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The Good Neighbors: Kin by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
Cover Artist: Ted Naifeh
Review by Gayle Surrette
GRAPHIX Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780439855624
Date: 01 October 2008 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Rue Silver's life seems to be spiraling out of control. Her mother has disappeared. Her father, a college professor, is so depressed that he just vegetates; not even going to work. School is the usual combination of abuse and tension, with occasional outbreaks of knowledge. And Rue's beginning to see things that her friends don't notice. It's freaking her out and she thinks she maybe going crazy. Then she comes home to find the police arresting her father for the murder of one of his students.

The first of a graphic series, The Good Neighbors: Kin, sets up the world and the characters and spins out the threads that will lead us through the coming volumes. Rue is actually a typical teenager -- mumble-teen going on 50. In Rue's case it's a bit more complicated than the typical teen thinking that they're fully adult and know everything. Rue's mother has always been a bit off-center, and fuzzy on the social mores that everyone takes for granted. Rue was always trying to get her to understand the rules of society, that is until one night when Rue heard her parents arguing and then her mother disappeared. Now Rue is helping to hold the household together with the help of a family friend.

The art work is very realistic, which set the tone for the glimpses of the strange that we see along with Rue. There are clues throughout about what's happening, especially if you've read a good deal of fantasy. Everyone can see that the town is being over run with vines and plants -- for those of us in kudzu-territory this is not as innocent a problem as other might think it is. Then there's the people who don't quite look right, but only Rue seems to notice the oddities. The artwork blends the expected with the unexpected in a manner that makes the reader take a second look, or even a third, to spot all the things within the frames. The artwork doesn't break out and shout look-at-me, it just smoothly works with the text to pull you into the story -- at times I felt I was more watching a film than reading a book and I'd be surprised that I was reading the words not hearing them -- that's how involved you get in the storyline.

The draw back is that, at times, I had difficulty quickly identifying which character was which because all of Rue's friends seemed to blur together a bit. Hopefully, as the story continues they'll become readily identifiable as separate characters and not just Rue's buddies. But this is definitely Rue's story and she is the focus in text and graphics.

This is a gritty world where no one is safe and you always need to be on your guard because reality is not what you thought it was. For Rue, she may have to take on responsibility that many adults would have a difficult time dealing with. But she's strong with a good heart and we'll follow her on her adventure and hope she wins through.

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