And just like that – boom! – the awkwardness began. 

Okay, so maybe you exaggerate some, but adolescence is kind of like that: you're just some average kid until you're not, until you get zits and hair and feelings that you don't know what to do with, amplified by the fact that you're gay or pan or queer. And boom! No more average kid. So why not read some not-so-average stories about kids like you in "Out Now," a short story collection edited by Saundra Mitchell. 

Labels are no fun, probably because they're never 100% exact. Should you call yourself gay or "half a gay"?  Maybe "bi" works better, or is it okay to shuffle through the labels until you find the one that fits best? Or, as in the first story, "Kick. Push. Coast" by Candace Montgomery, are you just you? 

What do you do if your heart is broken because you tried to stand up for yourself? In "Lumber Me Mine" by C.B. Lee, Jasmine finally took a stand and broke up with her LTR. Everybody loved Janet; she was funny and confident and organized but those traits kept Jasmine on the sidelines. Now Janet was lying to all their mutual friends. What was the best way to move on from that? 

There's a reason that social media sites have "follow" buttons: because it's fun to catch up with the videos and thoughts of people you enjoy, even if you don't actually know them. You sometimes have to wonder, though: how much of their lives are real, and how much is faked? In "Follower" by Will Kostakis, 18-year-old Jason is on a crowded beach when he spots London, who's an influencer on a site called WeGlo. It doesn't take long for Jason to see that London's posts are staged just for the clicks, which is disappointing. And yet, there's a genuine man behind the facade. 

Eliza was absolutely not looking forward to a girls-only road trip, but she almost kind of had to go – though there would be camping involved, and they were picking up someone's cousin, a girl Eliza thought she'd insulted once. Awkward, huh? In "A Road of One's Own" by Kate Hart, this was going to be awful. Or maybe not so much. 

Got an extra half-hour today? 

In this time of quarantine and shelter-in-place, yeah, you probably do. So why not spend that time reading something you can wrap up quick, like the stories inside "Out Now"? 

It's almost like the 17 authors presented in this book peeked inside your backpack. They know what queer teens like to read, and you'll find that stuff here: romancy-type tales with PG-ratings. Vampire stories, and magic curses. Tales of mystical beings, not-quite-sure kids, some who are bullied, and teens who confidently know exactly who they are.  

Dip in and try a tale. Nobody says you have to read them all; that's the beauty of a short story collection like "Out Now." If you've got the time and want something different, boom! Here's your book. 

"Out Now: Queer We Go Again!" by various authors, edited by Saundra Mitchell 

c.2020, Inkyard Press 

$18.99 / higher in Canada 416 pages