Book Review: Fresh Ink by Lamar Giles
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnabel, Patron Services Librarian
For the past few years, I’ve participated in a year-long reading challenge where I aim to fulfill 52 different prompts with the books I pick. Sometimes they’re as specific as “a title beginning with the letter D” or as wide-open to interpretation as “a smelly book.” One prompt I tackled in the last months of 2023 was “a banned book” – of course, with as many book bans as there have been in the state of Iowa lately, I had ample pickings. (Urbandale School District banned The Handmaid’s Tale, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Fault in Our Stars less than a year ago, to name just a few.) I opted, however, to see what the deal was with Fresh Ink, an anthology edited by Lamar Giles, since it had caused a big stir here in 2021 and was, if not banned outright by the local school district, subjected to intense scrutiny and has since been mentioned frequently in articles on book bans in our state.
Since Fresh Ink is an anthology of short stories by so many different authors, it’s difficult to summarize the quality and collectively review it as a singular title. But in brief: it’s a good young adult book. There’s something that will speak to everyone, and if a particular story doesn’t resonate with a reader, they need only move on to the next one. There’s a story where teenage ghosts compare stories of how they died; a teen learns to cook from and come out to her grandmother; young adults come together at a comic convention in Denver, and young adults learn to live with moving away and apart in New York City. There’s a variety of themes that I think are important to discuss in today’s world, including racism, gun violence, and sexual and gender orientation. The spread included in Fresh Ink, I would say, does a fantastic job in covering a lot of ground.
The specific story that caused controversy in our community is Schuyler Bailar’s “Catch, Pull, Drive.” As an adult reader, I appreciated its themes and its bluntness, but I completely understand why young teens cited that its language made them uncomfortable, as there are several socially-taboo words dropped by a bully. Exposure to uncomfortable reading material can provide a safe way for both teens and adults to grow in empathy and better understand social issues, but I encourage parents and teens to read it on their own time before expressing opinions on it regardless, as I would with any book or story.
If you’re intrigued by Fresh Ink, it’s available to check out in the young adult section of Charles City Public Library’s physical collection. Call us to reserve our print copy at 641-257-6319.