No Easy Answers: Short Stories About Teenagers Making Tough Choices, edited by Donald R. Gallo, is a collection of short stories by some of America's finest Young Adult authors. The topics in the anthology vary, but they all have a common theme running through them; making tough choices between right and wrong. Teens will enjoy this book because the topics are relevant and current to how life is for them now. It will be helpful to new YA librarians who are learning about popular authors for this age group, as one is introduced to many authors. This anthology includes work by authors Jack Gantos, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Will Weaver and M. E. Kerr, just to name a few. At the end of each story is a short entry about the author, listing other books that they have written, the awards that they have received and interesting tidbits about where they got the idea for their short story.
The book is divided up into five sections, depending upon the main topic that a particular story may fall under. The section titles are: How Did I get Myself Into This?, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, What do I do Now?, How do I get Myself Out of This?, and I'm Sorry. One story under the How did I get myself into this? section is called The Photograph, written by Will Weaver. It is about a teenage boy who has taken a picture of his lesbian teacher in an embrace with her lover. The protagonist has to make a tough choice between exposing the secret of a well-liked teacher or having a threatening football player mad at him.
There is something for everyone in this book. Ranging in topics from homosexuality (The Photograph), sports (Cradle Hold), multicultural (Little Li and the Old Soldier), gangs, (X-15s), teenage pregnancy (Wishing it Away and Bliss at the Burger Bar), drugs (Stranger) and more. Lots more. Sometimes the teen protagonists make a right choice. Sometimes they don't. The reader is able to live vicariously through the character's situation and consider what they might do if they were in a similar circumstances. It is a great book to use for discussion groups with teenagers.
My personal favorite in the book is The Un-numbing of Cory Willhouse, by Virginia Euwer Wolff. In this story Cory is sorry for doing bad things in his past. When a grocery store that he once stole from burns down, he makes a personal sacrifice and quits the track team to try to make amends with the owner. The story's positive tone and uplifting message hit me in the heart. I admire Euwer's writing ability.
This book gives the reader the chance to compare writer's styles closely. When a reader finds a story/writer that clicks with them they can search out more of their titles from the library. This sampling approach to reading is advantageous for readers who are trying to find a particular niche in the YA world of fiction books. Glenn has edited other similar books for teens, including Ultimate Sports, Sixteen, Visions, Connections and Join In. A review by VOYA, found on the Barnes and Noble Web site, has this to say about Gallo's work: "Gallo knows well his YA audience. From Sixteen to Short Circuits, with stops between and beyond, he has shown his mastery at soliciting attention-grabbing short stories from the cream of the crop among YA authors." I enjoyed this book and I am grateful for the introduction to authors that are new to me.
Gallo, Donald R. 1997. NO EASY ANSWERS: SHORT STORIES ABOUT TEENAGERS MAKING TOUGH CHOICES. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-440-41305-2.
VOYA quote taken from Barnes and Noble Web site is available from: