Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Arpad Okay. Fresh Romance will take you there. It will put a thousand ideas in your head. It will make you squirm in your chair. Play with your feelings and then make it up to you. The tip of the iceberg. A bit of a tease. The acclaimed digital powerhouse sees print with four and a half short stories, visions bold and diverse and provocative.
Kate Leth pens a tastefully reserved, hot in the pants (but never sleazy) magic high school mash note. Secret wizards. Secret lovers. Super cute. School Spirit is ambitious, fitting in a lot of different perspectives, stories, politics, and philosophy into its pages. A fun flip of the standards, the girl squad is on the hunt and the boys are charmingly squeamish. It’s a dream realized, with feels that are real. It’s busy, but why not? This stuff is food for the voracious. Romance is for dreamers, looking for stories as sophisticated as themselves. Here it is.
Sarah Vaughn goes period piece. Steamy correspondence. Arranged marriage between sad, pretty people. Behind closed doors, girls do each other’s hair. Romance is found here, but in unexpected places; a love denied in the past, a bond between friends. It hits on raw moments, some bittersweet, some just sweet. The conflicts of Ruined are deeply embedded into the story, hidden instead of frank — the way you’ll find them elsewhere in this collection. The parents’ way of doing things can be a prison for the youth, a story as old as time told through the life of a prisoner. Ruined is proof the Classics are still being written.
Sarah Kuhn brings the meta-fiction. The Ruby Equation is the head-math of a coffee shop love meddler. Cupid the Barista. Kuhn asks how much of a choice we have with love. Romance is both chance and chemistry. It’s more than just the spark — it’s the entire fire, right down to the embers, a name written in giant letters set ablaze. Kuhn’s ambition is showing, the wheels behind the machine are visibly turning, but her analysis never gets in the way of tugging heartstrings. You see the big love coming from a while out but romance can be like that. It’s also a dance, and requires a bit of grace. I love this one for its honesty, its bravery, its sweetness.
Marguerite Bennett’s Beauties is both babe and beast. This is a power piece, plainly spoken musings on what we are willing to do to gratify ourselves. Don’t clap them in irons and dare call it love. Bennett’s style is slightly better suited for Scheherazade than the Grimm Brothers — 1,001 Nights always had the better love stories, anyway. This love story draws a map from where we are to where the true thing dwells. It feels both familiar and new. An ancient tome heavy with reflections of the present and the future. It is whimsical and tragic and moving.
Kieron Gillen takes us home. Romance is kissing and not caring for a thing in the world but the owner of that other pair of lips. First, Last, and Always is about bravery too, living in the present without fear. Building a future instead of anticipating one. The right love. It’s worth the work, but more importantly, it’s worth the wait.
Rosy Press/Oni Press/$24.99
Edited by Janelle Asselin.
Editorial assists by Ari Yarwood.
Designed by Hilary Thompson.
Written by Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen.
Illustrated by Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson, Trungles, and Christine Norrie.
Colors by Amanda Scurti, Sarah Winifred Searle, Savanna Ganucheau, Trungles, and Christine Norrie.
Lettered by Taylor Esposito, Ryan Ferrier, Steve Wands, Rachel Deering, and Christine Norrie.