My review of Borderline by Mishell Baker, an urban fantasy book about Hollywood, mental health, neurodiversity and the fay.
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Wonderful urban fantasy about Hollywood, mental health and the fay. If you want deep characters in your urban fantasy and a well paced story, then I strongly recommend Borderline by Mishell Baker.
The original review form 2016 of Borderline by Mishell Baker
“It was midmorning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats.”
Fuck! I have just found another author! Someone where I want to read ALL their work – and crap it seems to be their first novel! MOAR please. Seriously, I want to read so much more by Mishell Baker. I know this is not how I normally start my reviews, but this book startled me by how it grabbed me and got me so invested in Millie.
‘Borderline’ is a straight urban fantasy, with fay crossing over from the Arcadia and a secret semi-government organization (Arcadia Project) keeping track of the supernatural. Reading the blurb, ‘Borderline’ sounds like a book there a baker’s dozen of in urban fantasy. However there are a number of things that set Borderline apart from the pack.
I adored all of the characters – including our very flawed protagonist. When people talk about wanting strong female characters – this is what they mean – at least that is what I mean! Our protagonist Millie is a film student or rather she was a film student, before her suicide attempt, where she lost both her legs. Millie also has borderline personality disorder, which makes her rather hard to deal with for the people around her.
Both Millie’s mental and physical disability is treated like just another aspect of her, neither makes her magical or gives her “special” powers. She is brave, assertive and have leadership skills, when she is not spiraling or panicking. But even when having an episode, she is still her, she is never just her diagnosis.
Millie is always sympathetic, even when she is being totally unreasonable and mean to the people around her, because I as a reader understood and sympathised with her. I have to say that but especially in movies/comics this can often be the case for characters who are neuroatypical. Millie also have a distinct personality that has nothing to do with her disorder. In other words, she is a deep character – or as the lit theory people would say, a strong character.
The other characters in the organization are also great – all of them feel like real people and so does the antagonist. Which is a big part of why I liked this story so much.
‘Borderline’ is set in Los Angeles and much of the book take place on the edges of the film industry – which really lend a lot of fell to the setting of the book. In this world the fay inspire some people to be even more creative – acting as literal muses for these lucky individuals. Arcadia Project has a number of roles but the main function is to liaison for the fay and hide the existence of the fay from the general population. And Millie becomes a part of handling of a crises involving the movie industry.
Not only are the setting and characters interesting and engaging, but the story is also well paced and kept me hooked pretty much from the start. It is also a rather snarky book – which is a stable of urban fantasy, and part of why I love the genre.
This book is singing to me after I stopped reading it, I have not been able to get it out of my head – I keep coming back to it – and I want more of it. This book has inspired me to look for other books with protagonists who are not abled bodied and/or neurotypical – in much the same way Kaleidoscope did.
If you want some depth to the characters in your urban fantasy and a well paced story, then I strongly recommend this.
There is a great podcast interview @Skiffy and Fanty with Mishell Baker, that you might want to listen to, once you have read the book.
Edit 2023: I have since read the rest of the The Arcadia Project thrilogy and it is excellent! I can strongly recommend this one!
The stats: Borderline by Mishell Baker
Published: 2016 by Saga Press
Read: April 24 to 25, 2016
Author: Female, white, borderline personality disorder, USA
The protagonist: Millie, female, white, borderline personality disorder, not abled bodied, film maker, bisexual
This review was originally posted: November 1, 2016. Updated June 25, 2023