The Good Neighbors #1: Kin

goodneighbors By Holly Black and Ted Naifeh [LibraryThingAmazon]

When Rue’s mother disappears, Rue starts seeing…things. Faeries, to be precise. And as if that weren’t enough for any high school girl to have to deal with, her father gets arrested. Did Rue’s father really kill her mother? What was her mother, exactly? And can Rue stop the war between humans and faeries that is brewing in the wings?

As I mentioned the last time I reviewed a Holly Black book, I’m not a big faerie person. I am, however, a big comic book person, and so I picked up this graphic novel.

The story is strong. The mythology is solid and creepy, and though the gradual reveals about Rue’s family aren’t by any means shockingly original or surprising, they’re still told in a way that engages the reader’s attention. This continues all the way through to the big reveal on the final page, which, while expected, is done pretty spectacularly and made me wish I had the second book in my hands. Rue’s a solid enough protagonist, smart and plucky but with believable emotional reactions to the supernatural (and traumatizing) events around her.

However, it’s pretty clear that this is Black’s first graphic novel; the pacing is awkward in spots, and the book itself seems somehow scanty, like there’s not as much story as there could be. Characters that I expect would have been more fully fleshed out in prose are only vague shapes in this. I know what Headbanded Boyfriend and Goofy-Haired Father look like, but I don’t know anything about them.

This is, however, possibly more a problem with the art than with the writing. I was not a fan of the art in this book. Part of that is subjective – I’m very aware that I prefer a cartoonier, less moody style. But some of the issues with the art were more general problems. Sometimes the facial expressions didn’t match what the characters were saying; they were drawn with gritted teeth or screaming faces when the text bubble above them contained a relatively calm statement. It was also hard to tell a lot of the characters apart; there was kind of a surplus of slender, androgynous young people with dark hair and fishnets on. The fact that everyone was dressed in over-the-top goth couture didn’t help.

I do want to find out what happens to Rue in the next book, but I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by the rather blah quality of this one. It’s a totally middle-of-the-road book, and so it gets a totally middle-of-the-road grade: three cupcakes.

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