Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 343 (1/12) -- The Good Neighbors, Book 3: Kind by Black & Naifeh

The series title is, of course, deeply ironic: faeries are not good neighbors in any sense. They're horrible neighbors: tearing down necessary walls, blithely taking over whole cities, ignoring everything that humans want and do. The humans might not be great neighbors, either -- this story doesn't focus on that side of the relationship, so we can only guess -- but they could hardly be worse than the faeries are.

Kind is the third book of a graphic novel trilogy from writer Holly Black and artist Ted Naifeh, after Kin (my review) and Kith (my review). In the first book, teen Rue Silver learned that she was half-fae; her faerie mother having agreed to live quietly in the human world for as long as Rue's father stayed faithful to her. And that deal had just run out as the book began, for the usual reason of human fickleness and frailty.

In the second book, Rue was vacillating between her teen friends and the faerie world, ruled by her grandfather Aubrey, who had a secret plan for Rue's hometown. At the end of that book, the plan came to its end: Aubrey died, and Rue's city was thrown into the faerie world with all of its human inhabitants, as Aubrey had planned all along.

Kind begins with chaos; human authority has entirely disappeared from this city and faerie authority is more about punishing afterwards than organizing before. Rue wanders through the places she used to belong, more and more convinced that she's essentially a faerie and that faeries can never live with humans. She may be the slightest bit teenage and overdramatic on this point; she's only known any faeries for a very short time and so identifying herself so totally with them is a reaction rather than a planned action. But if there's one thing Holly Black knows, it's how teenagers think: scarily self-centered, determined to do the right thing though possessed of very idiosyncratic ideas of what that is, and terribly quick with the darkest and strongest of emotions. (Not all that different from folkloric faeries, actually, if you follow.)

So Rue must make a big decision, and set everything right -- that being her decision of what's right, and how to set it. She's spent the series being very dramatic and central and self-confessedly put-upon, and this decision fits entirely with that: she sacrifices herself (or thinks that she does, and does it loudly, so that everyone can see she's sacrificing herself) so that her city can go on, somehow, without her. Again: terribly teenagery, terribly dramatic, entirely believable and real.

The "Good Neighbors" trilogy should be a big hit with teens -- it depicts them as they think they are, or want to be, and makes the usual coming-of-age and finding-yourself story more resonant and mythic along the way. It's slightly less believable for an older audience -- or, at least, for any reader who has grown out of the kind of drama that Rue inevitably makes in her life.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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