Title: Fresh Ink: An Anthology
Editor: Lamar Giles
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 18th 2018
Number of Pages: 208
In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors come together in this remarkable YA anthology featuring ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print.
Careful–you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written–whose next chapters are up to you.
Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.
Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.
**Thank you so much Netgalley and Penguin Random House International for providing me an eARC. This, by any means, did not affect nor influence my review.**
“We made vows to write the stories we had such a hard time finding.”
Fresh Ink is such a powerful and beautifully diverse anthology that gives voice and spotlight to marginalized teens. I didn’t know I needed this in my life. I wish I had known! This is my first ever anthology read and I’m definitely glad for that decision. I am sure I made the right one. Talking about issues concerning race, gender and representation, I love how diverse this collection is – from the characters, to the settings, to the topics, to the emotions it brought me and how each of these stories were binded together. Despite some stories I didn’t enjoy, this is still a surreal beautifully diverse and powerful anthology.
Eraser Tattoo by Jason Reynolds – 4/5
He knew the string wouldn’t last forever. But the scar would.
What a great start. Tbh I really didn’t know that eraser tattoos were a thing. This is about childhood sweethearts that’s about to separate because the girl and her family’s going to move into another city. I felt everything in this story. It was oozing with cuteness hence, plastering a smile on my face right from the very start. Though, I was confused for a bit of a time because I thought they were still children because that’s how they sounded to me. It was already on the later part when I realized that they’re already teens. It was bittersweet. I was invested enough in such a short time that I am digging for a full-length novel of this.
Meet Cute by Malinda Lo – 4 stars
Rep: black, queer, Asian, f/f
I want to help make sure that someday movies do include people like gender-flipped Sulu and race-bent Scully.
This is LITERALLY a meet cute story. This focuses more on tackling gender issues. I enjoyed this a lot too. It’s cute because it’s kinda like a nerdy story – the main characters are both Star Trek fans, while the setting and the circumstances made this cool and fun. It’s my first time to read a story set in a comic con which is *obviously* filled with people cosplaying. It’s amazing to imagine such a story unfolding in such a scene. It also has a bit of creepiness which strangely blended so well with its cuteness. For the second time in this anthology, I met characters I’d love to follow the story of and read a full-length novel of it.
Don’t Pass Me By by Eric Gansworth – 4.5/5
Rep: Indian, Indian-American
TW: bullying, racism
Those Passing Indians, as soon as they got to the buses, suddenly they were Indian again, like Abracadabra. But if you tried to chat them up in school, prepare to be ignored.
I thought at first that this might bore me or I wouldn’t find something new or refreshing given that compared to the first ones, it is set in a more common place: a school. However, this is probably what made this have more impact eventually. It tackles racism in school – how at such a young age, grade-schoolers are already racists and how Indian kids try to blend, hide or cope with a new environment in school with white people. I like the main character – his voice, his traits and his values. I really like him for embracing who he really is despite being bullied and earning a reputation because of it. He’s quite a strong young character. He sees his Indian classmates hide who they truly are – their color, their race – but he decided not to follow suit. Hence, he became a target of bullying.
The only thing which prevented me from giving this a 5-star rating is the end. I just didn’t like how the story was suddenly cut like that. I mean, I know all of these stories have open ends but it has so many things left unanswered. The thing about Hayley, the conversation with Mr. Cocker, I was left surprisingly unsatisfied, disappointed even.
Be Cool For Once by Aminah Mae Safi – 3/5
Rep: black, Japanese, lesbian, f/f
You’re not for girls like me. I’d rather see than be seen.
Shirin has a heart of a scientist. She wants to become a physicist, which I totally cannot relate to but I think she is so amazing and smart. I really love that it was set in a concert. As a music lover, it gave me so many feels. And what made me have high hopes and slightly connect to Shirin is her and her friend’s interest with “tragic historical queens” just because I also have this obsession with real-life royals.
I expected this to be great but turns out it was just okay. I just rated it 3 for the things I mentioned above. The end made me confused and I don’t personally like how Shirin let her feelings for her crush ruin her first concert experience. Moreover, the scene of her confession felt off. It definitely made me feel extremely awkward and wish that it didn’t happen that fast. I mean, confessions are awkward and scary. It’s just that I think I didn’t have the chance to know what Shirin truly feels and understand where is she coming from and why is she like that so I don’t think that embarrassing and awkward moment is worth it. It would have been romantic and cute to me awkwardness and all if I can just truly understand and feel her.
Tags by Walter Dean Myers – 4/5
Rep: black T/CW: racism
“You can’t do nothing to me now. I can’t do nothing to you. It’s too late. The shit is over. We can’t turn it back.”
This is a unique one. It is a play script – it is my first time reading one – and this is about dead people. This seemed like it will leave impact and interesting from the start. It talks about death and life. I enjoyed this one. It was quite fast and really short for me but it was also cool and I really want to know more about what will happen next.
Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan – 4/5
Rep: f/f, bisexual, Persian, Muslim
You don’t apologize for who you are. I’m an old lady now and perhaps that doesn’t mean much in the world we live in, but I exist and I shouldn’t have to be sorry for that. As a woman, you have to know that. Don’t ever apologize for who you are.
I didn’t quite like the writing at first so I had low expectations from the start. The setting of this one is more ordinary than the other ones. The main highlight of this is the dinner of the main character with its grandma. At first I thought I wouldn’t like this but as I got deeper into it, it started to touch me and make me sad because of how they ignore their grandmother. This made me feel strong emotions. I love the values the main character’s grandmother taught xyr. They are words I will also keep. I also love the characters. This is really heartwarming and such a nice read. I just don’t like how abruptly it ended.
A Stranger at the Bochinche by Daniel Jose Older – 2/5
Never leave a place the same way you enter.
This is my least favorite in this anthology. I didn’t like the writing, it didn’t catch my attention right from the start and the story was hard for me to follow. Unlike the other stories which are mostly contemporaries, this one was like a fantasy or historical fiction. I wasn’t immersed in its world and I think it was far too complex for a short story. I didn’t connect with any of the characters either. I only managed to understand or get few information about the story. Just a bummer.
A Boy’s Duty by Sharon G. Flake – 3 stars
What’s a boy’s duty to himself? I wonder.
This caught my interest right from the start because of the main character. He is a boy with a dream. He wan away from home because of it. This talks about how there are boys who cannot do what they want because of the duty their own family or the country imposes on them and tries to answer the question, “What is really a boy’s duty? Is it to his family? To his country?”. It was set on WW2 and I like how this also talks about racism and what it is like to be a thief and a homeless kid in such a time. I didn’t like all the characters but I still liked some – especially the cafe owners. The problem is I felt like it was lacking in so many aspects and there was actually no clear plot. Hence, I still didn’t enjoy this completely.
One Voice by Melissa dela Cruz – 5/5
Rep: Filipinx, black, Latinx
We’re one voice when we want to be.
Wow, this is quite powerful and timely. Another story of standing up for you and people like you who have been victims of racism. This is an eye-opener, making us see that despite being at Stanford, it is no different – students of color still don’t feel safe. Racism is racism. It shows just how such racist acts deemed by others as “small” can affect students of color. As a Filipina, this story feels close to me. It talks about immigrants, families in the hopes of having a brighter future in a foreign country. I also love the characters – especially the main one. I really love the strength Jaz showed all throughout despite all the struggles she is facing. I love how real her emotions and thoughts are. It’s impossible for me not to like her. The characters are so realistic. Definitely another story in this anthology I would love to become a full length novel.
Paladin/Samurai by Gene Luen Yang – 4/5
This is a graphic short story and tackles culture sensitivity and claiming one’ identity. I like the illustrations and the concept itself. It is a nice and cute story. Seeing a boy stand up against his friend and claim his identity as half Japanese and seeing a boy take revenge for his friends because of racist crap? I liked them. The only problem is I wasn’t left satisfied. Again, I was left hanging not feeling good about it.
Catch, Pull, Drive by Schuyler Bailar – 5/5
Stand tall, I tell myself. Stand tall, even when they hurt you.
Wow, I have no words to accurately explain how I felt while reading this. This is about a transgender swimmer athlete experiencing different firsts after coming out to the world on Facebook. I saw the main character be mocked, shamed and underestimated after coming out but on the contrary, I also saw how, even just the small acts like calling him with his new name, gave him courage and power. This also welcomes us to the world of swimming and I loooved the imagery the author gave. The author was able to create such amazing vision in my mind – it was like I’m watching a movie where the scene is about the swimmer swimming so hard with all the thoughts he have to keep him going: to catch, pull and drive. I like the main character. He’s so competitive, determined, and I saw how he was really trying to win over all the struggles the people around him put him in just because of his gender. I felt every words in this short story. I unexpectedly felt so much. Just wow.
Super Human by Nicola Yoon – 5/5
How can she tell him not to reject the world that has always rejected him?
Wow, I honestly didn’t think I’d love this as much as I did. This is a fresh, powerful, unique superhero story tackling racial issues. I love that even though this is fantasy, the author managed to make this relevant to reality. It also tackles income inequality between Black Americans. I like X, the superhero character but not the female lead, Sythia. I hate how purposefully she turned a blind eye to reality. It’s amazing how the author managed to make such story brilliant. I was shocked and in love on how this ended. I want to read a full-length novel version of this. Definitely the best ending story for this anthology.
Top faves: Catch, Pull, Drive by Schuyler Bailar, One Voice by Melissa dela Cruz, and Super Human by Nicola Yoon
Least faves: A Stranger at the Bochinche by Daniel Jose Older and Be Cool For Once by Aminah Mae Safi
Have you read Fresh Ink? Did you like this as well? What are your favorite stories? What is your favorite anthology? Share your thoughts below!