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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Borderline

Borderline (The Arcadia Project) - Mishell Baker

I'm not into Fantasy. Nor do I go for investigative mysteries. And I generally don't care much for series. So it's probably a bit of a surprise for everyone that I'd pick up a novel that has every bit of these traits. There are two reasons I did so. One, I want to venture into new reading grounds. I figured that with this wonderful cover and description, Borderline held more promise than most books in the genre. Two, as someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I take a particular interest in books that tackle the subject. Here, our protagonist, Millie, suffers from BPD. My curiosity was piqued.

As a complete novel, Borderline did not impress me as much as my four stars may imply. I didn't buy into Millie or her diagnosis. At the novel's opening, she is under psychiatric watch after a botched suicide attempt—not the kind of safeand careful suicide attempts that characterize much of a Borderline's life, but the final “I truly do not care anymore” attempt. We're to believe Millie has hit rock bottom. By the end of this novel, I would celebrate if Millie had done no more than drag herself out of bed and make her own breakfast. That would certainly be more believable. While I'd like that story, the average genre reader probably wouldn't. Instead, Millie picks up the pieces rather quickly—broken pieces, yes, but she gathers them nonetheless—and begins a journey of self-discovery and supernatural crime fighting.

Maybe this novel and the resulting series of books is really an allegory for the mental health journey. Maybe it's not expected to be realistic—it is Fantasy, after all. But I personally would've been in Millie's corner much more if she'd resembled a person living with BPD, not just a normal person who battles with BPD symptoms when it's convenient to the plot. And I think this is true of all the characters. I liked many of the characters and Baker does a fabulous job of creating a memorable and interesting cast. But these are people who are supposedly some of the craziest, yet they can function and most often do. In this story, I wanted to see paranormal detectives who struggled with the decision of “do I stop evil from infesting the world” or “do I pull the covers back over my head and hope my death is as pathetic as I am”?

Obviously, I had my personal qualms, but as far as Mystery-Fantasy hybrid series go, this was fairly entertaining. Now, I'd originally intended to read the whole series, but I just wasn't that into this first installment, so I don't think I will. It's just not my thing and there are so many other books I'd rather spend my days with. But as a non-reader of the style, I must say that while I didn't enjoy this book as it was intended, I also didn't dislike it. And strong dislike is my normal response to stories that start throwing around magical incantations and fairies and what not.

So my four star rating does not mean “Borderline was as wonderful as the last Toni Morrison novel I read.” There's no comparison. But it is meant to show that it is a pretty good novel for its style. With a little better characterization and some toning down of the action, I might've not stopped at four stars, but I don't want the reader of this review to think I'm growing too soft. If you're into Fantasy Mysteries, I think this is a great choice, but clearly I'm no expert.