cover image Cooties Shot Required

Cooties Shot Required

Edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski. Broken Eye, $19.99 trade paper (194p) ISBN 978-1-940372-60-0

Alternately lighthearted and dark, Gable and Dombrowski’s wide-ranging anthology collects 14 stories exploring the wonderfully weird era of childhood. A group of suburban kids become heroic monster hunters in Anya Martin’s gloriously fun “All the Things We Need to Kill SQUISSSHH,” while crueler children crush little animals in their tiny fists—and suffer the consequences—in Nemma Wollenfang’s “Matchbox Daemons.” Each story brings to life a different experience of childhood; Ada Hoffmann’s “Back Room” highlights the perspective of the neurodiverse while Brian Hugenbruch’s “An Elicitation of Thursdays” and Eliza Chan’s “The Makings of Broken Embers” both take on the struggles of foster children. Haralambi Markov’s “The Ancestry of Sin” offers a well-done portrait of a mother-daughter relationship, a dynamic also explored in Damien Angelica Walters’s less cohesive “A Perfect Hunger, A Certain Rage.” Though some stories feel bloated with overambitious worldbuilding, both “Eat the Rich” by DaVaun Sanders and “Everything as Part of Its Infinite Place” by Premee Mohamed fit impressive plotting feats into limited page counts. The standouts are Eden Royce’s adventurous “Room and Board Included, Demonology Extra” and Clinton J. Boomer’s tearjerker “Alone,” which give their child characters the fierceness they deserve. The whole is slightly uneven, but there are enough strong pieces to please speculative fiction fans. [em](Aug.) [/em]