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Review: The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin

Her mother has vanished and her father has stopped going to work, but Rue Silver’s not worried. Really. Only it is bothering her that she’s apparently going crazy, seeing things that aren’t there, that can’t be there. Things like faeries. Two of the great creators of dark fantasy combine their prodigious talents to kick off a trilogy about a girl caught by the ties of family in the middle of what is about to be a showdown between faeries and humans. 

The Good Neighbors, book one: Kin 
Written by Holly Black, art by Ted Naifeh
GRAPHIX, September 2008
ISBN (Hdbk) 978-0-439-85562-4, $16.99
Grades 8+; ages 13+

Holly Black is best known for the children’s fantasy series The Spiderwick Chronicles (illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi and published by Simon and Schuster), but for my money her best work is her three urban fantasy novels, Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside (also published by Simon and Schuster). Those three novels make readers think back to the older faerie tales, with all of the horrors that were evident in them. Kin walks the same paths, though it stumbles a bit at the end.

Rue is a compelling character. Her snarky attitude and goth outlook are a perfect match with the dark story. She’s not too perfect, not too imperfect, which makes her nice to read about and easy to identify with. Many of the other characters are not as well developed, though several of them seem likely to be in the later volumes of the trilogy. Of particular interest is Tam, a boy who is compelled to speak the truth, for good or ill, and whose ties with the faeries may not be as strong as they might seem at first glance. Rue’s boyfriend and friends are well formed and their varied reactions to Rue’s announcement of the realities of faeriedom are amusing and believable.

Ted Naifeh is probably best known for his work on the comic series about the magical girl Courtney Crumrin. His art has a terrifying beauty about it that makes it a perfect fit with Black’s story. The faeries he draws and the settings of Rue’s story are messy and dirty, but still retain the dignity and majesty of power. Color is not needed here; he instead takes full advantage of the wide range of emotions that can be portrayed with variations of grays, black, and white. A few of the characters appear a little to similar at first glance, but continued reading clears up that issue.

The main weakness is that the final third of the book is very rushed, to the point that I checked to be sure I hadn’t actually skipped pages. I could still follow what was happening and by the end of the story I wasn’t confused at all, but I wished that I had had a little more time to process what was happening to Rue at that time. This is a minor quibble, though, in an otherwise exciting start to a dark and moody fantasy. I’ve already had one teen beg to know when the second book is coming out and I expect I’ll soon have more.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © GRAPHIX/Scholastic.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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