May is "Short Story Month."
When I was younger, I remember sitting in a class and learning about mythology (back then, they called it that, even though they meant "Greek mythology"), and having a dumbstruck moment when the teacher told us the tale of Ganymede and - to his credit and my gratefulness - made mention of the various interpretations and tellings of that myth, including the one where Zeus just thought ol' Ganymede was so damned cute, and had to have him.
Young gay me fell in love with mythology (and eventually branched out into many mythologies) because of this. Here were stories were there were - albeit somewhat tucked between the tales - some gay heroes. I devoured Greek mythology, and then Norse, and then pretty much just found anything with the word "myth" involved and kept on going.
Alex Jeffers has the final story in BOYS OF SUMMER, and his tale - deep breath for the full title - is "Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy." There is the front story of Luke: a young man named Luke on a long sailing ride with his father and stepmother. There is also a series of other stories weaving in and out of the narrative - pieces of mythology that are stepping up to Luke's dreaming mind and making themselves known. As Luke starts to have feelings for Levent, one of the young men who work on the boat, there's a lovely blending of his relationship with his father and stepmother (brava to Jeffers for this alone, by the way) and his potential relationship with Levent, and also with this mythology simmering in the background.
There's some sexual fluidity here that I really enjoyed, and Luke's issues with his mother and step-father back home rang true. The mixes of mythology, tradition, superstitions and cultures were handled deftly (especially in the confines of a short story) and the ultimate conclusion was one that left me smiling - both in terms of the story, and in how the story wraps up the theme of the anthology as a whole.
And that's my trip through BOYS OF SUMMER. With luck, I've enticed you with these tales - I don't think anyone in this day and age of TWILIGHT, HUNGER GAMES, or HARRY POTTER will feel I speak out of turn when I say that you absolutely don't have to be a young adult to enjoy some YA fiction. My fondest hope, though, is that a copy of this book ends up in the hands of someone who is like the boy I used to be. Because while the myths are wonderful, there's nothing like a contemporary character to look you in the eye and say, 'Hey. Here you are. And you're okay.'