My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Like most anthologies, Because You Love to Hate Me was super hit-or-miss, and unfortunately, this one was mostly “miss.” There were some good parts, for sure–with such a pool of talented authors, that’s inevitable–but the quality control was just not there. A lot of poorly written content ended up alongside the good stuff.
To give credit where credit is due, BYLTHM is innovative. From the get-go, the concept of a villains’ anthology is (as far as I’m aware) new to YA. The authors aren’t afraid to get experimental with their individual short stories, either, to varying levels of effectiveness: We have an epistolary story, a story written in 2nd person POV, a story told entirely through text messages.
However, maybe because of that obsession with trying creative new styles, maybe because of the inclusion of the BookTubers, maybe simply because some of the contributors phoned it in–the whole thing felt more than a tad gimmicky. The stories were never polished to their full potential; some of them even felt like the author had written a first draft and just sent it off to be published. (Especially “You, You, it’s All About You”, where a not insignificant plot point directly contradicts itself over the course of a page, possibly due to the author changing his mind. SPOILER: That point being the type of drug the protagonist sells her client, which waffles between Trance and Daze.) Half of the time, it felt like I was reading upper-end fanfiction (high school AU’s, anyone?), by which I mean several things: One, that the emotional notes were kind of cheap, akin to forking over money to watch an uplifting movie and instead getting two hours of puppy videos. Two, that almost every “twist” was telegraphed from a mile away. And three, that these short stories are simply not compelling enough to stand on their own.
The last part shouldn’t be surprising, in retrospect. The short story might be the most deceptively simple medium in writing. It’s insanely difficult to write a work that contains exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution all neatly within a few thousand words. It doesn’t help that the narrative twist is pretty much a staple of short stories. Admittedly, it was with the twist that most of BYLTHM’s stories fell short, 11 or 12 out of 13 times because the twist was obvious from the first pages. The only story that I felt actually nailed the twist, executed it the way a good short story does, was Adam Silvera’s, “You, You, It’s All About You”–which, as I mentioned earlier, also has the biggest oversight of editing.
Most of the characters are rather one-sided, despite the mandate of the anthology to make them relatable and nuanced. A few of the better-written villains are, in my opinion, Silvera’s Slate (probably the most “evil” one of them), Dennard’s Moriarty (Jeeeesus, there’s an anarchist in training), and Chainani’s Gwen (not quite bad, but no one rocks the mean girl like her).
The BookTubers’ sections are largely extraneous and have little purpose other than padding the length of the book. They left so little impression on me that I can’t remember a thing written in them. Just skip them, they’re not worth the minute it takes to read each.