Borderline

borderlineThis fantasy novel by Mishell Baker is the kind of book that makes you want to recommend it to people, but a) it’s hard to know who in your acquaintance will like it, and b) it is quite difficult to sum up. So, of course, I am recommending it to you, and you should all come back and tell me that you liked it. (I should say here and now that I myself read it on Other Jenny’s excellent recommendation.)

Millie has lost both her legs in a recent suicide attempt. She also has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. As the book opens, she’s in a rehab facility in Los Angeles, trying to come to terms with the way both of those things will affect her day-to-day life forever: she’s lost her place in her prestigious grad school, she has no family, and her new reality is looking bleak. When in walks Caryl, to recruit her for the Arcadia Project.

The Arcadia Project is a secret organization that polices comings and goings between our world and the fairy world. There’s a whole complicated and delicate balance that needs to be maintained, and (as you might expect if you thought about it) a lot of what our world gets out of it winds up in Hollywood. (Or maybe Tahiti; I hear it’s a magical place.) Right now, there’s a viscount from the Seelie Court who’s gone missing, and Millie has to get to know her new coworkers (recruited from backgrounds not much different from her own), get to know the Arcadia Project, and help find a fairy. Um… okay?

This novel completely suckered me in. I enjoyed everything about it, from its portrayal of fairies (I love books about the fey, and this one has a changeling in it for good measure) to its structure as a noir-ish detective novel in Los Angeles, but covered in glitter; to its pretty, poisonous villains; to its tough and realistic portrayal of disability and mental illness and the work it takes to deal with those in self and others; to its humor, which might have a sharp edge but is always flashing out. As Joss Whedon says, make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but for the love of God, tell a joke.

I am definitely going to read the second in this series, and if it’s as good as the first, I hope there are about eight more.

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3 Responses to Borderline

  1. Jeanne says:

    I also read this on Other Jenny’s recommendation, and enjoyed it as you did, although I was slightly more irritated by the way her “borderline personality disorder” was matched up with the way she was seeing the borderline between our world and faerie. I think that’s why I never wrote about this book, because I would just sound grouchy (something this protagonist didn’t sound often enough, I think, since my experience of not being able to get around centers heavily on grouchiness as a side effect).

    • Jenny says:

      I agree that chronic pain makes one (well, me) grouchy, but I did actually think Millie was pretty grouchy and had to employ CBT techniques all the time not to alienate everyone around her, or even to function. Also, I thought more people than just Millie saw that borderline, including creative people, so the alignment didn’t bother me. YMMV (obviously) but I was able to get into it pretty smoothly.

  2. HOORAY, I’m so pleased this was a successful rec. I actually just pushed it on my sister last night, and she read about 20% of it and liked it enough that she wanted to borrow it. So I am batting a thousand on Borderline lately. :p

    The second book is also excellent and I am VERY excited for the third one.

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