suen spoke to believers, but the idols were not yet consecrated and certainly could not host the presence of the god. No raven perched in the workshop’s eaves, croaking out an imitation of speech. Abraham was baffled. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 494: The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula


The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula

by Effie Seiberg

On the day I turned nine, I didn’t get a pet nebula.

I’d really really wanted one, just like the one Shelly had. And I’d been talking about it FOR-EVER, so Dad could have the time to save up for the one in the pawn shop, and I’m not usually patient enough to talk about anything that long. I told him how responsible I was and how I could take it for walks and trim its dust wisps and everything. I made him breakfast when he got home from his shift a bunch of times, and even did the dishes after to prove how responsible I was.

“C’mon kiddo, you know that’s not possible,” he’d said, ten rotation cycles before my birthday. We were at the wobbly kitchen table and he was helping me with my physics homework after dinner, so everything still smelled like tacos with neutron star shavings and spray cheese. The chapter was all about distortions of spacetime, cosmic strings and black holes and whatnot. He leaned his head on one tentacle, like he was too tired to hold it up on its own. Even his work shirt looked tired, like the frayed thin patches were struggling to hold his tentacles in. “A pet nebula isn’t happening.” (Continue Reading…)

Cast of Wonders 493: One Day in Infinity


One Day in Infinity

by Beth Goder

Walrus reaches her hands down into a supermarket in Oregon, willing the roof translucent. Time is frozen like the fish sticks in aisle seven. She weaves her hands through shoppers, careful not to nudge the boy bouncing in the cart or the old man in front of the cake mixes. She breathes in the smell of cucumbers, a loamy quality that speaks of the ground they came from.

First, she removes salmonella from a carton of eggs, sucking out disease until only a swirl of white and yolk remains. She caresses the fish in the display case to tell them they are loved. Next, she sees if anyone is going to die. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 485: Simons, Far and Near


Simons, Far and Near

by Ana Gardner

Days after a solar hurricane fried Western Europe, nations across the world gathered their brightest grade-schoolers, and they launched us into space with promises of glory and cake.

Solar storms were worsening ahead of schedule, said government men in wrinkled suits, as they pulled us from our underground shelters and stuffed us into armored tanks. The exodus ships, forced to launch early, weren’t ready to sustain endless space travel. They’d need places to land, shelters for their thousands of passengers, far from our ever-deadlier sun.

And someone had to travel on ahead and build those shelters.

Fortunately, we learned as we marched up the launch ramp, Earth had a few shuttles ready for immediate departure. Sure, they had poor radiation shields and leaky engines, but wouldn’t you know it? Shuttle travel damaged the body worst after puberty. Kids had great odds of surviving a trip across the solar system.

‘Great odds’—those were the words they used, and they loaded us into hastily-cobbled ships and chucked us from burning Earth like spores from a coughing fungus. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 484: Langsuir (Staff Picks 2021)


Langsuir

by Nadia Mikail

The langsuir is a woman who has died giving birth. Malay folktales have a multitude of women featured as wrathful, devious spirits: the hantu kum-kum thrives on the blood of virgin girls, desperate to maintain her youth even in death; the hantu kopek lures men to cheat on their wives, jealous that their afterlife contains no husband of their own; the pontianak goes after the people who have wronged her, tearing out their organs.

People usually shake their heads, they think: oh, well, that is the envious, terrible nature of Eve. Personally I think it is more how humans are treated in life that influences how they behave in death, and in this culture the women are angrier than most. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 483: Armed With Such Stories, I Roamed Into The Woods (Staff Picks 2021)


Armed With Such Stories, I Roamed Into The Woods

by Evan Marcroft

Never trust a wolf’s promise, Atticus, my mother once told me. Remember the tale of Smiling John and Baron Icepelt. They lie between fangs, and their promises will only ever lead you into their belly. She was full of such morsels of wisdom. There was a fable for every lesson I should know. Not all pertained to talking wolves, but this was most relevant to my task. Remember how Smiling John escaped. If you should find a wolf at your heels, throw meat behind you. Wolves are clever but lazy creatures. They will stop for the easier meal.

Armed with such stories, I roamed into the woods to save her life. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 482: In Real Time (Staff Picks 2021)


In Real Time

by Avra Margariti

The kites frozen across the sky dapple the lawn like stained glass. Human statues dot the park, caught mid-motion: picnicking, dog-walking, sun-bathing. They might have been unnerving, once. Now, the utter stillness and silence soothes me like nothing else. In Frozen Time, scents are amplified tenfold. Grass, flowers, sugar. I drop a few coins into a vendor’s tip jar, then fill a clear bag with candy worms, chewing as I stroll down the small hill.

When a shape weaves between the stationary people, I think it’s only an optical illusion. A vase, two faces, now a vase again.

I blink, and the silhouette has drawn closer. It belongs to a kid not much younger than me in appearance, although there’s really no way to tell with people like us, who know how to manipulate time. The kid nods at me, casual like we’re meeting in the street and not in a frozen world, then steals a fistful of my candy.

“Who are you?” I ask once my tongue unglues itself from my palate. (Continue Reading…)