Fresh Ink: The top 3 stories in the new YA anthology


Fresh Ink is short but sweet even for an anthology, but these three stories stand out above the rest of the good collection.

Reviewing an anthology can be difficult, because it takes a lot of writing to cover every single story (ask me how I know) or you skip some over. This review of Fresh Ink will be the latter, because although Crown Books has published a strong anthology here, there are a few stories that can easily leave you sitting back and needing time to process.

This book is so short. In fact, it’s less than 200 pages all told. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t leave you thinking. All in all, this is an impressive short anthology and worth reading for these three alone.

“Catch, Pull, Drive” — Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar’s “Catch, Pull, Drive” probably isn’t the most technically perfect story in the collection. But he knows exactly what he’s talking about with this story, and that shows.

The story is good, but then, a few pages in, you get to lines like this: “I’m just swimming. I am a singular action, proof that I am alive and powerful. […] My body has no gender. I am just me.” The dialogue is strong and realistically profanity-laden, but it’s a line like that that makes “Catch, Pull, Drive” make you sit up or take notice — or, well, dive into the story further.

Like the other two stories that we’ll discuss, the story ends on a promise, as if it’s just a prelude to a deeper tale. It’d be nice to read more of Tommy and Parker’s story.

“A Stranger at the Bochinche” — Daniel José Older

“Gather, my children, I have a story.”

That’s a bold way to open a short story, but Older puts his money where his mouth is. There’s not a lot of dialogue in the story, and it isn’t long, but that just lets the lyrical prose shine. “A Stranger at the Bochinche” has a mix of urban fantasy and science fiction, which will entice genre fiction fans not sure about Fresh Ink as a whole. It’s set in Brooklyn, but not the Brooklyn we know, and it’s clear that Older put a lot of thought into the world.

This story alone is strong enough to sell the book, and it’s probably my flat-out favorite.

“Be Cool for Once” — Aminah Mae Safi

“Be Cool for Once” captures up the best of YA contemporary romance and distills it down, cutting out most of the beats we expect and focusing on the tension, yearning, and ultimate triumph — along with a cool fictional band by the name of the Thousand Day Queens.

There are elements of comedy here, too, but it feels naturally woven into the story itself. It’s cute, funny, and yes, ultimately cool to read a story like this. If “Catch, Pull, Drive” has power behind it, and “A Stranger at the Bochinche” has lyricism, then “Be Cool for Once” comes with emotional resonance.

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It’s tough not to praise Nicola Yoon’s “Super Human” too, or “Don’t Pass Me By” from Eric Gansworth, but Fresh Ink is short but strong. It seems fitting for this review to be the same.