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We Mostly Come Out at Night Review

Cover for We Mostly Come Out at Night anthology, featuring a silhouetted couple holding hands under a tree, with a demon-like creature perched on the branch above them.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the YA anthology We Mostly Come Out at Night: 15 Queer Tales of Monsters, Angels, and Other Creatures edited by Rob Costello. The anthology will officially be out in May 2024, and is currently available for pre-order.

First off, a shout-out for the gorgeous cover art by Frances J. Soo Ping Chow; it’s striking, and perfectly suits the tone of the anthology, and even better, each story within the anthology is paired with a lovely header illustration by the artist as well.

On the whole, the anthology strikes a nice balance of hope and queer joy, while also acknowledging the pain and uncertainty that can be a part of the queer experience. There are stories of angels, gargoyles, cryptids, mer-folk, and fae creatures, which are also stories of young people finding their place in the world, forming new friendships and romances, and learning to embrace their truths. All of the stories are well-written, and there are some truly lovely descriptions and emotional moments within these pages. There are a few in particular that I want to highlight, though all of them are well-worth reading.

Bastian and the Beast by Jonathan Lenore Kastin opens the anthology with a lovely, queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast. There are many familiar touch-points from the various versions of the tale, and centering a queer, trans protagonist adds extra resonance to the themes of characters learning to see themselves and others for who they truly are. Other Fish by Alexandra Villasante is a wonderful reimagining of the Little Mermaid, that explores what it means to be the child of immigrants, and how sometimes that comes with the pressure and expectation to perform identity a certain way in order to fit in, and to sanitize your personality and image in order to be more palatable to others.

Be Not Afraid by Michael Thomas Ford is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Willet’s grandmother firmly believes in Mothman – a cryptid who only shows up when trouble is coming, and there is plenty of trouble in Willet’s life. His older brother, Pike, is selling drugs to try to help cover their grandmother’s medical bills, and even so it’s barely enough. Meanwhile Willet’s best friend Burlie skipped town to figure out the growing feelings between the two of them after his parents forbid them from having a relationship. The story does a nice job of looking at what is considered monstrous and what it means to be monstrous and an outsider. Delving into some similar themes, The Freedom of Feather and Fur by David Bowles has a strong voice, and makes good use of its historical setting as Lope searches for his shapeshifting brother in order to take revenge, and discovers some truths about himself and the nature of monsters along the way.

The House of Needs and Wants by Kaylynn Bayron is a sweet story about a young, queer woman who has been bounced from foster home to foster home. She deeply distrusts the system, and expects to find more of the same in her new home, not to mention the rumors that the house is haunted. Instead, she finds other queer kids and a semi-sentient house that strives to give everyone what they need. It’s a cozy and comforting story, but one that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging pain, or showing how difficult trust can be and how much courage it takes to open yourself up to others. The Girl with Thirteen Shadows by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is similarly a painful story, but with a hopeful ending. Melanie has more shadows that she should, and is also trying to come to terms with her asexuality. She goes to a doctor who claims he can fix her, that her shadows are killing her, but ultimately learns that he only wants to control the so-called monsters of the world. She finds allies however, and new friends, taking the first steps toward building a community of fellow “monsters”.

How We Founded Club Feathers at the Discard Depot by Sarah Maxfield is the perfect story to close out the anthology. Ashley lives in a super-conservative town that strictly enforces heteronormativity, especially when it comes to prom. She and her secret girlfriend, Em, along with the other queer kids, are relegated to the sidelines serving punch, counting court ballots, and working the photobooth, rather than getting to enjoy themselves. But a “wicked” fairy godmother/Uncanny Presence known as Carabosse appears to whisk them away to their own prom while putting everyone else to sleep, giving them a lovely moment of queer joy and a safe space to celebrate, while also acknowledging the bravery required to choose your happiness amidst pressure to conform.

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