BOOK REVIEWS

Borderline by Mishell Baker

After her suicide attempt, Millie has lost her legs and gained a myriad of scars. She has spent months in a private clinic, not really planning to get back out. But, when she receives an intriguing ’employment’ offer, she finds herself unable to refuse. Turns out that Hollywood is brimming with fairies, and people like Millie, who has BPD, are more attuned to this magical reality.

Borderline is a fast-paced and addicting read. Millie’s mind is in a constant buzz: her mood swings, and passionate reactions maintain the story’s momentum .
Millie soon discovers that the Arcadia Project is dealing with ‘out of the ordinary’ occurences and that her new ‘colleagues’ are rather *ahem* bonkers *ahem*…which led me to wonder, would they really trust a bunch of really untrustworthy and somewhat unbalanced people with maintaining order between these two worlds? Even Caryl, Millie’s boss, seems to have no clue how to keep them all in check. Millie is kept in the dark a lot of the time, which might allow her to wander off on her own, but is hardly credible. She is meant to obey a series of set rules that no one is willing to explain to her: she inevitably ends up breaking rules that she didn’t even know existed. The power structures in Arcadia Project is also sketchy. We don’t get a fully view on how they operate… Still, despite my initial disbelief, I soon found myself willing to believe that yes, there could be a group of dysfunctional individuals living together mostly tasked with tracking faerie folk gone AWOL.
Millie’s companions are not exactly welcoming, which further distances Millie from their organisation. Millie’s first case is the drive of the story. Turns out that fairies have human soulmates (Echos), and that they can greatly influence creative people: most artists and directors have a fairy friend inspiring them…the Echo of one of a famous – and much admired by Millie – director has seemingly disappeared…
I liked Baker’s take on fairies/magic. They are in some ways as one might expect them: they are alluring, they enjoy misleading humans, and there is a strong divide between ‘high’ and ‘low’ fairies. I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of them having human ‘soulmates’ but I soon become used to it. A thing that I really appreciated was how Baker pays attention to the ‘language’, in fact, Millie notices that newcomers fairies stress the wrong syllables.

Millie is a bit of a mess. And she knows it. I initially didn’t like how often she refers to her BPD as to explain her behaviour, as if readers are led to believe that Baker is justifying Millie’s selfish actions and sharp words. But it isn’t. Millie is just using the coping mechanism she has learned in her hospital stay. She is trying to understand her own actions, by putting them in perspective of her BPD and disability. The anger and frustration at the loss of her legs was intense. All of her emotions are vividly rendered, and while Millie is undoubtedly damaged, she carries a spark that makes her incredibly engaging. I loved her, in spite of her irrationality and hot temper. And, more importantly, I liked that this novel is about her. Yes, she forms various relationships – none of them romantic – but she remains the focus.
The other characterswell. They could be just as maddening. I often wondered if Millie was really deserving of their behaviours: she was often treated as this big hot mess (which, to be fair, she sort of is) but they themselves are offbeat… I couldn’t really get a good ‘feel’ of them; they were are all a bit too erratic. I was curious about them but I was hoping for a fuller picture of their personalities.

All in all, I wasn’t fully taken by all of the story’s aspects, but, I did find Borderline to be a hugely compelling read with a fresh spin to UF genre, and I soon grew accustomed to some of the more questionable scenarios.

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