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Send Nudes: By the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2022

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Frank drives the girls into town, pulling into a bus stop to drop them off. He passes Stella a roll of notes through the window, to pay for dinner. Jasmine blushes even more then. She has her eyes on her empty plate, and she looks to Stella like she might start to cry. Nico is smiling a little, amused. There’s no urgency here, no pang of desire or hunger, nobody even needs anything. In “Snakebite,” our protagonist Meg has a job at a bar, not because she needs the money she tells us but because she needs something to fill her time. She also goes to university, not because she wants to but because she doesn’t know what else to do. At one point in the story, she gives a man a blow job in a portable toilet, not because she wants to but because he’s offering cocaine in exchange. The cocaine isn’t something she really wants either, but her friend asked her to, so why not, I guess. Under her makeup, Jasmine goes pink. Nico doesn’t notice; he’s looking at Blue. My English might not be good enough for this question, he says. Each tale left me wanting more, whilst a couple ended with literal goosebumps. I enjoyed the brutal honesty of the current sorry state of dating - something which the book centres around. To quote the view of one of the protagonists, "Two people don't sit on either side of a screen rather than either side of a coffee table if they're going to be completely honest about themselves". There were no thrills attached and the book does what it says on the label.

In all the years I spent dreaming of motherhood, not once did I dream of men. If anything, I expected that romance would be my downfall.’ Writing can feel really boring and lonely a lot of the time. I think if you can lean more into having fun with it, into keeping yourself energised, then that will come across in the work. Stella finishes eating and gathers up the plates to take inside to wash. Something about having Frank around makes her a better daughter, and she can feel it happening. This seems to work the same for Claire too; since she married Frank, she remembers things like how much water Stella’s drunk that day. The t-shirt is tight on Blue, but in a good way. It rides up to show a strip of stomach, her bellybutton as dark and perfect as the cherries she was eating. My favorite stories of the collection were 'Tinderloin', 'Snakebite', 'Send nudes', 'Here Alone', 'Blue 4ever' and 'The Bread.' These tales are about passionate friendships, elusive dating rules, and learning to live in your body.A seriously impressive debut. Saba Sams digs into the chaos, euphoria and menace of sexual attraction, friendship and family with bravery and wit' CHRIS POWER

Blue puts her thumb in the air so that the others can see. Claire’s had her hands over her face, and she takes them down. Subjects such as pregnancy and self-harm are handled without sentimentality or squeamishness. When, in Tinderloin, Grace has a miscarriage, she draws comfort not from her wet-blanket boyfriend but from the growing devotion of his dog. You never feel Sams is “exploring an issue”; rather, each story presents the textured fabric of ordinary lives, woven from wry observation, psychological insight and blunt Gen Z dialogue. Frank went quiet after that, and Blue wasn’t mentioned again all evening. By morning, Stella had forgotten all about her. By afternoon, here she was. Blue pulls her legs out of the pool and stands up. Stella thinks that if she had a camera, she’d take a photograph of Blue right there, on the edge of the pool like that. In fact, Stella’s school made a point not to set homework on the computer. When Stella found out about the holiday, it was the first time she used the desktop for anything other than video games. She looked up the island and sat for hours, hovering her mouse over the images. She didn’t go downstairs again all evening, and Jasmine left without saying goodbye. The water looked so clear Stella could see the shadows of the boats on the sand at the bottom of the sea. She thought that when she swam in it, she’d be able to watch the fish drifting beneath her, an aquarium without the glass.

I make the assumption that the stories are well received because they have drawn attention from a new, and different, reading demographic. I’m guessing that this would be predominantly young, and probably female……The protagonist in every single story is young, and female. The next day, Stella wakes late. The sun filters through the wooden shutters. A mosquito, fat with her blood, swims lazily around the top of the net. There’s no air con in the house, so Stella spent the night thrashing about in the wet heat, re-angling the fan so that it was pointing at her face.

A few months ago, Stella attended one of Frank’s shows. It was full of blurred, bare skinned women against a blue sky, and those translucent, dusty-looking bubbles that sunlight sometimes creates in a lens. His photographs were printed large enough to take up an entire wall on their own, and people seemed to be able to stand in front of them for hours, just staring. Stella knows her grandparents don’t have that much space in their house, or that much patience. A seriously impressive debut. Saba Sams digs into the chaos, euphoria and menace of sexual attraction, friendship and family with bravery and wit. The balance her prose strikes between observation and empathy is remarkable, and its rhythms irresistible' CHRIS POWER Light comes through the sun roof and shows a faint, dark moustache on Blue’s upper lip. Only a few weeks ago, Stella noticed her own in the zoom-in mirror that Frank has in the bathroom, and used his razor to shave it off. I’m always thinking about what it looks like to be a young woman: about bodies and power, about friendships and family, about the ways we’re constantly looking to break free” It’s only Blue that jumps. Jasmine and Stella stay standing. Blue’s body is in the air for whole minutes before the sea swallows her whole. Stella watches the white foam spit on the surface and waits.I remember having to reel myself in quite a lot, having to resist making my characters too jaded, too weak, or too mean. It was an experiment in suspending judgement, in recognising that there’s always a reason for the way a person behaves.

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