BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Millie Roper lost her legs after a failed suicide attempt. Resigned to a life of routine and beige walls in the Leishman Psychiatric Center, she is shocked when offered a second chance and a job working with the enigmatic Arcadia Project.
PROS: Snappy dialogue; engaging cast of characters; perfectly-paced plot.
CONS: The next book featuring Millicent Roper isn’t out until 2017.
BOTTOM LINE: A smart, witty, and engrossing book that made me laugh-out-loud and hold my breath as I fell under its spell.
This book. Seriously. This book is packed full of so much awesome.
I sat down with Borderline thinking I’d read a few chapters and then make dinner. Three hours later I was nearly to the end, my hunger forgotten. I simply couldn’t put it down. Mishell Baker has written a pitch-perfect urban fantasy.
Millie is a film student, a successful director of a few indie films, and she happens to have borderline personality disorder. After Millie’s failed suicide attempt results in the loss of both her legs, she ends up checking herself into the Leishman Psychiatric Center for rehabilitation and to help build new coping strategies.
One day, Millie is approached by Caryl with the Arcadia Project and offered a job, a second chance at a life beyond the walls of the Center. Millie would join Caryl’s team, on a probationary status, to help monitor the border between our world and a magical fey dimension called Arcadia. The other agents on Caryl’s team all have equally troubled pasts and are working to find balance in their lives.
Within the first chapter I knew Millie was someone amazing, intelligent and snarky — a real character with depth. My absolute favorite thing about Millie is her dialogue, both with herself and others. Baker is on par with Elmore Leonard when it comes to mastery in the art of dialogue. I laughed out loud in so many places and found myself thinking, “Yep, that is exactly what someone would say!” I learned more about the characters from their reactions to one another, their body language, their exclamations and simple conversations, than I ever would have from paragraphs of exposition.
Another way this book soars is with the pacing. Some books feel rushed or become a bit snagged and move too slowly. Not Borderline. Like I said above, I didn’t look at the clock once in three hours. The book was polished to a high shine and it shows on every single page.
I wish I could take this book door-to-door to place in every reader’s hands, if only because of the characters. Baker gives us a cast of characters that actually reflect real people. Millie and the agents, Teo, Gloria, Tjuan and the others, create the foundation holding Baker’s magical elements together. I cried with them, I felt their anger and pain, I connected with them deeply and saw parts of myself in each of them. That is one of Baker’s magical talents and Borderline is her gift to all of us.