Leslie's Reviews > Kith

Kith by Holly Black
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Dec 13, 2011

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bookshelves: comics-graphic-novel, young-adult, fantasy, trilogy
Read in December, 2011

(note: I reviewed the trilogy together. What follows is a response to the three.)

Holly Black creates a complicated story of love and betrayal and it is necessarily dark. That the story is told in a trilogy is perfect because The Good Neighbors is all about threes; triangles are everywhere. It also all about two: author & illustrator.

In the first book, Rue Silver discovers a past that has been kept secret. In the second, the conflicts rise up to meet her in the present, with the consequences of past and present action culminating in an unexpected act. And the third installment looks to the future that is very quickly rising up to meet them all as the city is overtaken by nature and the faerie. Who she was, is, and will be collide within and without and it takes everything Rue has, and then some, to navigate the muddied waters. To favor one over another feels like a betrayal and she can’t help but wonder if there is supposed to be any other way. Where and with whom does she belong? Who is Rue Silver?

Conflict in threes not only reside within the protagonist but in the relationships all about her, to varying degrees and consequence. And they all circle the word betrayal. someone is oppressed, someone is lied to, another is cheated on, one’s addiction creates a rift that is in essence the choosing of it over their lover. I wrote this as if there were a character each, but the actors and their actions are plural.

“Their rules are no longer your rules, child. […] You think what they did is wrong, but this what they are. What they do. It’s their nature” (Kind, 30-1).

“Faeries aren’t like people. They don’t care about the same things. I don’t even know if they feel the same way that people do. But they’re magic, and I think long exposure to magic is like long exposure to radiation. It changes you. (Kind,78)

Romance takes on grittier definition, especially within the blur of differing moral codes. I appreciate how Holly Black creates believable conflict out of the different perspectives of the faerie and the human. How does one approach love when forever isn’t 50-70 some years of relationship, but much much longer? How must the diverse cultures interact? What do you do when you are caught in the between? Rue must decide which side she favors more, and which side favors her more. She also has to understand that relationships change, and those most damaging should be left behind.

There are plenty of abusive relationships in The Good Neighbors trilogy. Modes that are oft allowed a rosy glow are better lit. Illusions are seen as just that, illusions. At first we see beneath the glamour the faerie use to hide among the human, and some creatures are quite terrifying, but as the story progresses the monstrous creatures that reside behind the glamour the human manufactures are unmasked. The development of the relationships/characterization between/of Nia, Thaddeus, and Amanda was the most beautifully modeled. The Good Neighbors is not the paranormal romance we see played out with sparkles, but is the sort reminiscent of more traditional tales.

Holly Black is known for her cache of old stories and she shares some in The Good Neighbors, she also references them, to good and relevant affect. The moments of stepping away into past or other tales is a nice breather, even as it complicates the story at hand. The enslavement aspect is of fascinating import and Black doesn’t moralize, but neither does she glamorize it. The themes, like the actions, are dark and violent–and yet not inappropriate to its teen audience—not in the least. What may be sexy isn’t left to titillate, but is complicated by revelation. Like in the old stories, there are prices to be paid.

My only real fault with The Good Neighbors is fairly minor, and can be found at the end of book 3, Kind. For all the betrayal and harsh reality the books are steeped in, there are moments of levity. Justin is our comedic relief, and his relationship with Lucy isn’t unpleasant. And while some of the ideas of romance don’t meet their hopeful out they are still warm at the beginning. Some love is “meant” and some relationships die a more natural death—very few in the books, but The Good Neighbors wouldn’t leave it on a completely depressing note. It has worked hard to create a difficult yet functional romance story throughout. It was how that comes into declaration that made my stomach sour. But I guess it had to be said—by her. “I love you, too!” Who isn’t vulnerable to the need for love and romance. sigh.

Finally, to the art! Ted Naifeh was a fantastic partner in the storytelling. While Holly Black brings traditional stories to the mind of the Reader, Naifeh brings traditional comics to mind in the drawing—minus the color. The black, white, and grey, of course, work well as a thematic trio. It also lends greater drama.

The art lends verisimilitude. The renderings of each figure creates an actual character rather than a caricature. The draws the story out of Fantasy or abstraction. Naifeh’s attention to features in ethnic portraiture, in the more imaginative realms, and in the sometimes melding of the two are a refreshing study. Naifeh not only creates possibility in his illustrations, but probability as well.

Story in text and image are well-balanced, perfectly suited to one another. The tone of the illustration, as well as its elements facilitate a nuance to the text. Book one, Kin, page one: the splintering via mirror, the silhouette walking away, the bottle of tums. And then the things Rue tells herself (and the Reader). The tension, the conflict launched so magnificently in the very first page. The Reader can know to expect a great storytelling experience via the writer and artist from the very first. They should now Black and Naifeh never let up. That the cover reads “The Good Neighbors by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh” without delineation was a truth. Within the reading experience, the two are inseparable. And The Good Neighbors is all the more excellent for it.

L @ omphaloskepsis
http://contemplatrix.wordpress.com/20...
note: blog post has images.
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