Cover of Fresh Ink, edited by Lamar Giles. A blob of colorful ink on a black background

Cover Story: Anthology
The Best: “Meet Cute”, “Tags”, “Catch, Pull, Drive”
The Weird: “A Stranger at the Bochinche”, “Super Human”
Bonus Factor: Diversity
Break Glass In Case Of: A Need for Really Diverse Stories

Cover Story: Anthology

Ah, the anthology cover. They didn’t want to promote one author’s story over another, so they just went for the ink. The names certainly catch my eye, but the cover does not.

The Deal:

Thirteen short stories (one is actually a short graphic novel) all written by people of color. The publisher donates some of the profits to We Need Diverse Books. This is a short (less than 200 pages) book.

The Best: “Meet Cute”, by Malinda Lo

Two nerdy cosplaying girls meet at a con. When there’s a power failure, Agent Scully and gender-flipped Sulu find themselves trapped in the dark. But Dana and Lt. Sulu have been through worse, right? And there’s something about being lost in the dark with a cute girl that can be…comforting.

The Best: “Tags”, by Walter Dean Myers

A story in the form of a play, three dead guys in an unnamed urban slum continue to tag the walls of a decrepit building in hopes of keeping their memories alive. They describe their hopeless lives and realize they may have actually run into each other before, under unpleasant circumstances.

The Best: “Catch, Pull, Drive,” by Schuyler Bailar

A story about a transgender swimmer, by a transgender swimmer. A young athlete faces fear, hatred, and even support when he comes out as trans.

The Weird: “A Stranger at the Bochinche”, by Daniel José Older

A film noir/steampunk story of an alternate, old timey New York City that, unlike the rest of the genre, is not populated exclusively by white people.

The Weird: “Super Human”, by Nicola Yoon

There’s a real life superhero out there, saving the day! His name is X, and while he wears a mask, you can tell that he’s a black dude. Things are going great until he leaves the house one day without his costume, and a white cop shoots him. Um, that’s how supervillains are born, dude.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Editor Lamar Giles explains in the introduction how he was an avid reader as a boy, but eventually grew to dilike books because there were so few black characters to read about. This anthology works to change that. And not just with African-American characters, but with Indian-American, Iranian-American, Native-American, Korean-American, and LGBTQ characters. Hopefully this can inspire kids who’d like to read about someone who looks like them.

Break Glass In Case Of: A Need for Really Diverse Stories

And I’m not talking about the authors or the characters. We’ve got science fiction, contemporary, lighthearted romance, urban, fantasy, manga, etc. And they’re fast reads.

Literary Matchmaking

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy

In the anthology (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, 33 authors discuss their experiences with mental health issues.

Darius & Twig

Unfamiliar with the great Walter Dean Myers? His novel Monster is a good place to start.

Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

Not getting enough books by women authors in the horror and fantasy sections? Maybe Toil and Trouble will do the trick (get it?).

FTC full disclosure: I received no money nor beer for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.