cover image Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever

Isabel Yap. Small Beer, $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-61873-182-1

Yap’s impressive debut collection of 13 fabulist, sci-fi, and horror shorts explores themes ranging from monstrousness, shared trauma, and systemic violence to friendship and the ambiguity of love. Yap is at home with whatever topic she puts her hand to, easily immersing readers in the perspectives of high schoolers, ancient goddesses, androids, and witches. Standouts include “A Cup of Salt Tears,” about a grieving woman who encounters a demon in a bathhouse; “Only Unclench Your Hand,” in which the governor’s niece plays witness to dangerous folk magic; “Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing),” which speculates on the inner lives of magical girls; and “A Canticle for Lost Girls,” in which a group of Catholic schoolgirls call down dark powers on one of their teachers. Yap’s work is emphatically engaged with Filipino culture, with most of these stories either set in the Philippines or following immigrant and diaspora characters, and drawing upon Filipino folklore and mythology to beautiful and frightening effect. Yap’s penchant for ambiguous endings undermines the impact of one or two pieces, but at their best these tales call to mind the works of Rich Larson, Carmen Maria Machado, and Neon Yang. Yap is a powerful new voice in speculative fiction. (Feb.)