Never Have I Ever

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales all gathered together in one fabulous bundle.

“Am I dead?”
Mebuyen sighs. She was hoping the girl would not ask.

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, “A Spell for Foolish Hearts” to the terrifying tension of the urban legend “Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez.”

Read a story on Milagroso


“A debut collection from Small Beer Press, Never Have I Ever combines fabulism, horror, and science fiction. Charlie Jane Anders says that “these gorgeous stories will help you to glimpse a world that is both stranger and more immense and varied than any you’ve visited before.”
— R. O. Kwon, Electric Lit: 43 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2021


“These 13 captivating short stories entwine fantasy, horror, and science fiction to explore monsters, Filipino folklore, immigration, and queerness. In the dark fairy tale ‘A Cup of Salt Tears,’ Makino’s mother warns her of the dangers of making deals with kappas, even though Makino was saved by kappa as a child. When Makino’s husband falls ill, she seeks out that same kappa. In ‘Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing),’ a group of five girls befriend one another at a summer camp when a goddess charges them with protecting the world from darkness. Ten years later, the the girls are still fighting. These ambiguous, vivid, and dark tales manage deep characterizations despite their short formats.”
Buzzfeed: 21 Fantasy Books To Get Excited About This Winter

“Yap’s impressive debut collection of 13 fabulist, sci-fi, and horror shorts explores themes ranging from monstrousness, shared trauma, and systemic violence to friendship and the ambiguity of love. Yap is at home with whatever topic she puts her hand to, easily immersing readers in the perspectives of high schoolers, ancient goddesses, androids, and witches. . . . Yap is a powerful new voice in speculative fiction.”
Publishers Weekly

Advance Praise

Never Have I Ever proves Yap the master of both the grand and the everyday. In each of these hard-hitting, incredibly assured stories, Yap shows how deft her hand is by sliding effortlessly from marriages and monsters (‘A Cup of Salt Tears’), to future anxiety and food in a near-future Manila (‘Milagroso’) to the uncertain future of grown-up magical girls (‘Hurricane Heels’); her ghost stories terrify as much as they comfort (‘Asphalt, River, Mother, Child’) and are so woven into the fabric of our real and human lives that their power to unsettle is unmatched; imagine if M.R. James had known the precise 1990s desire to own a Baby G . . . But where Yap consistently dazzles is her unsentimental, tender, evocative and brutal examination of the life and interiority of young women and girls: the innate monstrousness of growing up in the shoes marked ‘woman’. A masterclass collection.”
— Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth

These stories of shy witches, beautiful elementals, bloody and watery monsters, miracles and tender-hearted machines, are written with color and crisp precision, and all their startling invention is firmly grounded in our own familiar and endlessly surprising world.”
Elizabeth Knox, author of The Absolute Book

“Isabel Yap’s fiction channels the wary energy of meeting places: schools, hospitals, offices, hotels. In her work, the spaces of everyday life brim with weird vitality, crossed by ghosts, monsters, and above all, stories.”
— Sofia Samatar, author of Tender

“Isabel Yap’s prose is a constant delight and her characters are endlessly rich and fascinating. I’m in awe of her capacity for playful weirdness and mind-expanding terror. These gorgeous stories will help you to glimpse a world that is both stranger and more immense and varied than any you’ve visited before. My head is just full of images and feelings and ideas after reading these wondrous tales. Isabel Yap is a writer to watch out for, and you need to experience her brilliance for yourself.”
— Charlie Jane Anders, The City in the Middle of the Night

Never Have I Ever is a stunning, lyrical debut by one of SFF’s brightest voices. Isabel Yap’s stories are luminous. Intimate and tender, hilarious and cruel, they cut straight to the bone. This collection is full of deft, painful portrayals of Filipino girlhood, queerness, and struggling to find a place in the world. They remind me of being in my lola’s house in Manila, listening to my titas and titos gossip over the breakfast table. Yap’s stories feel like coming home.”
— Alyssa Wong, the award-winning author of Doctor Aphra

“I am full of admiration for Isabel Yap. Her dreams are authentic and her nightmares vivid and inventive.”
— Priya Sharma, author of All the Fabulous Beasts

“Isabel Yap’s stories are somehow sharp and vivid and gritty at the same time as they’re timeless and mythic; I’ve been a shameless strung-out addict for years now, and I’m so excited to have this splendid overdose in my hands. And to watch as a whole new audience gets hooked on these stories drenched in heartache and salt water, folklore and monsters and gorgeous prose.”
— Sam J. Miller, Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City

Never Have I Ever is a showcase of Isabel Yap’s many enviable gifts: gorgeous prose, deep characterization, and exquisite ambiguity. Yap moves from humor to despair with easy confidence, plunging you down into the murkiest depths with the gentlest touch. You’ll get lost in these pages and each word will sit heavy in your chest. The best fiction does that.”
— Cadwell Turnbull, author of The Lesson

Table of Contents

Good Girls
A Cup of Salt Tears
A Spell for Foolish Hearts
Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez?
Asphalt, River, Mother, Child
Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing)
Only Unclench Your Hand
How to Swallow the Moon
All the Best of Dark and Bright
A Canticle for Lost Girls

Praise for Isabel Yap’s stories:

“An elegiac story of love, grief and sacrifice.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lovely and very affecting.” —Sabrina Vourvoulias, author of Ink

“Beautifully crafted. . . . Delightful.” —Ada Palmer, author of Too Like the Lightning

“Isabel’s gift for writing friendships is out in force.” —Sara Saab

“Oh, this story… What a gem it is, a sharp and sweet fairytale about friendship and love, fate and duty, and the freedom that might be there for the taking (if you dare to grab hold of it). . . . Gorgeous and mesmerizing prose.”
—Maria Haskins

“‘How to Swallow the Moon’ by Isabel Yap is a love story crossed with a fairy tale. Anyag is a binukot, a girl kept away from the world to enhance her value as a bride. Amira is Anyag’s servant, but also her dearest friend, caregiver, and protector. She’s also in love with Anyag. Male suitors arrive one after another and Amira suffers in silence. It turns out Anyang feels the same way about Amira. Complications arise. Both young women must be heroic. Connec­tions to Philippine mythology freshen this well-told tale.” —Paula Guran, Locus


Cover illustration “Serpent’s Bride” © 2020 by Alexa Sharpe (

Isabel Yap (@visyap) writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks tea. Born and raised in Manila, she has also lived in California and London. She is currently completing her MBA at Harvard Business School. She attended the Clarion Writers Workshop and is the secretary for the Clarion Foundation. Her work has appeared in venues including, Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is in use.
Please feel free to use this form to contact us directly, and we'll reply by email. Thank you!

 | Subscribe to comments via RSS