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Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories

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Short tales from the Australian writers of tomorrow.

#LoveOzYA celebrates the best of new Australian writing for teenage readers. It has grown from a humble hashtag into a movement, reflecting the important role young-adult fiction plays in shaping our current generation of readers. This anthology collects, for the first time, some of the tremendous work from the #LoveOzYA community.

Featuring a foreword by award-winning Australian novelist Fleur Ferris (Risk, Wreck, Black and Found), Underdog celebrates the diverse, dynamic and ever-changing nature of our nation's culture. From queer teen romance to dystopian comedy, from hard-hitting realism to gritty allegory, this brilliant, engrossing and inspiring collection of short stories will resonate with any teen reader, proving, yet again, why there is just so much to love about #LoveOzYA.

280 pages, Paperback

First published March 5, 2019

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About the author

Tobias Madden

5 books213 followers
Tobias is an author and editor from Sydney, Australia. Originally from Ballarat, Tobias worked for ten years as a performer, touring Australia and New Zealand with musicals such as Mary Poppins, CATS, Singin' in the Rain, and Guys and Dolls. In 2019, he edited and published UNDERDOG, the first #LoveOzYA short story anthology for previously unpublished Aussie young adult fiction writers. Also in 2019, he wrote the cabaret show Siblingship, which played to sold out audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Tobias is a passionate member of the #LoveOzYA and LGBTQ+ communities, and currently works in publishing as a Digital Marketing Executive and YA Publicist.

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5 stars
59 (35%)
4 stars
60 (35%)
3 stars
41 (24%)
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6 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,001 reviews3,079 followers
April 16, 2019
Check out Happy Indulgence Books for more reviews!

What a fantastic collection of diverse stories! Underdog really captures what it means to be Australian, through different voices, themes and genres. Reading it felt both familiar and new, as these stories highlighted beautiful places in our country but also the wonderful diversity that we have here - from LGBTQIA+ voices, to those across cultures, minds and stories.

full review to come
Profile Image for Sarah.
215 reviews20 followers
March 21, 2019
The #LoveOzYA anthology holds a collection of worlds and experiences by fantastic debut authors that Australia is in desperate need of. In her foreword, Fleur Ferris explores how everyone's publication story is different and highlights that there is no set path or story for each author. 'Underdog' however marks the beginning of writing careers for these young Australians that should not be ignored.

"Take a deep breath. Close your eyes, and let it settle all around you. Smell the beery wash of eucalyptus, and hear the constant buzzing of life from every corner" (29).

Within each story you find a sense of hope, be it in a person, an opportunity or an experience. You will find yourself crying on the train and sharing your already slightly tattered copy (shout out to Cooper from 'Meet and Greet' as well, but also guess who taped her book and is loaning it after I finish writing this review). You will find yourself wanting more and knowing that, 'Underdog' is not the end for these authors. And only fitting is a small review for each.

Meet and Greet, Michael Earp
When I went to the Melbourne book launch, Earp described his story as a true love at opposite ends of the same tram line. Cooper's experiences at a book signing are reminiscent of my own experiences, meeting many people from bookstagram and sharing community. It's wholesome, and you will find yourself desperate for a full length novel.

Breathe Me In, Sophie L MacDonald
Deal in stories and bunyips and the mythic and ongoing Australian landscape. Macdonald tells us about Mina's move to Currumbudgee after the death of her father. This is one of the most chilling stories in the collection, Macdonald's control of language is highly commendable. I have to admit that this is one of my favourites.

Remnants, KM Stamer-Squair
On a planet that is uninhabitable on the surface, Stamer-Squair writes skillfully on the resilience of the earth. When Melody's Grandmother goes back to the surface and doesn't come back within the allotted time, they are forced to look for her. This story was a chilling reminder that we are all just guests here.

Mediocre Hearts, Sarah Taviani
Taviani's story offers a future where powers are a personal norm for each human on the planet requiring registration to survive. Yet we meet Nat who attends a support group for people without powers, until she begins to learn more about herself, and that there is more than superpowers. Taviani's humour throughout the piece is relevant and welcoming.

The Swan, Felicity Martin
When Marlowe finds herself crying by the edge of a waterbank one night, she is found by a black swan who screams at her. As she tries to escape it, it continues to follow her even as she ages and tries to move on with cute kisses and dates. This metaphorical story is powerful and reduced me to tears.

The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife, Vivian Wei
With a range of subtitles and information on foods and animals related to the Chinese mourning process, Wei provides research and honesty that had me crying on the train. Prior to reading this piece I flicked through the author biographies, Wei should know that her love for yellow and colour is sewn through the pages. The atmosphere and love is warming despite death.

Variation, Tobias Madden
Where would this be without Madden? Andrew's story offered a reminder to readers that change is okay, and you're allowed to learn about yourself. Andrew is the only boy in his ballet class until Kyle comes along. Through their rivalry, Andrew begins to accept a new sense of self.

Chemical Expression, Jes Layton
Flicking between 'now' and 'then' readers are thrown into Autumn's decision to purchase weed at school. You can feel their intelligence and hesitation at such an act, and the emotional intimacy they share with their father. There is a hopeful and honest beauty this story that will hold you.

The Bees, Stacey Malacari
This story is the reason I found this anthology. No seriously. I have a long love of bees and whilst stumbling through Instagram, found a photo of this story. Just recently I also read a uni article that Malacari had also written. Malacari offers another ecological read, with the waters rising and the death of the bees, there are only a few refugee camps that Remi and her family can go to, but her Nan isn't coming. This is a story of happiness and survival and the risks we will take for both. It will break you.

The Gap Between Us, Sofia Casanova
I have the honour to know Sofia and have personal thrill for her and this publication, despite never reading anything more than her incredible bookstagram and twitter posts (until now)! Lien and Liz are best friends on the Great Ocean Road, but Lien is still learning to break free from the path already set up for her. This story was a wholesome invitation and reminder to readers that they do not have to be their parents. I also loved this.

After Death, Cassi Dorian
In a magical realist setting, where both Hülya and Romy are dead, Hülya has to learn the circumstances of her death. Two loves from different cultures, Dorian's story offers readers the chance to understand one another and learn the circumstances of harmful actions. I found myself teary and intrigued by the concept.

Living Rose, Kaneana May
Of all the characters within this anthology, I think Olive is the one I identified with the most. Olive has her life plan set up all the way down to study habits, but her sister Rose is here for the thrill. Whilst Olive is trying to cultivate and create an image for herself, Rose is living and planning her travels. This story will get you suddenly and remind you, "you're only a teenager for seven years of your life, , you've got decades to be an adult" (250). When I finished this on the train I sat and held back sobs.

'Underdog' is a beautiful beginning for the writing careers of so many people. Each story fits perfectly, and has another to tie it in and down, there's environmental concerns, LGBT+ representation, cultural diversity, wholesomeness and heart, eeriness and strange. There's an element of something for each YA reader. Madden has edited an incredible collection of stories and has cultivated the way for many writers. Some of us can only hope for a sequel to this as #LoveOzYa finds its feet once more, and continues its contributions to the Australian Young Adult Fiction communities. If you are looking for new voices, something light, or something to make you cry, 'Underdog' has you every step of the way. Incredible.
Profile Image for Bec.
873 reviews22 followers
June 28, 2020
#LoveOzYA celebrates the best of new Australian writing for teenagers. This book has a bunch of short stories that deal with a wide range of topics from sexuality, suicide, homophobia, grief and love!

Great book for a young adult. Tackles some difficult topics!
Profile Image for Tamsien West (Babbling Books).
608 reviews326 followers
January 28, 2019
A delightful and diverse #LoveOzYA collection. I loved the vast majority of these stories, and still enjoyed the ones that weren't really my thing. It's so great to see such wonderful examples of emerging talent, with many of these stories the first published work of fiction by the author.

I will be looking forward to seeing what the future hold for all these authors.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
625 reviews1,686 followers
March 19, 2019
Wow, I'm BLOWNNN AWAY. A strong and incredible YA anthology of Australian stories!!
And if these stories are any indication of the future of Australian literature, then the future is bright.

- Features 12 stories that all center on Australian teens -- and the cool thing is that Underdog showcases the diversity of the teenage and Australian experience.
- The stories featured are the authors' first published work, and if there's a message you should take away from this anthology, it is that new voices are so refreshing and should always be given a chance because. HECK. All the authors shone bright.
- Includes a range of genres: from dystopian, superhero science-fiction, contemporary, and romance, all these stories - and their authors - have something discursive and moving to say.
- The diversity in this was amazing: there were mentally ill teens, queer teens, a nonbinary teen, Asian teens, brown teens, and so on.
- It's hard to choose a favourite story from an anthology that was just so consistently brilliant, but I have a soft spot for Living Rose, about two very different sisters and what it means to live, and The Swan, about a girl who is plagued by the presence and interference of a black swan.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Annie.
649 reviews17 followers
February 21, 2019
I was just so incredibly impressed by all the short stories debuted in this anthology!! Each were written so incredibly well, all of them so exciting and insightful to read and what really impressed me was how diverse this anthology is - no two stories are the same and you can really hear the voice and the passion speaking up through the pages by each contributing author. It was very difficult to choose a favourite as each was so unique I loved each story equally but for different reasons. I believe this book really needs to have a shining light on it and all Aussie readers need to pick this up. Huge congrats to all contributing authors in this book for making a debut with your short story! I’m so excited for this to hit the shelves soon! I really hope there are many more to come! Special thanks to Tobias Madden (editor) and Underdog Books for sending me an advance review copy of this book. I can’t wait for the launch!!!
Profile Image for Sarah.
5 reviews50 followers
December 2, 2018
Just finished my final proofreading notes! I can't believe how far all of these stories have come since the submission stages. It's been an absolute pleasure to work as assistant editor.
Profile Image for Emma Gerts.
289 reviews24 followers
May 20, 2019
Another wonderful collection of short stories, these from previously unpublished Australian authors. They were fresh and exciting and many of them about contemporary issues like climate change. My only complaint was that there weren't enough of them.
Profile Image for Tien.
1,790 reviews67 followers
September 12, 2019
Wow what a great & diverse collection of stories; very eclectic & holistic:

There were LGBT protags
There were ethnic protags
There was angst
There was grief
There was contemporary setting
There was magic
There was magical realism
there was a lot more than I could ever fit here

There is basically everything to have in this anthology. An absolutely top job by editor, Tobias Madden (his story is also in there and just so heartbreaking - most especially so since I heard it was inspired by his own experience)

The very first story though by Michael Earp was just the KEWTEST!!!


Suffice to say, I have very high hopes for each of the authors featured and will be keeping an eye out. I note 2 of them have debuts coming out this year so excuse me while I hunt those books down...
Profile Image for Bron.
304 reviews7 followers
April 24, 2019
Thanks so much to the Underdog team for sending me a copy of this collection! I loved these stories so much! There was a good mix of different kinds of stories - mostly contemporary with some specific too , and told from perspectives of all kinds of people. Each one of them felt really personal, and I'm looking forward to reading what these writers all do next!
Profile Image for Tash Broom.
72 reviews2 followers
May 22, 2019
A very good book! Loved nearly all of the stories 😍 I think the final one was my favourite!
Profile Image for Suzie.
733 reviews15 followers
May 30, 2019
3 1/2 stars. I always enjoy reading new Australian authors, and this was an interesting collection of YA stories. Those I particularly enjoyed were: Meet and greet, Mediocre heroes, Variation, and Living Rose
Profile Image for Joelie.
853 reviews7 followers
July 28, 2019
I really enjoyed this!!!!! My official rating is about a 4.5. There were a lot of 4-5 star reads for me and only really 2 I wasnt crazy about it which I think is pretty impressive for an anthology! This is my breakdown without hopefully giving to much away. I have put ⭐️ next to my 5 star reads to show the ones I really freaking loved!!!!
⭐️Meet and greet. I loved this so much, the perfect queer meet cute. A boy who meets his literary idol and a boy he follows on social media all in the same day.
⭐️Breathe me in. This I also really loved, especially since it was kind of horror/supernatural type story right after a cute romance story. There's people going missing, its great.
📖Remnants. I liked the idea behind this one. I think it suppose to be what the world will look like if we don't stop destroying it. It was a story that needed to be told.
⭐️Mediocre Heros. On the blurb it says one of these stories is a dystopian comedy. This has to be it because it deals with the government creating a "super generation" that have special powers but the power that Nat gets is so funny because its kind of helpful but really lame as far as superpowers goes. This was a great concept!
📖The swan. Im not going to try and explain what this story was about, but this reminded me of "the astonishing colours of after" in the sense that the author was using symbolism to describe a feeling? I think? I really didn't enjoy this. Just not for me.
📖The Chinese menu for the afterlife. Firstly I think it is important to mention that 3 pages Into this, the story was making he hungry and I ordered dumplings :). As for the actual story. This was such a beautiful, sad and funny representation of the differences between Australian ans Chinese culture. This made me want to know more.
⭐️Variation. This was a beautiful story that im wondering if it isnt a little autobiographical about a boy who grows up in a country town and wants to be a ballet dancer. I really loved this
📖Chemical expression. A story about getting caught for doing the wrong thing but for the right reasons. This will break your heart and make you overthink your own moral code.
📖The Bees. This was a sort of end of the world tying up lose strings sort of story and it was devastatingly entertaining. I enjoyed the concept behind this and would have liked more pages (stupid short story brief)
📖The gap between us. A feel good adventure with 2 friends before they go their separate ways (for a while) to pursue their dreams, 1 has her sights set on New York and one knows she doesn't want to go back to uni. There was nothing to not like about this story!
⭐️Afterdeath. I dont know how to out this story into words, racism, death, love, fear, its all in there and its great!
⭐️Living Rose. This story was sad but also really really beautiful and it just got to me. A beautiful ending to a brilliantly structured and well written anthology.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tobias Madden.
Author 5 books213 followers
January 25, 2019
As the editor of this anthology, I've had to read all 12 short stories countless times. I can safely say that they STILL manage to make me laugh and cry!
Profile Image for Julie Garner.
667 reviews26 followers
February 1, 2020
Short stories are just not my thing. I get too involved and then they stop. I did enjoy the first story Meet & Greet by Michael Earp.
Profile Image for Ms Warner.
429 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2019
I love the variety that a short story compilation usually offers. It’s a bit like an Allen’s Retro Party mix- you usually get some awesome stuff like pineapples and raspberries but then you might get a few black cats as well 🤢. But at least the black cats make you feel something.

Maybe I’ve read too many #loveozya books recently because I feel like, with Underdog, I’m getting a bag full of milk bottles. You know what I mean, they’re not particularly unpleasant, but they’re not extremely satisfying either. They just...are. And I feel a bit shit writing that, because Aus YA needs to be supported and needs to be sustained, but it’s all feeling a bit same-same at the moment and not particularly exciting. So, it’s a solid three stars for being ok.

***Edited to add- I did actually love the story Mediocre Superheroes. It was a really fresh take on an old topic!***
Profile Image for Niamh.
211 reviews23 followers
April 7, 2019
Meet and Greet by Michael Earp – 4 stars

Breathe Me In by Sophie L. MacDonald – 5 stars

Remnants by K.M. Stamer-Squair – 4.5 stars

Mediocre Heroes by Sarah Taviani – 5 stars

The Swan by Felicity Martin – 5 stars

The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife by Vivian Wei – 3.5 stars

Variation by Tobias Madden – 4 stars

Chemical Expression by Jes Layton – 4 stars

The Bees by Stacey Malacari – 5 stars

The Gap Between Us by Sofia Casanova – 4 stars

After Death by Cassi Dorian – 3 stars

Living Rose by Kaneana May – 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Milly Bob.
50 reviews
May 28, 2019
What a perfect introduction to short stories! This is my first and I was unsure if I'd be into it. But I found it fascinating. The stories in here really give you a vast look into different points of view. Some were sad, some were hopeful, the first story I found absolutely adorable! Just made me go aawww! Through most of it.
Fascinating is how I sum this book up.
Thank you to all the new authors in there and I hope to see some more books from you!
Profile Image for Samthefangirl.
220 reviews56 followers
April 1, 2020
I loved Underdog. LOVED IT. I don’t usually read short stories because I thought I preferred full-length novels but this book single-handedly converted me to the short side.

I am not even sure where to begin with this review but this #LoveOzYa collection of short stories was well thought-out, the stories were all totally unique but cohesive and the writers impeccably chosen.

So many important topics were included – sexuality, friendship, depression and drugs and a combination of styles from dystopian to contemporary. Underdog had it all and I loved every story, every sentence and every author.

I rate Underdog 5 STARS and highly recommend you check this one out if you are a lover of YA!
Thank you to Tobias for sending me a copy of this book – can’t wait to read more of your work!
98 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2019
Average of 3.5 rounded up.

The Favourites:
Mediocre Heroes - 4 stars
The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife - 4 stars
Variation - 3.75 stars
The Gap Between Us - 4.5 stars

Overall a good round up of entertaining #LoveOzYA short stories. While some could have benefited from being novellas, there were some fantastic stories that really bloomed in this format.
Profile Image for Ghostly  Writer.
173 reviews4 followers
November 23, 2019
Overall, there were several stories that I really connected with and felt were executed effectively. However, there were also several stories that were repetitive in their plot, which I didn't enjoy. This may have also been due to the fact that the subject matter did not interest me (i.e. something about space).
Profile Image for ✨ emma ✨ RiverReeds.
39 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2020
A good collection of writing that explores a range of topics relatable for the teenage reader. Grief. Comedy. Dystopia. Queer romance. Friendship. Family. All packaged up into a short story, clever titles, with right-now-and-trending contemporary metaphors and language. An easy one to fly through, but a good breakthrough for young Australian writers.
Profile Image for Poppy Nwosu.
Author 5 books58 followers
June 24, 2019
I really thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I never thought I was into short stories so it surprised me how into this I got. The beauty of it is there is something here for everyone and I definitely found quite a few of these really spoke to me! 😻�� I'd definitely recommend!!
Profile Image for Louise.
404 reviews6 followers
November 9, 2019
Although I really loved all 12, I particularly loved Chemical Expression (Jes Layton), Meet and Great (Michael Earp), and Living Rose (Kaneanna May).

Full review here
Profile Image for sam.
213 reviews4 followers
January 22, 2019

all of the stories were super enjoyable. some stood out to me more than others, but i guess that’s what happens with every anthology you read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews

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