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Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens

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This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today's teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are awardwinners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis―and their characters reflect this diversity.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published September 18, 2018

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Marieke Nijkamp

54 books1,928 followers
Marieke Nijkamp a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek.


Please note I don't respond to friend requests or messages on GR, but you're always welcome to tweet or email me. :)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 350 reviews
Profile Image for Corinne.
Author 15 books719 followers
Want to read
June 21, 2018
I've got a story in this one! In the ARC it's called "One, Two, Three" but in the final edition it'll be titled "A Curse, A Kindness."

It's my first queer autistic character, and probably the fluffiest YA story/novel I've written to date.

I am absurdly excited about this anthology. <3
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
Shelved as 'zzzzz-did-not-finish'
February 6, 2019
Unfortunately, I think I may have stopped being a short story anthology fan immediately after requesting this as an arc? So I have to put this on hold. However, this has been good so far, as you’ll hopefully be able to tell from my first few ratings and reviews <3

I’ve marked all the stories that I know are #ownvoices for the specific disability, but what first drew me to this collection is its authorship: it is entirely by authors identifying as disabled on a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis.

My favorite stories at the beginning of this book were The Long Road by Heidi Heilig, The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley.

The Long Road by Heidi Heilig ← ★★★★★
✔lead character with mental illness (#ownvoices)
“Do you want to know what helps me most? More than amulets, more than clean living. Talking. Finding others like me.”
A story about the realization that a “cure” does not always exist, and that is okay. This is a clever one, using what others call “bad fate” to represent the treatment of mental illness by both socities and ourselves (I believe bipolar disorder, which the author also has). It’s a very brief story with a fairly simple growth element but is powerful nonetheless. And the writing, in places, is absolutely gorgeous; Heidi Heilig has fantastic style, and this actually may have persuaded me to give For A Muse of Fire another try.

Britt And The Bike God by Kody Keplinger ← ★★★☆☆
✔blind MC (#ownvoices)
Britt, who is blind and suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, pedals at the back of a tandem bicycle. This is a really short one and involves a somewhat cute love match. I think this just... didn’t have a ton going on given the length? The main thing I enjoyed here was the discussion of feeling like a burden, which is so real to life. But though I tend to love this author’s writing, this was just okay for me.

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley ← ★★★★★
✔sapphic MC who uses a wheelchair, sapphic romance
This one was so good and gay!! Lead character Eloise goes to a deserted carnival with her best friend Gemma, and things go wrong. I really liked how this was written - the tension between the two leads is perfectly built.

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke ← ★★��★☆
✔MC with anxiety & panic attacks (#ownvoices)
Set in a scifi world, this follows a lead character with severe panic attacks. While I thought the clear romantic buildup was just sort of… there, I enjoyed this a lot overall for its strong main idea.

Found Objects by William Alexander
✔Latinx MC with chronic pain

Plus One by Karuna Riazi
✔Hijabi MC with schizophrenia

The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp
✔MC with a cane

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork ← ★★★☆☆
✔MC with mental illness

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton ← ★★★☆☆
✔MC with irritable bowel disorder & anxiety

A Play In Many Parts by Fox Benwell ← ★★★☆☆
✔nonbinary MC with chronic pain

Ballad Of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys ← ★★★☆☆
✔sapphic biracial Native American MC with bipolar II, sapphic romance

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown ← ★★★☆☆
✔MC with cerebral palsy

A Curse, a Kindness by Corinne Duyvis ← ★★★☆☆
✔sapphic autistic MC (#ownvoices), sapphic romance
I haven’t read anything by Corrine Duyvis in a while, but I really love their writing, and this is the one I’m most likely to get back to.

release date: this is a new 2018 release!!
Arc received via local bookstore for an honest review.
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Profile Image for Tyler J Gray.
Author 2 books219 followers
December 31, 2019
My initial "review" before reading it:

I only read the dedication and i'm already crying. It says

"To every disabled reader, dreamer, storyteller-
We can be heroes.
This one's for us."

I have been disabled my entire life, born with vacterl association (and then some) I'm a medical nightmare. vacterl is rare so i'm not expecting to see it in a book but even with that difference, many disabled people end up facing the same stigmas, ableism and feelings from it all.

I am so glad something like this finally exists <3

Now...can I make it through this book without getting tear stains on the pages? Probably not if i'm already crying, but they are happy tears that this is a thing that exists now <3

After Reading it:

13 stories, and many tears. I found quite a bit to relate to in these pages as a disabled person. My updates mention all the stories, my ratings and some feelings. There were a couple of "???" stories, a few stories that while they didn't really resonate with me personally I did like them enough and could see them being perfect for someone else, and just over half of them I really loved! The ones I loved I found stuff I related to in the pages even when I didn't share the exact disability, I cared about the characters, cried or at least got teary, they spoke to me in some way.

There is a diverse range of disabilities, both physical and mental, in the pages as well as poc and queer characters. If you are disabled, in any way, I imagine you'll find some stories to love in these pages, even if not every single one hits home. I am really glad this book exists and that I read it. My average ended up being 3.7 over-all.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,765 reviews649 followers
July 5, 2020
It's so difficult to rate anthologies, which is why I've rated every story separately. This was definitely worth the read, and I especially loved the insights into what it's like to deal with any kind of disability.

Heidi Heilig - The Long Road (3/5)
This first story has a lovely message, but I did feel like it could have been longer or at least a bit more substantial, because it didn't really have much of a plot. However, I did love the setting and the atmosphere.

Kody Keplinger - Britt and the Bike God (4/5)
Britt and the Bike God is an adorable contemporary story about a blind girl who loves to bike. After losing (most of) her vision, she's started riding tandem, and I loved how the story addressed her disability without making it the sole focus. It was relatable to see how she struggled with accepting her disability, feeling like a burden to the people around her a lot of the time.

Kayla Whaley - The Leap and the Fall (2/5)
This story started off atmospheric, but it quickly grew weaker. It definitely had potential, but the dialogue felt forced and the action sequences didn't flow naturally, which made it difficult to really follow the story or get invested in it.

Katherine Locke - Per Aspera Ad Astra (5/5)
Absolutely loved this sci-fi story about a girl struggling with anxiety who has to overcome some of her fears due to war. Lizzie was a pretty relatable main character, and I loved how the story shows you're always stronger than you think without diminishing Lizzie's mental illness.

William Alexander - Found Objects (2/5)
It seems like you can't read a short story anthology without at least one author deciding to play around with the narrative perspective, and it almost never turns out well. It didn't this time either. It's a shame, because even if I don't experience chronic pain myself, I did find the way the author wrote about disability to be relatable at times. But other than that, the story just didn't really work for me.

Karuna Riazi - Plus One (3/5)
Plus One is about a Muslim girl trying to reconcile her mental illness (which she refers to as 'It') with her religion when she goes on pilgrimage. The setting was interesting, but I didn't feel like there was a lot of substance to it otherwise, although I did like the message of acceptance at the end.

Marieke Nijkamp - The Day the Dragon Came (2/5)
While I loved the setting for this story (medieval Belgium), it didn't really draw me in and I found it difficult to make sense of it, because the plotline felt really choppy.

Francisco F. Stork - Captain, My Captain (3/5)
I found this story to be quite endearing, and I liked the ending a lot! It wasn't very relatable for me personally, but I felt like it was an interesting perspective nonetheless.

Dhonielle Clayton - Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love (4/5)
I really loved this contemporary story about a teenage girl writing a love advice column without ever having dated herself. It was heartfelt and the main character was fleshed out and relatable.

Fox Benwell - A Play in Many Parts (4/5)
This story had an interesting format, and I quite liked the main character. They had a few relatable insights when it comes to dealing with disability.

Kristine Wyllys - Ballad of Weary Daughters (3/5)
This is one of those stories where the writing seems to hold you at arm's length. It took me quite a while to get invested, but I did grow to like it more towards the ending.

Keah Brown - Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter (2/5)
While it had potential, this story felt rather unsubstantial, and it didn't really do anything for me.

Corinne Duyvis - A Curse, A Kindness (5/5)
Frankly, this is the story that made me buy this anthology! There's not a lot of own voices autism rep to go around, so I'll genuinely read anything I can get my hands on. This was such a lovely story as well! I feel like it could have easily been a full novel, the premisse was that interesting. I loved the way autism was represented in both of the main characters as well (at least I think they both had autism - it was only confirmed for one of them). It was present but not the center of the story or even the character's biggest distinctive feature.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books353 followers
November 18, 2018
This is so awesome, because the library just bought like six books I had requested forever ago! I am so excited to get to read this wonderful collection! With all the great attention being brought to the importance of hearing from different voices in literature, it’s especially great to see a book featuring short stories about teens who have disabilities, and these were varied and really cool.

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,696 followers
December 7, 2018
This anthology about disabled teens written by disabled authors was such a GEM.
I need all of you to read this immediately, especially with the derth of disability rep in YA fiction.

- Has 13 stories about disabled teens, ranging from physical disabilities, autism to mental illness.
- The stories are a range of genres as well - there's a really awesome futuristic science-fiction story, a story with paranormal activity, a few contemporary romances, and some historical fiction as well.
- The intersectionality in these stories were wonderful, and I loved how some explored disabled identity, whilst some simply featured a disabled character - either way, the stories were all compelling and wonderful.
- My favourite story was easily Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke, a sci-fi story bout a girl with anxiety who is also a gifted coder, and can save her city from falling and succumbing to a war.

Trigger/content warnings:
Profile Image for Lilly (Lair Of Books).
339 reviews180 followers
September 30, 2018
*ARC received from Publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Full Review may also be viewed on LAIR OF BOOKS

This Anthology holds such a special place in my heart, I found myself taking my time with each story many of which moved me or empowered me. Many left me in tears while others left me with hope. These stories are filled with strong characters who really just want to be seen and heard for the person they are rather than their disabilities be it it physical or mental or both. I am on my own personal journey with mental health, this collection felt very therapeutic to read & ultimately kept me company on days I needed it most. Told by authors with disabilities, these stories are important and I for sure have found some new to me authors I look forward to read more from.

*Note: I’m not sure these stories are inspired by the various authors specific disabilities as it isn’t indicated

The Long Road by Heidi Heilig: 3.5 STARS

About a Chinese Protagonist with mental health disability who travels with her parents to Persia in search of a “cure” (mental health disability) & along the way discovers the possibility of finding others that are doing to same for their loved one(s). I loved seeing super supportive parents & also the acknowledgment that change to a more clean/healthy lifestyle can be costly.

Britt And The Bike God by Kody Keplinger: 5 STARS

Loved this story so much! Keeping in step with the first story, this also features a supportive parent. The MC has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition that causes the gradual loss of vision. Dad share a love of bikes with Britt, his daughter. He starts a Cyclist club since Britt’s school doesn’t have any “blind friendly sports club” & makes it all inclusive. All ages welcome with the only exception being that each gets trained to ride a tandem bike when they join & volunteer to Captain for Britt. There is a romance with a POC character (F/M) & it’s super cute! I loved the inclusivity of the bike club & that Britt is able to physically take part in the sport she loves.

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley: 3.5 STARS

Carnival stories always make for eerie settings, throw in a aggressive ghost/possession, some tarot cards and we have ourselves one atmospheric short story! This one stars a girl in her wheelchair and her BFF who she’s started to grow feelings for (F/F), this one could’ve definitely benefited from being a full length novel. The progression from long friendship to romance is hard to dive right into in such a short period of time.

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke: 4.5 STARS

A Sci-Fi short story starring a female coder who has panic attacks. MC lives and studies from her room not having stepped outside in months. This all changes when her world is attacked & at war, she must decide whether she can step out & offer her coding expertise to save the planet. I’m a big supporter of ALL women in STEM so this one definitely captured my interest. I also loved the supportive side character who doesn’t sweep the MC’s feelings of anxiety & fear under the rug.

Found Objects by William Alexander: 3 STARS

Latinx MC (gender not mentioned) who has idiopathic pain. This one threw me for a loop, I don’t think I fully grasped what was going on but I didn’t dislike it if that makes any sense? MC has a passion for performance art & there’s a conversation between the MC & their deceased grandfather where the issue of casting disabled people as villains is briefly mentioned. There’s also discussion of chronic pain & feeling like you can’t really talk to anyone about your pain because of the stigma. I’m not quick to label anything as being Magical Realism but this one did have an element of MR that gave off very vivid imagery.

Plus One by Karuna Riazi : 4 STARS

MC goes on her spiritual journey aka Hajj, along the way she battles against “IT” this is a presence the MC feels, sees, and tries to escape. We see her struggle with religion as well, feelings of inadequacy at not experiencing a huge transformation by the end of her Hajj. Feelings of not being devout enough all the while dealing with her plus one that only she can see. I feared for the MC at the airport where customs is known to flag people down for wearing a Hijab. I feared they wouldn’t offer up any understanding for someone struggling with mental health just because they’re wearing a Hijab. I felt this story the hardest & would love to read more from Karuna Riazi.

The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp: 4 STARS

This one tells the story of a girl with a cane who is treated poorly by the towns people who view her disability as a curse. She wishes to leave her town and travel/see the world. She then meets a Carpenter boy (may be Trans) who feels quite the opposite for the town they live in. He enjoys being a part of building the churches and other buildings. He also understands what it feels like to live somewhere that doesn’t accept you for who you are. A friendship turned romance story with a touch of dragon lore.

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork: 4.5 STARS

Latinx MC hears a consistent voice in his head that encourages him to liberate himself from the responsibilities that keep him by his sisters side. This voice very much tries to influence the MC’s every move. Evaluated in a school setting and said to have a “intellectual & development disability” his options for work limited. He has a sister and baby nephew he stays with along with a mother & siblings in Mexico he helps out with. His sister is in a abusive relationship & he fears what will happen if he leaves. Sibling bond is strong in this one.

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton : 5 STARS

MC has a love & dating advice column for other teens, a idea she got from her grandmother who she admires. MC has never actually been in love & so it adds a bit of humor to this short story. This character has episodes of irritable bowel disorder that keep her from being social & she also has anxiety. I actually would’ve loved a full length meet cute out of this short.

A Play In Many Parts by Fox Benwell: 4 STARS

This short story was told in different formats, parts read like a screenplay and others are being narrated. Our MC is non-binary and uses They/Them pronouns. MC walks with a cane and suffers from chronic pain. At first I was a bit intimidated by the format of this story but ended up really enjoying it. There’s a love for theater & the arts, and a teacher who has a passion for creating. The teachers husband may have dementia & the final act saw me unexpectedly teary eyed.

Ballad Of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys: 3.5 STARS

Bi-racial MC (Native American) who has to grown up way too fast when her father up & leaves with his mistress. A hardworking mother is left to pick up the pieces of a broken home by working long hours in order to provide. MC steps up as a mother for her siblings all the while trying to cope with Bi-Polar II Disorder. There is a romance (F/F) with a Cuban girl who is super supportive and is also dealing with her own issues at home.

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown: 5 STARS

I LOVED this one to pieces! which really doesn’t surprise me since Fantasy is my genre of choice. This short stars a MC with Cerebral Palsy who is being bullied in school. MC has hidden powers as do her siblings & her mother, she isn’t supposed to use them for wrong but makes an exception to get even with her harassers. I rooted for her of course! but it didn’t go unpunished by her mother. Each of the family members can control a different element of weather/nature & I am legit interested in a full length anything with this family! ❤

One, Two, Three (re-named “A Curse, a Kindness”) by Corinne Duyvis: 5 STARS

This in my opinion was the best story to close off this collection. A autistic girl finds herself cursed after bearing witness to a accident. MC is a young girl when she witnesses the accident & isn’t able to respond to a call for action at the moment. Autistic, young, and in shock she is approached by a mysterious man who places a curse on her life. She must grant 3 wishes to whoever shows her a kindness for the rest of her life. A chance encounter with a girl in a parking lot has the potential to change her life. F/F romance that left me smiling.

Content Warning: Death, Physical abuse, misgendering, anxiety, adultery
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,245 reviews3,563 followers
November 8, 2018
I haven't read a lot of fiction that features disabled protagonists. So, when I saw this one at the library (and recognized some of the authors' names), I thought I'd give it a try.

Here are my thoughts on the individual stories:

"The Long Road" by Heidi Heilig

The road stretches before me and behind. It is littered with camel dung and pomegranate rinds, wet tea leaves and boiled stew bones. Along it, travelers come and go, west to east and east to west, following the arc of the sun.

I found this story a bit weak and unrealistic. It seems to take place in the past somewhere along the Silk Road (though the directions are muddled and the narrator repeatedly implies that Persia is both to the east and to the west; whoever edited this one appears to have been asleep). My main problem with this story, however, is the narrator's affliction (either bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder--I couldn't tell) and how it's presented. Her "fate" isn't bad enough to keep her locked away like one of her cousins with a similar affliction, and yet it's somehow bad enough to warrant an expensive/dangerous trip to Persia in search of treatment (not a cure, mind you; this emphasis also felt way too modern to me). I have a feeling that, if someone were to exhibit symptoms like Lihua's, she'd likely be written off as odd; any more severe, and she probably would've been locked away so as not to bring shame on the family.

The writing was okay, but the weird juxtaposition of modern ideas about mental illness with the historical setting just didn't work for me.
2.5 stars

"Britt and the Bike God" by Kody Keplinger

"So," Lorna said once Andre had walked away. "When's the wedding?"

"What? Never. No. Shut up." I hoped that if anyone saw the blush creeping up my face, they'd just excuse it as a side effect of exercise.

This story started out fairly cute, with a blind cyclist who's forced to ride her tandem bike with her crush (the "Bike God" of the title) in a 50-mile ride. The writing was fine, and it was interesting to see how cycling for the blind worked (I've never read about this sort of thing before). But, as the story went on, it started to feel a little unrealistic, and more like wish fulfillment than anything else. Andre was just a little too perfect with his acceptance of Britt's disability, and there were some cringe-worthy moments of rather juvenile flirting and kissing toward the latter half. So... this one was just okay for me.
3 stars

"The Leap and the Fall" by Kayla Whaley

We left the plastic horse--Gemma running and me trailing her at full speed--but the sound of its fall chased me. We sent hollow laughter back over our shoulders, as if we were brave to laugh at echoes.

This is a fairly strong story about two friends--one in a wheelchair--who navigate an old carnival in the woods while dealing with an undercurrent of desire. I liked the way it was written, and the atmosphere was deliciously creepy; it's a good ghost story.
3.5 stars

"Per Aspera Ad Astra" by Katherine Locke

Her whole life she'd fought a war on the inside. And now a war was coming to her from the outside.

This is the kind of sci-fi I hate. Even though it's set on another planet in the distant future, it might as well be 21st-century Earth. A few technologies here and there don't make up for the lack of thought and planning that went into the world. I've never understood why so much sci-fi has humans devolving morally (going back to slavery, for example); if that's going to be the case, it needs to be plausibly explained. And if you're able to travel across space to colonize another planet, why would you throw the principles of self-sufficiency out the window? Why connect everything with a grid that can be hacked/attacked at one central point? Why grow food in only one area, necessitating delivery to everywhere else? On top of the weak world-building, we also get some nice plot holes. If you restore the city's shield while the enemy ships are inside the city... (Did the author forget they were still there?)

When I saw that the main character and her siblings were named after characters in Pride and Prejudice, I thought maybe we were in for a retelling. But this is just a standard YA story (complete with a boy who makes everything better) with an annoying protagonist. I do not like Lizzie at all. Aside from the fact that her anxiety doesn't seem consistent, it also feels like a plot device, shoehorned in there just to cause complications and give Ros an excuse to murmur unrealistic encouragement in her ear. She's also pretty judgmental, snapping at Ros when she finds out he's just a delivery boy. (For someone who's probably had many judgments made about her because of her anxiety, she has very little empathy.) And there was something about this author's writing that just rubbed me the wrong way. It's like my brain was allergic, and it took me forever to get through those few pages. I definitely won't be seeking out any of her longer works.
1 star

"Found Objects" by William Alexander

I don't want you to squirm, or take my hand and say that it's tragic. I don't want you to roll your eyes as though I'm playing a macho game of one-upmanship: My pain can beat up everyone else's adolescent pain, so I'll just be over here in the corner, savoring the depths of my stoic suffering and shedding no more than a single tear while I listen to every single cover of "Hurt" and "Hallelujah" on repeat.

This is an interesting... appetizer. It's a very short story, but it still manages to set the stage (literally), introduce the character and his backstory, and leave me wanting to know more. The narrator comes from a very strange family, who can talk to the dead and do things like manipulate objects with the power of their artistic talents. I would love to read a full length novel about these people!

In this particular story, the narrator has to go deal with something that he accidentally conjured when he was performing as Richard III. He was in a car accident at some point in the past, and now uses a cane and has chronic pain. He channels that pain into his talents (although he makes it clear that he doesn't need to, as these talents run genetically through his family anyway). The story is also told from the second-person POV, which makes me more curious about who "you" is (there are some hints that they could be a potential love interest).

Pretty much the only complaint I have with this one is that I wanted more!
4.5 stars

"Plus One" by Karuna Riazi

You couldn't really feel like a pilgrim, either, when you were in an airport full of stuffed-camel stall shops, designer duty-free chocolates, and abandoned iced coffees littering the sides of conveyor belts, melting mournfully in the rising heat.

This one just wasn't for me. The setup was interesting enough, with Hafsah going on pilgrimage. But I never really got a good idea of what her disability was, other than some sort of vague mental illness. She called the thing "It" and it was depicted almost like some sort of animal. It was implied that other people could see it, and it could do things like make her clumsy and shatter her bracelets or make her lose her temper. I didn't know if she was hallucinating or if she just had anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, when I couldn't tell what was going on, it just made Hafsah seem like a whiny teenager who mentally browbeat herself for not praying hard enough to get rid of It. The story could've worked for me if the nature of It had been explained a little better; but it wasn't, so it didn't.
2 stars

"The Day the Dragon Came" by Marieke Nijkamp

Her hands cramped, and her fingers clawed. She wanted to push her nails so deep into her joints that that would be the hurt. A pain that she could increase and decrease. A pain that she could control, instead of this unsteady burning from the inside out.

I don't quite know what to think about this one. There wasn't anything objectively wrong with it. It's a story about friendship and belonging and all that good stuff. But I just couldn't seem to emotionally connect with it, so I was left with a rather bland taste in my mouth. This is probably one of those "it's not you, it's me" stories; other people might enjoy it more than I did.
3 stars

"Captain, My Captain" by Francisco X. Stork

"She said I could come over in an emergency. Do you think the death of a goldfish is an emergency?"

"An emergency. Like a fire?"

"Sometimes it's like a fire. Sometimes it's like what Bernie must have felt... like he was drowning in the same water he had lived in all his life."

This one was weak. The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, there were infodumps all over the place, the characters were unlikable, and I couldn't figure out what the disability was supposed to be. Alberto was supposedly intellectually and developmentally delayed, but it seemed to me that his bigger problem was hearing the voice of Captain America in his head... except when he looked at the spiderweb in his room (which is confusingly random).

Is this literary fiction? Maybe it is. I just don't get that kind of writing. I don't particularly like it, either.
1.5 stars

"Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love" by Dhonielle Clayton

They all turn back to face a darkening screen. The previews start. The cramping crescendos as everyone laughs. Sweat beads across my forehead. I look left and then right, counting the number of people I would need to scoot past to get to the bathroom on time.

This one was a little too relatable for me. I totally get the trapped feeling of being in a place like a movie theatre, surrounded by other people, and you don't know if your bowels are going to rebel... and then, that uncertainty just makes the anxiety worse, which can make the physical symptoms worse, and before you know it, you're having to make a bathroom run. So that part of the story was done fairly well (although, I was kind of annoyed with Nora for doing stupid stuff like eating ice cream, even though she knew she'd pay for it later; take care of your body, girl!).

What I wasn't crazy about, though, was some of Nora's advice in her column. Yes, I get that it's a product of her own insecurities and fears, but I thought some of her advice was downright wrong (and yet she doled it out with the confidence of one who thinks she's right). I also didn't know what to make of Nora's friend Indie. She was a bit of a stereotype, wearing her gajra and dating a guy named Nikhil (is it a rule that you have to stick to your own ethnicity?). But... why was her name Indie? An Indian girl named Indie? Um... I really hope that was a nickname she gave herself.
3 stars

"A Play in Many Parts" by Fox Benwell

By the time we pulled into the drive, I had elaborated, and the whole nativity was staged upon the moon, where it always looked like snow, because Christmas wasn't Christmas without snowmen.

This was so utterly pretentious (as if you can't tell from the above quote) that I wanted to vomit. I had a terrible time getting through the story at all. I guess I just don't get it because I'm not a theatre kid. (Oh, and about that: two stories featuring theatre kids with canes is a bit repetitive in a book with only thirteen stories.)

I couldn't tell exactly what the main character's disability was supposed to be, so it came off as forced. E (referred to with they/them pronouns, and wishing they didn't have a name at all... which I thought might've been their disability--some sort of identity disorder--but it wasn't) had a chronic pain condition, but what kind wasn't explained. They used a cane, their dad showed up at rehearsals with cryptic comments of "your teacher has a right to know", and E themselves made more cryptic comments about how this would be their last play. Are they dying? Who knows? It was never explained, and, quite frankly, the story would've worked pretty much the same way without the disability, so I didn't see why it was included, other than as an excuse for E to go off on another character at one point about not equating disability with sin (when the only person doing that appeared to be E themselves).

I hated every second of this, and very nearly DNFed. I very nearly DNFed a short story. That'll give you an idea of how much I loathed this pretentious, pro-theatre screed.
0 stars

"Ballad of Weary Daughters" by Kristine Wyllys

Lucy was humming under her breath. It was low, too low almost, a barely-there whisper that I shouldn't have been able to hear in the dull roar that was a hundred-plus kids squeezed into a space designed for maybe half of them, but Lucy was my moon, and if music comes from the sky, it draws your attention.

I don't know. This one treads a very fine line between showing loving support and implying that "true love fixes everything". I wasn't that impressed by the writing in places (although, in others, it was lovely). I think the problem was that it isn't really a story. It's just a few scenes, and while those might have worked to set the stage for a longer work, they weren't really enough on their own.
2.5 stars

"Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter" by Keah Brown

"You're looking terrible today, as usual. Maybe you couldn't tell, even with those huge glasses on your face. Are you wearing your sibling's hand-me-downs again? Do they give you a lot of room to hobble around in? Or do you just enjoy looking as good as cat pee smells?"

This one is pretty bad. It's very juvenile, the villains (named Kacey, Lacey, and Tracey... I'm not even kidding) are over the top (see quote above), Mother Nature is ridiculous (why are they so worried about being found out? Why would anyone believe they can control the weather?), the dialogue is stilted, there are continuity problems all over the place, and the "revenge" Millie takes on the bully is laughable. (She put snow in her locker. The girl burst into tears of humiliation. What a weird reaction! If I came back to my locker and found it stuffed with snow, I--along with everyone around me, most likely--would probably have been laughing in disbelief and awe.) This could've been an intriguing story, but it just didn't work at all.
1.5 stars

"A Curse, A Kindness" by Corinne Duyvis

Sienna is still playing with the flyer. It helps her think. Otherwise, she might focus on the coolness of Mia's silky sheets or the manga title poking her leg or the rhythm of Mia's breathing right beside her, which--the moment Sienna stops flicking the paper--will be the only sound whispering into the quiet of the night.

I spent a lot of this story confused, and by the time I figured out I wasn't reading some squicky story about a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old in some inappropriate romance, I was too tired to go back and reread it. This could've been an interesting story, but it used one character's disability for emotional manipulation of the reader (at least, that's how it came across to me), based on a flawed premise. The idea behind Sienna's character is that she was cursed to be a genie after freezing up in a life-or-death situation when she was nine years old. She believes it's because she's autistic, but the freeze reaction can happen to anyone, especially children (since they have few other options when faced with threats due to their size and speed). This article helps explain the reaction; I wish the author had read about it more before basing her entire premise around the idea of someone being punished for, essentially, having autism. The curse would've been unfair to anyone, but implying it's somehow worse because it was inflicted on someone because of a reaction they had due to their autism just rubbed me the wrong way. Especially since, as I said, it could've happened to anyone.

The resolution of the curse also didn't make much sense, unless there was a time lag. I didn't understand how Sienna's thoughts of that evening could be going round in her head if... well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, there were some weaknesses in the plot and the setup of the genie rules. (Like how Sienna couldn't make people fall in love--because that would be messing with the victim's free will--but she was able to kill people. Wait... what?!)
2 stars

I was somewhat disappointed that, in the notes about the authors, the respective disabilities weren't explained. As this is touted as an #OwnVoices book, that information would've been nice to have (especially since, in some of the stories, the disability isn't quite clear). It seems a bit contradictory to not include that information. If a disability isn't something to be ashamed of, why not own it, the way the characters in some of these stories do? It made it difficult for me to care when I didn't know what, exactly, I was reading about. Informing people about these disabilities is important when it comes to acceptance; if people don't know what they're looking at, how can they begin to understand it?

The overall selection seemed to be a bit lacking. I can think of a number of other disabilities that could've been included so that there wouldn't have been so much repetition (did we really need two stories about cane-toting theatre kids?). Where are the deaf teens? The ones with muscular dystrophy? Where were the disabilities that actually affected day-to-day life in a meaningful way? (I know this is #OwnVoices, so the authors are speaking from their own experiences, but I felt that some of these stories glossed over the difficulties that other people with some of these conditions face, especially if they're more severely affected. There seemed to be quite a few missed opportunities here.)

I wasn't too impressed. I'm never blown away by these short story collections, but this one seemed to be weaker than most of the others I've read. At least I have a few more authors for my "want to read" (and "never want to read") list!
Profile Image for Aila.
911 reviews32 followers
June 26, 2018
Beautiful cover, and beautiful stories!

While all the authors are disabled, I’m not 100% sure their characters follow the exact disability. Either way, I love the intersections of the characters and the vast range of writing styles.

A more comprehensive review with opening lines will follow. While I’m giving each individual story a rating for my own notes, this whole book was a solid four from me and I highly recommend the anthology! Quick representation notes: (many of the disabilities are not labeled, so I will include descriptions!)

1. The Long Road - historical fiction featuring a Chinese heroine with a mental disability. Lovely family dynamics. Wish it were longer, but loved the message! 3 stars

2. Britt and the Bike God - super cute, contemporary story following a blind biker and her attraction to this fast POC biker. M/f ship. 4 stars

3. The Leap and the Fall - haunting and eerie contemporary following a girl in a wheelchair and her friend who leads her to an abandoned carnival. F/f ship. 5 stars

4. Per Aspera Ad Astra - exciting sci-fi where a girl with anxiety has to deal with an intergalactic war, when in fact maybe her coding can turn the tides. 5 stars. I loved this one!

5. Found Objects - the more I think about this one, the more I really like it. A latinx narrator (their gender is never specified) leads a second person POV of their passion for theater and the magic they create from their idiopathic pain. They use a cane as well. 4.5 stars - it was so unique and gripping.

6. Plus One - this one follows the spiritual journey of a Muslim girl undergoing her hajj, or pilgrimage. Along the trip comes “It,” a presence that causes her emotional, mental, and physical symptoms. How will It affect her journey? 3 stars

7. The Day the Dragon Came - reads like a fantasy, where a crippled girl who uses a cane dreams of escaping the city she lives in, while a carpenter boy (I believe he is trans) helps the city he loves build a pillar for a dragon to come. I also loved this one - it’s so sweet and has great plot elements despite being a short story. M/f ship. 5 stars

8. Captain, My Captain - follows a Latino boy who moved from Mexico for a better life but starts hearing a voice - Captain America - in his head that starts dictating his actions. Super interesting, and I wish we got to see more! 4 stars

9. Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love - contemporary story about a black girl with irritable bowel disorder who writes a love column, despite never being in a romantic relationship. Honestly I related to Nora James so much. It has super cute vibes from start to finish. 4 stars

10. A Play in Many Parts - refreshing writing told through narration and screenplay. Could be a bit confusing at times, which is why I think readers will be conflicted. But I for one really enjoyed this theater outlook on the play Doctor Faustus and how to emanate his character. Follows a non binary mc who has chronic pain. 4 stars

11. Ballad of Weary Daughters - sweet and quiet contemporary following a girl who has way too much responsibility on her shoulders taking care of her siblings and finding solace with a beautiful and supportive Cuban girl. F/f ship. Mc is biracial (half Native American) and has bipolar II disorder. 3.5 stars

12. Mother Nature - really cool contemporary where a girl with cerebral palsy gets back at her high school bullies by using her mysterious powers of nature. Definitely a story I want more of. Really awesome sibling dynamics are featured. 4 stars

13. One, Two, Three (will be renamed in final version) - magical contemporary where an autistic girl gets cursed to grant three wishes of people who are kind to her. This next girl though, is ready to find a way to free her from this curse. Super cute f/f ship and satisfying ending. 4 stars

Some Trigger Warnings to note: self harm, manipulation, abusive relationship, anxiety, mention of panic attack, misgendering
Profile Image for ivy francis.
548 reviews27 followers
June 7, 2019
Full review: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com...

Necessary and fierce and full of something for everyone, Unbroken is essential and enjoyable. If you’re a YA fan, you’ll most likely know an author who contributed, and if not, you’ll be introduced to a slew of talented people. Rating: 5/5

Favorite quotes:
- “You’re brave,” Lorna said. “I’m not,” I assured her, trying not to bristle. I hate being called brave. It’s almost as bad as inspiring.”
- “The word pain does too much work, you know? It’s like sorry, which really shouldn’t have to carry both “I sympathize” and “this is all my fault.”
- “To find magic in the mending.”
- “Dad would call it my Sisyphus toll. Push a boulder up a hill, pretending it’s okay, and come nightfall it - and I - come crashing down. But he forgets the view each time I make it to the top.”
- "I type FUCK several times. Then I erase them all. It still feels cathartic to have to have put down a series of unsent, unspoken fucks. Sharp consonants haunt the screen where the fucks used to be."
Profile Image for Greyson | Use Your Words.
538 reviews34 followers
February 26, 2019
Trigger Warnings: A lot of stigma surrounding mental illness and disabilities.
Representation: There is so much!!! So I’ve tried to break it down into categories. Question marks means it was coded rep/what I could guess they were hinting at, not explicitly said but what I perceived as implied.
POC: Biracial, Chinese, Persian, Latinx, Mexican, Cuban, African American, Native American (Cherokee/Tsalagi), Hijabi
Religion: Muslim
Mental Illness: Bipolar?, Bipolar II, Anxiety, Schizophrenia? Dementia?
Disability: Blind, chronic pain, chronic illness, wheelchair user, cane user, intellectual and developmental disability, IBS? Cerebral Palsy, Autistic
LGBT+: Sapphic, non-binary, gay, trans, trans boy,
Class: Poverty
Actual Rating: 3.5

A promising anthology that just never nails the execution.

Pressing her palm against her chest, Lizzie whispered, “I’m just so tired of trying so hard all the time and failing every time, even at things I know I can do.”

Unbroken is an anthology written by disabled authors for disabled readers.

🌙Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke
🌙 Found Objects by William Alexander
🌙 The Day the Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp
🌙 A Play in Many Parts by Fox Benwell
🌙 Ballad of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys
🌙A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis

She’d learned to expect scorn, because expecting anything more only led to disappointment. She didn’t know how to deal with kindness. Kindness scared her.

I’m going to give a very quick overview of each story and the rep they have and I’ll go a little more in depth into my favourites.

│MC = Main Character│SC = Secondary Character│LI = Love Interest│

│The Long Road│Heidi Heilig│MC // Lihua - Chinese, possibly bipolar?│SC // Persian, possibly bipolar?│2.5 ★│
A girl and her parents travel through the Place of No Return for a cure, only to discover there is no cure, but management/treatment.

│Britt and the Biker God│Kody Keplinger│MC // Britt - blind│LI // Andre - Latinx?│★★★│
A blind girl loves to ride but hates to be a burden while riding a tandem with the fastest rider, her crush.

│The Leap and the Fall│Kayla Whaley│MC // Eloise - wheelchair user, sapphic│LI // Gemma - sapphic│3.5 ★│.
Two Girls enter the woods & find an abandoned carnival but one of them is no longer really just a girl and the other is now in danger.

Her entire body ached with the fatigue of carrying around her anxiety, this twisting, mutating monster inside her. It was barely manageable inside her bedroom. Outside was too much. The monster inside her had grown too large, too heavy, too much.

│🌙│Per Aspera Ad Astra│Katherine Locke│MC // Lizzie - anxiety│LI // Ros - poverty
│SC // Dr Sha - Non-Binary, uses they/them pronouns│★★★★│
Lizzie has anxiety & hasn’t left the house in four months but her city needs her, the person who wrote the code for it’s protective shield, but that person feels out of reach. Can Lizzie find herself and believe in herself in time to keep her city safe again?

I really loved this story, it successfully built a world that sucked me in and that’s not easy for sci-fi as I get lost by the science easy. The romance wasn’t really needed but it was cute and it didn’t divert from the story too much. I wish that we actually met the non-binary character, Lizzie’s mentor, on the page though.

“She’s out of pain. At least now she’s out of pain.”
That’s such a weird phrase. Out of pain. Like pain is a place. One you can visit. And your only consolation, the single glimpse of silver lining you could find, was the fact that your beloved aunt Rebecca wasn’t like me anymore. Better dead than in pain. But I live here, in this place. And I don’t know how to tell you that.

│🌙│Found Objects│William Alexander│MC // cane user, Latinx, gay, chronic pain│3.5 ★│
A boy who can breathe life into things, creates things, using his pain must get rid of the King Richard his pain created.

I really loved the idea of pain being a creative force. And I actually enjoyed that the narrative was told as if the main character is speaking to the love interest as well. I don’t know what that’s called but I enjoyed it.

│Plus One│Karuna Riazi│MC // Hafsah - Hijabi, muslim, schizophrenia?│2.5 ★│
Hafsah travels to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for Hajj, hoping to be rid of It.

Her hands cramped, and her fingers clawed. She wanted to push her nails so deep into her joints that that would be the hurt. A pain that she could increase and decrease. A pain that she could control, instead of this unsteady burning from the inside out.
Some days the pain merely wore her raw. Some days, like today, the pain settled itself deep inside her and deconstructed her, whispered her failures, her worthlessness, her despair.

│🌙│The Day the Dragon Came│Marieke Nijkamp│MC // Alix - cane user, chronic pain│MC // Delfin - trans boy│3.5 ★│
Alix is preparing to escape a city that has only brought her pain, a cage.
Delfin is helping to build the Belfry, preparing for the copper dragon that will protect the city.

I enjoyed this one because Alix’s pain felt so fucking real and I’ve been there, living in a world that feels like it was built to hurt you, make things so much fucking harder. It really drove home just how important accessibility is.

│Captain, My Captain│Francisco X. Stork│MC // Alberto - Mexican, intellectual and developmental disability│★★★│
Alberto does not go to school.
Alberto works for $7 less than the other two painters.
Alberto loves his sister and nephew.
Alberto has Captain America speaking to him in his head.
Alberto sometimes listens, sometimes he talks back.

│Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love│Dhonielle Clayton│MC // Nora - African American, IBS, anxiety│★★★│
Nora James doesn’t date but when her best friend Indie needs a double date buddy Nora doesn’t want to let her friend down, even if it means risking spending most of the date on the toilet.

Sometimes when it’s like this, I feel like I’m an old appliance and I wonder how long it’ll be before they throw me out.

│🌙│A Play in Many Parts│Fox Benwell│MC // E - Non-binary, chronic pain/illness, cane user│SC // Desmond - Dementia?│3.5 ★│
The company are to recreate Faustus. A play that can take so many forms but there is only one this company could ever do. For Mrs B. For Desmond. For E.

This was super sweet! I really loved the idea of reshaping a story for someone else. And I loved it being set in the world of theatre because for so many people it’s the one place they’re accepted for who they are. It’s where I found a home during high school.

I wanted to hate him for me, too. For leaving me behind to daddy his children when I still needed one myself.
But I was too tired.
Hate like that took work to keep up, and all my energy was dedicated to surviving.
He was gone.
I was here.

│🌙│Ballad of Weary Daughters│Kristine Wyllys│MC // River - Native American (Cherokee/Tsalagi), Bipolar II│SC // Lucy - Cuban│3.5 ★│
River’s father got up and left the family two months ago, leaving River to pick up the pieces while her mum works overtime to provide.
River is stuck with 14-year-old Tabitha’s anger, 9-year-old Marisa’s silence and 6-year-old Pauly’s questions.
But at least she has her best friend Lucy to ground her.

This story really captures what it's like being a secondary parent. So many eldest siblings, especially daughters, with absent parents know this story by heart because they’ve lived it. You feel like the whole world is on your shoulders when all you should be focusing on is school and your future. Instead you look ahead only one day at a time and grow up way too fast.

│Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter│Keah Brown│MC // Millie - Cerebral Palsy│2.5 ★│
Millie is sick of Kacey’s incessant bullying and decides to seek the type of revenge only someone in her family is capable of. Best served cold.

”But he said I was ungrateful and selfish. That I should learn to repay kindnesses. He cursed me. Laid out the ground rules. I haven’t seen him since.”
“But you were nine! A kid!” Mia gapes.
“Yes. I know.” An autistic kid, Sienna thinks, confused and petrified.

│🌙│A Curse, A Kindness│Corinne Duyvis│MC // Mia - Sapphic│MC // Sienna - Autistic│4.5 ★│
Sienna is cursed to grant 3 wishes to anyone who shows her kindness. But when she bumps into Mia and Mia hands her back her dropped chapstick, Sienna never could have guessed the wishes Mia would make, or the kindness she would receive.

This story broke my heart. I don’t really have the right words to say how it made me feel. But I loved Sienna and Mia and I would protect them with my life.

“The word freak”—Edwin sidles up to me at break—”or freke, freca, frech, variously, once meant ‘brave, bold warrior.’” He grins shyly. “The only meaning I’ll ever condone.”
I think I’m actually blushing. Then he adds, so quiet I can barely hear it, “Freak,” and I definitely am.

Listen, I think it’s super fucking important to include disability rep across the board and I was super fucking excited to read this anthology. I have a chronic illness as well as multiple mental illnesses and it's so rare to find good mental illness rep, and rarer still for chronic illness rep.

Unfortunately, this anthology just didn’t do much or me. I don’t know, I guess so many of these didn’t have all that much plot wise. The ones that I enjoyed the most are the ones that were stories that were more plot heavy and the MC’s just happened to also be disabled in some way and those are the stories I want more than anything.

I just want my characters doing things while being disabled. I don’t think I enjoy stories where the main thing is just the fact that they’re disabled but that’s just me I suppose.

But I love that we even have this, this is a step in the right direction, towards a future where disabled folks won’t have to fight tooth and nail just to be represented. Because even now, with diversity at the forefront of everyone’s minds in the YA community, disabled folks more often than not get left behind and forgotten, just like in the real world.

Fuck that nonsense, I did not say. Fuck the machismo you’re using to hide the clear discomfort that I cause you by existing. Fuck your need to channel that discomfort back in my direction. I am not here to make you feel better about the fact that I am here.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
January 18, 2021
4 stars

On the whole, I really enjoyed this anthology! It features 13 stories that span different genres, themes, and ideas, but all follow disabled characters. These characters, likewise, span different races, genders, sexualities. I really loved the range encompassed by the stories in these books, the genres spanning from sci-fi to fantasy to contemporary to romance, each story making for a very compelling piece that also fit really well into the collection as a whole. My favorite stories were probably The Leap and The Fall by Kayla Whaley, The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp, A Play in Many Parts by Fox Benwell, and A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis. As with every anthology, there were some stories that I didn’t find myself enjoying, but I genuinely don’t think this collection has a single story that I hated. This is a gem of an anthology.
Profile Image for Kelsea Yu.
Author 7 books122 followers
September 17, 2022
I love the idea behind this anthology: own voices short stories about disabled teens! My faves were: "Britt and the Bike God" by Kody Keplinger, "Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love" by Dhonielle Clayton, and "A Curse, A Kindness" by Corinne Duyvis.
Profile Image for Monique.
697 reviews80 followers
October 12, 2018

The average of all the short stories combined is 3,92, but I’m still debating giving it 5 stars just because we need more of these books. I laughed and cried and felt all the stories and all the tiny recognisable things that we disabled/chronically ill people have in common. There was a lot of recognition for me but that it’s simply because about everything in my body is malfunctioning. I too worry about muddy sand combined with my electric wheelchair and muscle weakness and am afraid to eat in restaurants because of what it might do to my stomach. My parents are the best ever too and I don’t want to be called ‘brave’ or ‘an inspiration’ simply because society can’t handle illness. I too feel so limited physically - especially when it matters. So I just have to applaud the authors because you did a splendid job! Thank you for participating and creating these awesome characters (and let’s be honest, most of the settings and ideas were soooo epic too!). Short stories will always be one of my favorites (might have something to do with concentration issues lol) and these are the best I read in a long while. Here are my thoughts on the individual stories:

The Long Road - 5 stars

In case you wondered if a historical story about a Chinese girl traveling to Persia would ever be relevant in your life: yes. Well, at least if you deal with disabilities. The stigma on mental illness is very heavy in this story, she and her family are shunned. And the importance of meeting fellow sufferers. Also, her parents are awesome! They tried so hard to help her, and even wanted to travel half the world on camel back through a desert, for the possibility of a cure. My parents would totally do that too and I love them for it but I know many other stories from fellow patients (granted, ME and Lyme are different in this aspect, but it has the same stigma).

Britt and the Bike God - 5 stars

This story features a blind girl and her wish to bike. And also not to be a burden. I cried, that says enough. Love the story, very sweet! Also very good representation, and I loved this line. “I hated being called brave. It was almost as bad as inspiring”. It still weirds me out that people call me brave when I’m just living my life. Yeah sure, a lot of aspects suck but you can’t do anything about it, you just keep living the best way you can like anyone would. I know it’s what people say when they feel sorry for you or don’t know how to deal with the situation so I don’t mind it, but I very much dislike the idea behind it. I even wrote an essay about it once lol.

The Leap and the Fall - 5 stars

Oh man this one is creepy!! I shouldn’t have read this at night while a storm was raging. Don’t repeat my mistakes! Awesome story though! In this story you could really feel how it is to be physically weak and how frustrating that is when it really matters! And how helpless it makes you feel. I get embarrased when my parents help push me to cross a 3 inch door step and the commotion that gives. I actually was waiting for the protagonist to get stuck on the sandy path lol. That didn’t happen but what did happen was that it matters what’s inside you and that you are your own person and that love truly can work miracles. But still creepy.

Per Aspera Ad Astra - 5 stars

Sci fi story featuring a brilliant gifted girl with anxiety? I’m here for it. Again, the representation is top notch. How you are unable to do something as simple as turning to a computer screen or pressing a button. I think it is very well explained. Her story arc is very believable, and well, awesome. Love to see how random strangers sometimes can help enormously.

Found Objects - 3 stars

This one was a bit weird, I still don’t know exactly what happened and why. The symbolism however is excellent and I liked the idea of your pain turning into monster.

Plus One - 3 stars

I love the diversity and a look into the Islam but it was also the hardest part of this story: I don’t understand much of what exactly happened. The MC is amazing though.

The Day The Dragon Came - 5 stars

Oooh this one is placed in medieval Ghent! It feels very at home with all the Dutch words seeping through. And it’s the sweetest story and I loved it. The stigma Alix faces is horrible and she feels like she’s an outsider and a prisoner while Delfin is actually finding his freedom here and a new start. Very good representation of chronic pain. Not many authors think of describing the drain and exhaustion that comes along with it.

Captain, My Captain - 4 stars

Though I can’t judge this one, I think the execution of this story and mental disability is so well done! You really feel how he is straining with it, and kudo’s for the author for making a point of the repetition in a very not boring way.

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love - 5 stars

Again, very good representation of IBS. Though the more gory parts were not described lol. The struggle and fear of bejng out in public was handled really well, it’s always hard to not make it look like anxiety. Thoughts do have a part but it mostly just is really tricky going out and eating food. The story itself was also very cute, how acceptance can make a lit of differences.

A Play in Many Parts - 2 stars

I’m a bit confused about this one, it didn’t seem to have a point to me and I skipped the play itself because I didn’t understand it. There might have been more clues in there... it seems theater stories are not my thing!

Ballad of Weary Daughters - 2 stars

It was a good story and I loved how they discussed drug use and how it’s really trial and error and frustrating. The story itself didn’t really click with me, there were many names and I didn’t get half of it. But I loved the soulmate friendship!

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter - 3 stars

Short stories often have such awesome ideas and concepts! It’s why I love them so much. This one has that too! It was a bit weird but in a good way. Deals a bit with self images and disability - and bullies.

A Curse, A Kindness - 4 stars

Oh this one was awesome! I totally fell in love with the characters and the concept was great. Though I feel like disability was not really mentioned or showed at all..


Before reading: I didn’t know I was waiting for this, but I so was. Finally, protagonists with a disability! 13 stories, so there must be a lot of diversity... I seriously can’t wait!!!!!! ((I know it’s bad but I’m really hoping autoimmune disease and/or dysautonomia are featured, especially how the stigma affects you; that it’s all in your head, you can get no medical care at all, etc. I know that’s probably not gonna happen and that’s ok, I’ll write it myself one day))

ALSO WHO DARES TO GIVE THIS ONE STAR?????? This book is not published, there’s not even a cover and there are 13 DIFFERENT authors. The only common thing is disability, and if you don’t like that WELL I DON’T BLOODY LIKE IT EITHER BECAUSE IT IS A LIVING HELL.
Profile Image for K..
3,683 reviews1,007 followers
May 15, 2019
Trigger warnings: ableism, violence, mental health.

I was really excited to read this collection because, like, it's an Own Voices collection of short stories, all featuring disabilities. So...YES PLEASE. Add in intersectionality and a wide variety of disabilities and my excitement was through the roof.

And I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Usually with short story collections, there are at least a couple of stories that I don't enjoy at all. But in this collection, I liked all the stories (I just liked some more than others), which was a pleasant surprise. I also loved that it was a mixture of contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy and magical realism.

My favourite stories in the collection were:
- Britt and the Bike God by Kody Keplinger
- Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton
- Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown
- A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis

All the stories were solid, but these four stood out to me as sweet, fun, and not what I expected. All in all, a very satisfying collection!
Profile Image for Laura.
744 reviews37 followers
December 23, 2018
✰✰ 3.5 stars ✰✰

A great range of stories in here, some better than others. I loved the diverse range of disabilities in this anthology, especially ones that I believe are underrepresented in YA (e.g. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Pain, Learning Disabilities).

As someone with a disability themselves, I really resonated with some of the characters' struggles, especially in terms of cerebral palsy and anxiety as I live with these conditions myself. Please keep stories like this coming!


The Long Road by Heidi Heilig - 3/5 stars
Disability rep: Bipolar Disorder (Unspecified)

Britt and the Bike God by Kody Keplinger - 4/5 stars
Disability rep: Vision Impairment

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley - 2/5 stars
Disability rep: wheelchair user

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke - 5/5 stars
Disability rep: anxiety disorder

Found Objects by William Alexander - 2/5 stars
Disability rep: idiopathic pain

The Day the Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp - 2/5 stars
Disability rep: chronic pain

Plus One by Karuna Riazi - 3/5 stars
Disability rep: unspecified mental illness, I'd say depression/anxiety

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork -4/5 stars
Disability rep: intellectual/developmental disability

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton - 5/5 stars
Disability rep: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A Play in Many Parts by Fox Benwell - 2/5 stars
Disability rep: chronic pain

Ballad of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys - 4/5 stars
Disability rep: Bipolar II

Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown - 4/5 stars
Disability rep: Cerebral Palsy

A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis – 5/5 stars
Disability rep: Autism
Profile Image for Belle.
512 reviews515 followers
June 30, 2019
dnf'd @ 50%

Okay, let me explain. I had been expecting to adore this book, which is an anthology full of teenagers with different disabilities/mental health issues/chronic illnesses etc. As a person who has chronic illnesses that were diagnosed in my teens, I thought this would be an instant five stars.

And if I had read this book in my teens (when I had been desperate for chronic illnesses and disability literature in YA) I probably would have. My dnf of this book was caused by two main issues—

1. I am not a fan of short stories. I have tried, but I am a character development and emotions kind of gal, and no matter how amazing the writing or representation is, I can't ever get what I want or need out of a short story.

2. This was very YA contemporary. I don't mean that in a bad way, but I have never been a fan of awkward teen romance, mainly because I suffer from really bad second-hand embarrassment, but also because it never feels realistic TO ME. I had been expecting it to be a little more hard-hitting in the emotions department, but these stories were SHORT (20 pages or so from what I read) and it just fell flat for me.

Despite all that, the reason I am not rating this book is because IT IS IMPORTANT. As I previously said, I would have loved to have a book like this when I was struggling and feeling so desperately faulty and alone. I still want people to pick this up because the reasons I disliked it are personal to me and don't reflect the content of this book.

Profile Image for Aleksandra.
1,411 reviews
November 16, 2018
Actual rating: 3.15 stars

This anthology was not bad, but it was not good either. I was mostly bored and I was keenly aware I am not the target audience as I am no longer a teen.
I like the intersectionality of the stories, there are many disabled characters of colors and queer disabled characters. The genres of these stories vary from contemporary to paranormal horror to historical to fantasy to sci-fi.

It might be a good fit for many readers, but unfortunately the anthology did not work for me.

My favorite stories are:
Britt and the Bike God by Kody Keplinger
The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley
The Day the Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp
Ballad of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys
A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis

Mini-reviews of each story

The Long Road by Heidi Heilig
2 stars
Historical fiction short story about Chinese family on a journey to Persia to find cure for their daughter. The daughter is the protagonist. I can’t say I really got what happened and I didn’t really care.

Britt and the Bike God by Kody Keplinger
4 stars
This was so cute and fun, also as a bicycling fan myself I felt this story. This is a short story about Britt who loves cycling. She gradually lost her eyesight in last years so now she rides a tandem bike, her dad started a cycling club and they cycle together. It has cute romance between Britt and her teammate - fellow bike enthusiast Andre, the writing is lovely.

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley
4 stars
This was creepy and exciting, strong Southern gothic horror vibes (or how I imagine them to be). It’s a ghost story set in Georgia, featuring sapphic wheelchair user as the protagonist.

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke
2 stars.
Unfortunately I just didn’t care about this story. It’s a scifi story about the girl with anxiety and her city under attack.

Found Object by William Alexander
3 stars.
I like the concept and the protagonist. The story is told from 1st person, the MC is latinx high schooler who has magic abilities and they come from a family of people with gifts.

Plus One by Karuna Riazi
3 stars
The story is about teenage Muslim girl Hafsah, who goes on hajj with her family. Hafsah has “It” and she hopes the hajj will get her rid of “It”. I assume “It” is a depression or anxiety. I liked the intersectionality, I liked reading about the hajj. The invalidation of Hafsah’s struggles with mental health by her doctor and relatives was hard to read about.

The Day the Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp
4 stars!
One of my favorite stories in the anthology so far. I rarely like fantasy short story but this one is excellent and very self-contained, I don’t wish it to be longer, it’s great as it is. There are two protagonists, Alix and Delvin. Alix was born in the city, she lost her family to plague and now she works as a messenger, she has chronic pains and she walks with cane. Delvin is a carpenter, who has just moved into the city to help build the tower for the dragon, he is a trans boy. Delvin and Alix meet, become friends and maybe more?
I liked the writing, the setting and the characters! It’s the first thing I’ve read of Nijkamp, I’m excited to read more of her work in the future.

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork
3 stars
This was very sad and hard to read. It’s a story about Alberto, sixteen year old Mexican boy living with his older sister, her baby son and the abusive father of said son. Alberto has “intellectual and developmental disabilities”, as said by a teacher, and he hears voice of Captain America, who urges him to live his home.

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton
3 stars
This was ok but I didn’t care.
It’s a story about Nora James, who runs a love column in her school newspaper and she has never dated anyone or been in love. Her parents divorced a year prior, she lives with her mother and she treats her father shitty for cheating on her mother. Nora has anxiety and stomach disorder. Nora is definitely an authentic portrayal of a teen, I remember myself being like her, but I didn’t enjoyed reading it.
I have read two short stories by Dhonielle Clayton and I haven’t clicked with either of them.

A Play in Many Parts by Fox Benwell
3 stars
This was an interesting short story about Faustus production by high school theater company. It’s told in regular text and stage play script. The protagonist is E, chronically ill teen with cane who uses they/them pronouns. I feel like it’s a love letter to Faustus and to the theatre, I liked the uplifting mood.

Ballad of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys
4 stars!
The writing of this story is so good, I want to read other works by this author. It’s a story about seventeen year old River, who’s biracial (white father and Tsalagi mother). The father was a pastor but he left with his mistress a couple of months ago and River tries to keep her household of a struggling and tired mother, River’s three younger siblings together. River is bipolar and she is having her meds adjusted. I love the sisterhood bond between River and her best friend Lucy. This story is a one day in life of River and I loved reading it.

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown
2 stars
That was boring but thankfully short. A story about high school Millie who has cerebral palsy and who has powers to control weather like her her other siblings. She can conjure snow and she uses her power to get back at high school bullies.

A Curse, A Kindness by Corinne Duyvis
4 stars!
This was really cute and magical and sapphic. It’s a story about Sienna, who was cursed to grant three wishes to every person who showed her kindness. She meets Mia and things happen! Sienna is autistic. Mia liked her Nintendo Switch and manga. I love Mia and Sienna’s relationship, I loved the touch of magical in contemporary setting. It’s a good story to end the anthology.
Profile Image for Katherine Locke.
Author 14 books506 followers
December 24, 2018
I mean. I wrote a story in this (Per Aspera Ad Astra). But I also really love this anthology and I'm really proud of the work each of us put into it.

(I don't remember what day I finished reading, so I'm just putting as today)
Profile Image for Sarah B.
836 reviews16 followers
December 15, 2021
Many of the stories in this book were hit or miss for me. And a few that had been a miss were really a severe miss in that they left me feeling rather confused about the entire story...you know that "what in the world is going on" feeling...? And that kind of story can affect the whole book and then I sort of started to loose interest in it.

The first thing I did truly enjoy about the tales in this book is that many of them are on the fantastic side. That is they are fantasy or science fiction with magical powers, etc. That certainly makes it more fun to read and interesting.

Now how you are going to relate to the characters in the book is going to be based on many things...like if you have a disability and what it is. I was able to relate to several characters from several different stories in here and then those stories were my favorites. Some of the disabilities included in here are: being in a wheelchair, using a cane, anxiety, being cursed (and feeling like an outcast in your own society), blindness...

The stories that I had found interesting I truly enjoyed. And they often had unexpected twists too. Even a tale set in the real world surprised me - like how a blind girl could ride a bike. What a genius idea! I never would have thought of that. But the important part of that story, the heart of the tale, was how she had felt like a burden to others - not the fact she could ride the bike. People who have disabilities need to feel included and wanted. That is a part of being human and it's a human need. These stories explore that and ask questions.

One story I was rather confused by was the one about building a tower for a dragon. The townspeople were rather looking forward to this dragon arriving by boat to go live at the top of the tower. Now maybe it's my autism here but I am unsure was this dragon a REAL dragon? As in a living dragon? Or was this just a statue? It could be either and well I am confused! I wish the author had made it clearer.

Another strange one was Found Objects. This is another tale where people have powers and well I just found it bizarre... Could not relate.

Now for a few that I loved! This list includes:

Plus One: a story of a girl who goes on a religious journey with her family. This is one of those stories about being an outcast and everything always goes wrong for you but you don't really know why. You want to be like everyone else as their lives seem so perfect! Everything falls into place for them. Well I could relate to young Hafsah as she journeys to Kaaba. And I had even looked up photos of the Kaaba online too while reading this. I can definitely understand Hafsah and how she thinks.

The Long Road: a girl traveling on camel through the desert with her family heading to a better life hopefully. She is "cursed" by her disability and she has to learn to accept it.

The Leap and the Fall: a girl in a wheelchair visits an old abandoned carnival with her friend. And this story is a bit spooky!

Britt and the Bike God: the story of the blind girl riding the bike...I like the message in here: that there are people who actually want to spend time with a disabled person.

Per Aspera Ad Astra: while not exactly one of my favorites I can certainly understand Lizzie's anxiety, especially her fears around calling or sending messages to someone. Sometimes it's just far easier to just ignore things and allow deadlines to pass you by. That is what she does in here. Yet at the same time she seems to be a genius?

Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter: another magic based story that is about bullying. This one is very creative. A fun read. While I was bullied I really cannot relate to what happens in here because it involves magic and well you don't have magic in the real world so...

I guess now that as I flip through the book as I write this review I guess about half the tales were a miss for me? I did enjoy the very last story in the book called "A Curse, A Kindness" which is about granting wishes. None of these made me emotional at all (which is not a surprise as most of the time only horses can make me cry as I am still in the healing process).

I do like the artwork on the front and back covers.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
Author 1 book132 followers
Currently reading
January 26, 2021
THE LONG ROAD by Heidi Heilig
-So that one is almost too personal to talk about, I resonated a lot with many aspects of this. Just highly highly effective moments, when someone says “diagnosis” and you realize they are like you, when someone tells you there is no cure and you realize what the rest of your life looks like. Once I figured out what was going on this story had me by the throat. MC is bipolar.

BRITT AND THE BIKE GOD by Kody Keplinger
-Well that was adorable. I am so far from being a biking person but this made me care about a 50-mile bike ride. And an adorable relationship. Very cute. MC is blind.

-I don’t want to spoil this one, cause it’s good and the twist is a lot, so I will just say it is not as contemporary as it seems at first. MC is an electric wheelchair user.

PER ASPERA AD ASTRA by Katherine Locke
-This one is SF! Heroic coding during a space battle. MC has anxiety.

FOUND OBJECTS by William Alexander
-well here we have a miracle, a magical realism story that I like, and I like it a lot. The main character comes from a family line of people who can cause magic via art, and he acted his part in tonight’s play just a little too well. MC has chronic pain and uses a cane.

PLUS ONE by Karuna Riazi
-I thought this was a really well done look at the intersection of faith and mental illness, and being mentally ill in a faith community, with a hijabi girl going to Mecca for Umrah. MC has depression.

THE DAY THE DRAGON CAME by Marieke Nijkamp
-Not 100% sure if this was fantasy or just historical, but either way a wonderful story of friendship turned to romance in Middle Ages Ghent. Two MCs, one who is trans, one who uses a cane.

CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN by Francisco X. Stork
My first story by this author! Kind of a wild ride. MC has schizophrenia.

I did think perhaps this one was going to be an Aro story, but it is instead a “afraid to date because people are jerks to disabled kids” story, which is very valid. But just so you know. MC has IBS.

My drama group just read Faustus! Same hat! An excellent story of pulling a play together and the magic of the theatre. The style took a little bit to get into though. MC is non-binary and uses a cane.

I liked this one a lot a lot. Friendship and waiting out medication changes and family. Not actually sure if a central relationship is romantic or platonic, though. There’s room for interpretation. :D MC is bipolar.

Well let me tell you I want to personally fist fight most of the leadership at this school. Thank goodness for good siblings (even when I am side-eyeing them). MC has cerebral palsy.

A CURSE, A KINDNESS by Corinne Duyvis
Okay so this one has a REAL good adorable ending. Also it’s funny cause I finished this and went “wait but nobody had a disability?” And had to pan back through it before I realized that an MC was autistic and that impacted her life such that she ended up fully magically cursed, and I was just like “what a realistic character like many people I know, the curse is new.” Anyways I loved this.
Profile Image for Diana.
1,739 reviews223 followers
November 1, 2018
I was happy to have a book where people with disabilities were represented. I have to be honest here and say I usually don't lile short stories books, even more so when they are written by different authors, because I usually love some and the rest are meh. But being a book of disabled teens... I had to read it.
Had, because I stopped after the 2nd story. I am not saying the book isn't good, just ir's not for me. The first story made no sense. They want to hide her because she has mental struggles. That I get. The story... didn't feel like a story. It felt rushed, weird and just like if someone had plucked some pages fron a whole.
The second story was better, more balanced with a clear beginning, middle and end, but I didn't feel any of the characters per se. And the ending... she goes from disliking him to instalove because he calls her cute...
So I stopped reading. If you like short stories book, then this is for you. Maybe I'll return to it someday, but not now.
Profile Image for Teddy.
879 reviews
Want to read
February 5, 2018
Holy shit holy shit holy shit, a book of MULTIPLE STORIES about DISABLED TEENS?????? I'm literally sitting in the library rn crying of disbelief & happiness, I cannot WAIT for this!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Sarah.
14 reviews1 follower
December 17, 2018
This book. This book. THIS BOOK. FINALLY. I have never read so many short stories where I felt like someone understood.

(Real review coming soon, posted on the MCPL website)

EDIT: Link to post I wrote for MCPL: https://montgomerycountymd.libguides....
Profile Image for Emily.
76 reviews7 followers
October 31, 2018
This is without a doubt the most disappointing read for me in 2018 and I'm upset to say that.

As a disabled person I was really looking forward to this since there's not much media I can consume that is relatabe to me in that sense so I thought this would be the answer but I was let down. I appreciate this for what it is because disabled characters are SO needed but for me this was a miss.

I wasn't a fan of most of the genres these stories were written in (paranormal? futuristic? science fiction?) as I was expecting just regular ol' contemporary. I was also expecting the stories to be mostly focused on life with a disability but I was disappointed to realize that in most it was hardly addressed. I wasn't satisfied with the majority of this so the highest rating for individual stories was 3 stars.

The 2 that I did get some enjoyment out of were Captain, My Captain and Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love.

Again I am thankful this exists because I'm sure there are people out there that can relate to some of the characters and enjoy the genres but this was just a big let down to me.
Profile Image for Lior.
77 reviews100 followers
Want to read
September 5, 2018
13 stories starring disabled characters, all written by #OwnVoices disabled authors??? Give that to me right now.
Profile Image for Em.
995 reviews19 followers
September 28, 2018
“This company is made of grit and steel. A thousand stories, told and still unfolding.”
- A Play in Many Parts, Fox Benwell

Unbroken is easily the best short story anthology I have come across. These thirteen stories are exquisite in not just their #ownvoices representation of disabilities but their intersectionality with race, sexuality and gender as well. With a broad range of disabilities, these characters lead us on a variety of journeys - into the woods to abandoned carnivals, on religious pilgrimages, to the movies, to historic Belgium, into outer space. Every story was an adventure and I loved every page.

I did not expect so much intersectionality from this book which I'm ashamed to have thought because of course, it's diverse! Disability doesn't care about race or gender or sexuality - it intersects with every other possible identity and the authors made sure to represent that. There are queer characters, transgender characters, POC characters (including Native American!). And the range of disabilities that are represented is excellent as well - mental illnesses, autism, chronic pain, stomach disorders, cerebral palsy, visual impairments. I was a little disappointed that there were no d/Deaf/HoH characters and I would've liked a bit more specificity about what some of the characters' disabilities were but those are small complaints.

I've loved reading these stories. My favourites were the stories by Marieke Nijkamp, Kayla Whaley, Fox Benwell and Corinne Duyvis. Since I accidentally bought two copies, I'm very tempted to start reading them all again. I don't know that I will right now but I do know that I'll be revisiting this anthology again and again. And I'll be chasing down some of the contributing authors' other books as well because I would love to see more of their work.

Please check out this book. Read these stories. Help celebrate disabled teens and disabled authors. You won't be disappointed.
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