No Easy Answer (free)
No Easy Answer is a free collection of six short stories for teens.
“The World in a Stump”
You are fourteen. You’ve been deer hunting. But this season you learn a big lesson in patience, and understand that hunting is not all about killing something.
“Stealing for Girls”
You are fourteen. Some kinds of theft are good–like a “steal” in basketball. It’s just part of the game. But your younger brother is way better than you at hoops. This is not good.
“Marked For Death”
You are a thirteen-year-old girl who misses your father, who works away. The new kid in school, a pimply-faced loser, attaches himself to you. His main goal in life is to go hunting. Maybe with you and your father? Just one time?
“Up The River”
You are sixteen, and a math whiz. Naturally, you are good at poker. You play online poker (your parents don’t know). There’s easy money to be made, and how you win it is your little secret. The world is full of losers, and you’re not one of them.
You are sixteen. It is 1928 in the rural Midwest, and you wanted to get away from the farm. But not in this way. And not this far.
You are a sixteen-year-old girl in a new school. You have a bully named Eddie. He has made you his life’s work. He will stop at nothing.
From the short story “Bad Blood”
I knocked on the door.
Inside the farmhouse I heard a radio go quiet, then shuffling sounds. I had a good feeling about this place; it was set well off the road, and the old lady appeared to live alone.
She opened the door partway. “Yes?” Her voice was thin and croaky from lack of use.
“Good morning, ma’am,” I chirped. “My name’s Jared, and I’m looking for summer work. Painting, lawn mowing, odd jobs?” One good thing about being an undersized sixteen-year-old is that I can pass for thirteen. I tried to see beyond her, into the house. See what might be valuable enough to steal …
We could call this short story anthology Covid Lit. It’s created for all you English teachers working with and through our 2020 pandemic. You’re stuck at home. Your students are stuck at home. Ideally these six short stories will help you stay connected. All were previously published in top YA magazines and anthologies. Each story has a detailed study guide written by a real live English teacher. Everything is free to use however you see fit. A note on the stories themselves: they are structured in traditional story form, with conflict, crisis, resolution. All the literary elements are there to unfold, including setting, characterization, symbolism, theme, etc. If you’re looking for cultural diversity, you won’t find a lot. Most of the characters are white (I’m white), but in my fiction I’ve always aimed toward the universal human dilemma. Each story centers around a hard choice, and the implications of making the right (or wrong) decision. I hope your students will dig at least some of the stories. Be sure to note the audio version of “WWJD”. Everything here is and will be free. I have paid teachers to write the study guides, editors to edit, designers to web-design, and actors to voice the audio versions (more on the way), so if you’d like to chip in, I’d be grateful. DM me about that via this website, or track me down on Facebook. For now, have at the stories. Copyright of No Easy Answer is mine. Permission to use is granted right here, right now, by me. –Will Weaver