The unquestionable stand-out is Nicola Yoon’s short story, which is also the last one in the book. A black superhero decides he’s going to destroy the world unless someone convinces him otherwise, so his first rescue–a black girl his age–is chosen and sent in to talk him down. The superpowers don’t make the story feel any less real; the pain in its pages will hit you like a bullet. It’s about disillusionment and how black kids are supposed to have hope for a world that treats them so cruelly.
Sure, I disliked both of Yoon’s novels so far, but this story right here? This story RIGHT HERE? I want to buy a second copy of Fresh Ink, rip the pages holding Yoon’s story out of the book, and pin them to my wall. It got me that good.
That’s not to say her story is the only good one either. As you might expect from such kidlit legends, Gene Luen Yang’s and Walter Dean Myers’ contributions are strong entries as well. The former’s comic sees a few D&D-playing teens wander over to a party; Myers’ posthumous publication is a one-act play starring four ghostly boys who are literally kept alive by graffiti memorializing them. If they can’t replace their tags quickly enough or all of it is erased, they’ll disappear.
And two more excellent stories: Schuyler Bailar’s semi-autobiographical tale of a trans boy showing up transphobia in his first practice with the cis boys and Melissa de la Cruz’s small sequel to her YA novel Something in Between. Naturally, if you haven’t read that novel, her story is gonna spoil some things for you.
Some of the stories left me whelmed, but none of them were bad to any degree. So yeah, it has my worthless seal of approval! If you see this book somewhere, GET IIIIIIT. Too much money for you when it’s at full price? Keep an eye on it to see if it goes on sale for cheap, at which time you should